If you’re easily offended you may want to skip this post. I’m going to poke a finger at some of you and you might get mad.
But I swear I’m doing it out of love… truly.
I see a lot of people at meetings, events and conferences who are satisfied because they are “networking”. While they may, indeed, be checking the “showed up at an event and said hello to people I already know” off their list, they aren’t helping their business much at all.
You see, “networking” doesn’t help you much if you only talk to the same people over and over again. Now it’s true that I preach from the hilltops about networking being a multi-faceted activity… and that we all do it all the time. However, if you are going to an event with the purpose of networking and you are not talking to people you don’t know… or you are only chatting with the person you came with… you are not making much of the opportunity.
I’ve been doing some studying about networks (not the computer kind… that was my former life). And it turns out that there are two types of networks, open networks and closed networks.
Closed networks are self-contained. Everyone knows everyone else. The communication flows through the network pretty efficiently because of this but there is very little new input… that’s why it’s called a “closed” network. The down side to this is that it tends to stagnate. It is very comfortable, but there is a danger in that comfort.
An open network, on the other hand, is one where many of the people in it don’t actually know each other directly. That makes you sort of the “hub” of the network. You can funnel information from one group to another. And yes, that’s a harder network to manage since those people might not naturally show up at the same place together. But there are distinct advantages to building an open network. Actually, the most successful entrepreneurs tend to have open networks, such as Steve Jobs.
Jobs became a bridge between several groups of people in different areas of knowledge. It was natural for him since he had varied interests. Ultimately that helped him to incorporate that disparate knowledge into Apple’s products. It’s why the original Macintosh computer had different type faces. Jobs brought that in from his “artsy” network contacts where he learned about calligraphy. He introduced this info to his “engineer” network contacts who knew how to get the cool type faces into a computer.
While we may not all be Steve Jobs, or have his knack for connecting different technologies together, we can all intentionally build an open network. Having an open network keeps you more relevant to all your connections. If people you know are learning new things from you, and you always have something interesting to share from your other contacts, then people will want to interact with you. That’s half the battle in networking, having something to talk about. By opening up your network you’ll gather more info, make better conversation and be more valuable to everyone you come into contact with.
This is why you need to be talking to people you don’t know when you’re out networking, regardless of where you happen to be. Because you have to meet new people regularly, and engage with them, in order to build that open network. It’s what will keep your network growing and help you do more than just check “networking” off off your weekly to do list.
Please leave a comment and tell me what you think.
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