Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Networking Man of Mystery

When someone asks me what I do at a networking event, I always respond "I network", "I'm a networker" or something similar. I do this because I want to intrigue people and get them to ask me what I mean, and listen to the answer. After all, when someone asks you what you do in that situation, it is no more than the networking equivalent of "Do you come here often?"!

Last night I was at a networking event. Over dinner one attendee, who had asked me earlier what I do, asked me how being a networker could be a business. This was exactly the reaction I look for, it had obviously been on her mind for some time and she really wanted to know the answer.

This led our group into a discussion about when to let people know what you do. If you tell people straight away, they will immediately decide how relevant you are to them and how much more they want to listen. Because they haven't bought into you yet. Intrigue people so that they really want to know and they'll listen far more carefully.

But to what extreme can you take this intrigue?

I had been in a meeting earlier in the day and was describing a contact from my network. As I described him I suddenly realised that I don't really know what he does. He has an excellent reputation as a successful businessman with great contacts and as someone really worth knowing. But I don't know what he does. I had enjoyed a 1-2-1 with him only a couple of months ago, but still I don't know what he does.

At my next meeting I asked my colleague, who also knows this person, what he thought he did. He has known him for four years...and he doesn't know! And at last night's event I saw someone else who shares this contact, and he doesn't really know!

The upshot is that I (and I'm probably not along in this) am very keen to get in touch with my contact to arrange another meeting as soon as possible and really try to understand his business and what opportunities he is looking for. I don't know if that is the outcome he is looking for, if so it's brilliant networking, or if he simply doesn't know how to communicate his business.

At what stage do you tell people what you do and how effectively do you communicate this? Do you trot out the standard 'elevator pitch' fare as soon as someone asks what you do? Do you make your answer relevant to the person asking or give everyone the same response?

Or do you make them wait for an answer, ensuring that they really want to know?


  1. Patrick Philpott3:22 pm

    Nicely put...

    It poses an important question. I think at times we've all either switched off in the way you talk about, or been the victim of switching off.

    Perhaps we should all remember not to be so hasty in telling people what we do, or indeed giving a generic answer. Perhaps tailor your answer to what you know about the person already.

  2. Great technique. I have never tried this method. You are right that you don't need to be so direct up front by telling people what you do. In fact, it is better to just describe your passions or interests rather than tell people where you work. In addition to telling people that you are a "networker", you could also say that you are a "relationship builder". I will try this technique. Thanks for the idea!