Last month ASID CA Peninsula sponsored a networking training event with Kristy Rogers of Kristy Rogers Connects.

Kristy has been training people to network for many years, she founded the e-woman network and is very highly regarded in the local business communities. If you get the chance to attend one of her events you really should, they are always well attended, well coordinated and very informative.

The first thing Kristy taught me many years ago when I attended some of her e-woman network events was that everyone is nervous about networking. Each time I walk into a networking event or trade show I keep that in mind and it really helps to calm my nerves so I don’t embarrass myself or just try to hide in the corner drinking cheap wine and nibbling on Costco "food".

Kristy has a new approach to networking. The old way was to attend the event and work really hard to meet the decisions makers that were relevant to your business and target them with your elevator speech and try to build a connection on a professional level in less than three minutes so you could call them next week and make a sale, or schedule a presentation to show your full line color coordinated widgetry. This approach created a very intimidating atmosphere, many people avoided these types of events because they felt like bait in a tank or they felt extreme pressure to walk out with a dozen business cards of high-powered executives.

The approach Kristy is promoting is more along the lines of the social media networking model. She suggests rather than trying to find a decision maker and likely high value targets for your sales pitch, to not be all business all the time instead to approach people as a real person, be yourself and work to build working relationships based on personal revelation. This doesn’t mean you should tell people about your boyfriends mothers surprising fondness for Kamikazes what it does mean is to be the real you, the person you are and talk to the real person in front of you about real things.

Kristy suggests being prepared to ask and answer several personal questions:
  • If we knew you what would we ask you about?
  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
  • What makes you happy?
  • And others
She also suggest that you be prepared to ask and answer several business questions:
  • Speak briefly about your business
  • Who are the types of people your trying to meet
  • What do you love most about your business or career
And others (Yes, you need to attend one of her events to get the full set and benefit from her experience.)
The single most surprising thing Kristy told us was that the elevator speech (which is usually just a quick sales pitch anyhow) is passe’ in todays networking environment. I personally think you still need to have one AND be well rehearsed in presenting it, but not to lead with it. You see today people are tired of being pitched and sold and marketed to. They want to  deal with people, real people, people who have hopes and dreams like they do, people who are multidimensional and can carry an intelligent conversation, people you can sit down with to have a cup of coffee and relate to without being told how much they can save on their life insurance, next car, home, dishwasher but only if they sign on the bottom line, right now.

The take away of all this for you is two things:
Remember that everyone is nervous about networking - it’s a rare person who is not scared in those situations no matter how many years they've been at it.
Be real and really talk to real people like they’re real people about things that real people are really interested in - they’ll appreciate it and you a lot more than having another canned elevator speech spat at them. Really.

AuthorDean Birinyi