Why Networking is Killing Your Business | #WDS2013

While networking may be the key to some of your business models, I do think networking is killing your business too. I’ll use my recent adventure at the 3rd annual World Domination Summit (#WDS2013) to explain my premise.

A Walk to Remember

I have wanted to attend WDS since Chris Guillebeau created the first one in 2011. As I was asked by just about every single person I met,….which got boring after awhile….my reasons for going were because whenever I looked at the presenter list, workshop list and noted certain attendees via social media platforms, they were all people whose websites I read religiously, whose books I owned, whose eCourses I purchased or who were on my “Inspiration” twitter list. All of my favorite gurus, artist and more were ALL together in one space having a seemingly awesome time and I just needed to be there too. At #WDS2013 I was able to meet or attend workshops with Chris Gullebeau, Chase Jarvis, Lissa Rankin, Charlie Gilkey and more. I’ll share more on that later, since I have a series of posts to write just for this one conference.

Today’s post is inspired by Anu. I’m just going to tell you stories. A week prior to #WDS2013, I met with Anu Sansi and James Wightman. They were both attending the conference and were a part of the facebook group. After someone commented about having a pre-WDS meet up of all the local New Yorkers, the three of us finally met for tea. (Check out Keko Cafe found via Hoppit.) You can learn more about James at The Life Sketch and you can learn more about Anu on AnuSansi.com. 

After getting to know each other a little bit, we decided to part ways and hopefully meet up once again in Portland during the conference. However, once I went to take the train home, Anu and I decided to have dinner together. We’d had tea from 6pm to 8pm and we were HUNGRY. We found a dumpling place in K-Town and continued our discussions. After dinner, we both needed to head to the same train line but decided to take the long way to the train, since we had the time and the main streets were too busy. That walk to the train station took us 5 HOURS. We walked from K-Town in Manhattan, zigzagged our way down to the Staten Island Ferry and Wall Street District, then made our way up to the Brooklyn Bridge, then across the Bridge. We got lost for a second. I screamed at a rat. Then we made our way to Borough Hall and finally caught the right trains to our homes. It was well pass 1AM at this point.

"Brooklyn Bridge"

Aside from my hurting feet as a testament to the hours of walking/talking we did, it didn’t feel like time passed at all. We both talked about our careers, our family, our travels, our interests, dating, our futures, life in New York, the people who inspired us and the people who didn’t and more. It was such a great night that will go down in my epic adventures of living in New York City. You just never know what might happen.

One of the hot topics going into #WDS2013 was the whole “networking” thing. Are you an introvert or extrovert? How many business cards should you get printed and pass out to people? What questions should you ask a person you first meet? Is your elevator speech ready and is your camera out? Le sigh.

Listen, there’s networking. And then there’s genuine, authentic connections….that tend to last hours, then you find its late at night and you’ve walked pass a ferry and are on a bridge and then in a different borough.

What You Should and Should Not Do When You “NETWORK”

1. Unless you are actually going into a company’s boardroom to make a pitch or deliver a proposal that has been customized to that brand and their needs, keep your speech to yourself.

Instead, when you meet someone new for the first time, especially someone at a conference like #WDS2013, first off just say hi. Then instead of asking the tired old question, “What do you do?,” try something else. What about, “What are your passionate about?”, “What makes you feel alive?”, “What keeps you up at night?”, “What riles your feathers?”, ‘What are three of your top life values?”, “What are you most proud of?” “What was the last awesome thing you did?” “Tell me about your last aha moment.” That’s what I want to know when I meet a total stranger.

I don’t really care where they work. I could probably care less about their latest blog post, product or e-course and please don’t recruit me to be your client. What does intrigue me is, “Who is this person right in front of me? What makes them tick?” Because if your passion, your drive or your values intrigue, delight or entice me…I’m probably going to come back for some more of you…no matter what you offer.

2. Be more intentional about your business cards.

Listen, I get my business cards off Moo.com. They cost a pretty penny. I don’t give them out randomly. Even when I met Anu, that night after walking FOREVER all around Manhattan, when it came to exchanging numbers, I just texted her my number and programmed her number directly into my phone. I had people practically shoving their business cards down my throat and I remember thinking, “Who are you? Why are you doing this? I’d never use your service anyway? What did you say your name was again? Why don’t you try having a conversation with me first?” Besides, you’d probably leave a lasting impression having an honest conversation with me than passing along your default template VistaPrint business cards. Your voice is more powerful than your website listed on a piece of cardstock.

