From the Vault #15 | How to Not Hate Networking

Our From the Vault series examines episodes from The Art of Charm’s past more deeply; we invite you to revisit them — or discover them for the first time — with us. This From the Vault examines Marsha Shandur’s tried and true methods for how to not hate networking.

Episode 359: Saying Yes to Networking originally aired in December 2014 and featured Marsha Shandur, a well-known networking coach. Marsha spent years working in media and uses that experience to “help people not hate networking, and in fact, to be better at it than most.” She took some time to sit down with Jordan and identify issues and give practical tools and solutions.

Why Do People Hate Networking?

People hate networking because of the image they envision upon hearing the word: nervous strangers in a crowded room handing out business cards, looking to “connect.” Everyone there is intent on the business of selling themselves. Instead, Marsha offers this simple way to look at networking events: “Who would I be friends with in this room, regardless of what we do for a living, and how can I engage with them in a friendly way?”

Many people feel they simply need to wait until they’re not scared, but Marsha points out that day is never going to happen. She still feels nervous sometimes when meeting new people, and she does this for a living! Just push through that discomfort by realizing that the overwhelming majority of people at the event probably feel the same way that you do, and they will be so relieved when you are able to start the conversation and make them feel welcome.

Don’t Keep Score

Jordan repeated what we preach so often here at AoC: Don’t keep score. If you stop worrying about keeping score, all but the extreme “takers” will be able to help you at some point. Marsha agreed, pointing out that there’s scientific research supporting a human need to reciprocate. Start with simple things like a thank you note. At the time this episode aired, Jordan had recently interviewed Shawn Achor, and Marsha really appreciated Shawn’s practice of sending a daily email to thank someone. There are so many people out there who are making a difference in your life — just take a moment to send them a note. They will truly appreciate it.

Have Goals and a Plan

People who say “Let’s go network” remind Jordan of the bros who say “Let’s go meet chicks!” and then proceed to go to the bar and watch basketball in silence for two hours. Think clearly about what you’re trying to accomplish. Marsha added, “Networking is a long-term relationship, not a one-night stand.” Therefore, don’t sell yourself. Marsha asks us to imagine a speed dating scenario in which the people across from you are telling you all the reasons they would be a great spouse and what childrearing techniques they prefer! So too, people who sell themselves before even bothering to know people are giving that exact same impression.

Questions That Work

Marsha’s go-to question is, “How has your week been?” Any sort of answer here is going to be simply jam-packed with information, and you can follow any of those leads down rabbit holes of conversation, or simply file the information away for later, when you reconnect.

Jordan uses, “How did you find out about this event?” This will allow you to find out how this person is connected, what he/she does, etc. It’s a treasure trove of information, and it’s innocuous enough that people will not have their guard up when you ask it.

Read Body Language

Marsha notes that as you observe groups that have formed, look for a group of four or five people standing with a bit more open body language. Simply go up and listen before contributing immediately, even if you feel compelled to do so. Nobody wants to hear from the know-it-all who immediately inserts him/herself into a conversation upon arrival.

Then Follow Up

Marsha has a simple “nice to meet you” email template that she sends, whether she’s actually had a chance to meet the person. That is, perhaps someone was on a panel, or gave a keynote, and that’s how you had a chance to interact with them.

  1. Say hello and say thank you: “Hi, Jan! I was at your panel on entrepreneurship on Saturday and I really appreciated your insights about tech startups.”
  2. Put yourself in context: “I was the one in the red shirt who told you I have a medtech startup in Nashville.”
  3. Close out: “If you find yourself in my town some time and need help with anything, please don’t hesitate to ask!”

She notes that if you want to add value, you can do so at step two by providing a link to an article or book or podcast you think this person might enjoy.

Furthermore, if and when you reach out to this person again, make sure you reply to this original email you sent them (or a reply they sent you) so you can remind them that you are not a new contact, but someone he/she has already corresponded with, as this will exponentially increase the likelihood of a response.

Remember that From the Vault is just an overview of a few points in any given episode. If you’d like to hear more from Marsha and Jordan, including why they want to help people who are “good at being helped,” how many times and at what interval you can feel free to keep emailing someone, and one technique that can “program” people to reply to you, listen to the entire episode here.

What’s a networking technique that really works for you? Send it to [email protected] and we may share it in a future article.

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Stephen Heiner - author of 36 posts on The Art of Charm

Stephen Heiner was born in Singapore and moved to America just before his ninth birthday. He's stepped foot on every continent except Antarctica, served in the US Marine Corps, and is living the charmed life of a writer in Paris. He has a passion for running small businesses and storytelling. More than anything he enjoys getting people to think differently about the things they take for granted. Here at The Art of Charm, Stephen matches his life experience to our content to extract key points in written form for our students and clients to ruminate and act upon.

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