Way too many women entrepreneurs (men too, of course, but this blog is devoted to women) miss the point of networking. They go out in the networking ecosystem on a hunt for clients, and miss the value that long-term wellwishers and connectors can bring them.
You can tell right away when a women entrepreneur is unclear on the networking concept, because she hits you between the eyes in the first ten seconds with the pitch for her business. There are numerous problems with this approach. For one thing, business pitches tend to be deadly boring. They tend to sound alike. They tend to sound like marketing pitches, for the very good reason that that is what they are.People who know you via your business pitch don’t really know you. They don’t know who you are, what you care about and why they should care. If they aren’t in the market for your services at this very minute, there’s no fodder from which to build a conversation. The conversation is done, or it should be; it might be kept alive by artificial means, such as asking questions like, “How long have you been in that business?” or “What sorts of projects do you do?” Trust me, when people ask you these questions, it’s very unlikely that they actually care. They’re being polite, because the world has dictated that it’s rude to end a conversation before seven or ten or twelve minutes have elapsed.
Real networking takes place between people. If you like a person, if you connect with her, you couldn’t care less about what her business is. You want to help HER, because you like her. If she changes businesses tomorrow, you’ll help her every bit as much in her new business as you would have in her old one. Networking between actual people creates real connections that persist and strengthen over time. This is the kind of networking you should be focusing on.
You may get a client at your next networking event. But I hope that you get a new true-blue connection instead. One great connection can put you onto any number of client opportunities over time. After all, our local networking events are populated with three-dimensional people just like you, not just potential audience members for your thirty-second networking pitch. Anyway, after a long day of work I’m too tired to perform – I’d rather just chill and have good conversation. Wouldn’t you?