World Domination Summit 2013 - Portland, OR
3. Every time you want to talk, listen instead. 

This is especially if your underlining goal of “networking” is to potentially find new leads or customers. The best way to get that, is to listen to what the other person has to say. Again, nix your elevator speech. I don’t talk to people in the elevator anyway. Instead, listen to the person in front of you…actively. Play a game with yourself. See if its possible for you not to say your blog name, business name or sales pitch and instead see if you can remember the last thing the person in front of you just said.

I once read a book that said most people don’t remember the names of new people because they don’t consider them important enough. To support this, the person said if you were offered one million dollars to remember a name, you would. This means memorization isn’t the issue. Perhaps most people are too busy plotting what they’ll say next or trying to see what they can get from the other person that they don’t take the actual time to take a person in. So…instead of pushing your business card in someone’s face hand, see if YOU can remember their name first and a unique fact about them. This happens when you are present and listen. I can’t wait to write a post each or maybe a highlight reel on the handful of people I connected with. This is only possible because I actually took the time to get to know them without an agenda.

4. Don’t be THAT girl. Inches, Numbers, Points and Dollar Signs Only Go So Far.

This year #WDS13 had a scavenger hunt type of game where you received points for doing certain things. One of the easiest ways to get points was to meet someone new and then note on the point tracker that you met that person. You just had to type the person’s name in on the website and put a check mark by it. 1 point for you. YAY! There was a woman…who while we all waited in line to go into the theater, simply walked up to each person, touched their name tag to get a good look and then marked down on the website, via her phone, that she had met us. She did it to me! She didn’t even have the decency to ask my name. She went straight for my name tag. Her rude actions were aside from the point. I don’t think Chris meant for people to do that. But literally getting POINTS was more important to her than connecting to a human being. Which in essence, is much of what I see today’s networking scams to be. I go to a party and you want my points, my business, my money and my attention to sale yourself, your product, your page views…your whatever…and you never even asked my name. And if you did, you couldn’t remember it….unless there was something in it for you. And this woman, she could be selling gold but based on her behavior, I don’t want to know her or her business.

World Domination Summit 2013 - Portland, OR

The lesson is this…when in any situation…

1. Be fully present.

(Physically being present and mindfully being present are two different concepts and they both are important when connecting to a human being.)

2. Go with the flow.

(This is how a 5 hour walk throughout Manhattan late at night “just happens.”)

3. Be genuine and authentic.

Don’t act a part. Don’t be cheesy. Don’t be like a used car sales man. Just have a conversation.

4. Actively listen.

Shhhhh and listen.

5. Remember that, ‘Every conversation is a form of jazz*,” so fucking burn your elevator speech.

Conversations should be like improvisation or freestyle dance. They shouldn’t be like an 8 count choreographed dance performed at the ballet.

I met some really cool people during #WDS2013. They became my conference buddies and we always sat with each other. There were also the random people I’d meet and we’d sit down for an hour or two and have such a great conversation. And there was Anu, who I met before the conference and connected with, who while at the conference gave me a key to her hotel room in case I needed to charge my phone, take a nap, relax or just chill with her. (I wasn’t staying in downtown Portland, where as Anu had a hotel room two doors down from the conference theater hall. How nice was she to do that for me?) How many people have you met at a conference, who later offered you a key to their room for your own convenience because of your connection? That’s a testament to building genuine relationships. Also, you can’t include flirtatious scenarios in your answer. :-)

The other lesson to glean from them, the next time you’re all set for a conference, use social media to connect with people beforehand…especially if you are shy and you don’t want to feel alone when you go. Once you connect with people via social media, find some locals and meet up before hand. Its fun. Its great. And that’s how the real juicy stuff of life happens.

What are your thoughts?

*Quote is by Stephen Nachmanovich

#WDS Photography Credit: Joshua Seaman
Armosa Studios

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Showing 3 comments
  • Starrene Rocque

    These are really good pointers on networking. The art of connecting with other human beings seems lost on a lot of people. I think we’re so busy with pretense and not sincerity. Sucha shame. I will admit though, I can sometimes be awkward when it comes to ice breaking, even though I’m a journalist so I definitely noted some of the conversations starters you mentioned.

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