The ‘networker’, the ‘joiner’ or the great ‘connector’?
Not to be confused with the Platters song ‘The great pretender’, ‘connecting’ appears to be a new buzz word for the more social side of ‘networking’, even if the word itself sounds like a new age dating service.
Let’s face it attending business functions or ‘networking’ events as they are commonly referred to is not everyone’s cup of tea. They can be a daunting proposition for even the most seasoned business professional but they are an important and necessary function of the business development process. We have all ‘networked’ at some point in our working lives and I am not sure that you ever really become super comfortable with the notion of it. Unless of course you are a complete extravert or have a need to challenge yourself in uncomfortable social situations. Of course those elusive business developers known as ‘hunters’ will try and convince you otherwise! It would be fair to assume that most of us ‘non-hunters’ will attempt to dodge the ‘networking’ bullet at some point because it will either take us out of our comfort zone or impact on our personal lives in some way. Sometimes picking up the bread and milk and getting home early from work is just much more appealing!
Your business coach will undoubtedly tell you that it is mind over matter and encourage you to work on developing your confidence so that you can stride into a room full of random unknowns with passion and conviction to spread the word on how brilliant your business and its services are. There appears to be no exact science to the ‘networking’ ritual and I wouldn’t recommend searching the net to find answers because it’s just not worth the sleepless nights in your quest for enlightenment. A bit of trial and error gained through your attendance at ‘networking’ events seems to be the most efficient way to hone your skills and get a bit of experience under your belt.
Luckily for me I seem to enjoy challenging myself in unknown situations (don’t ask me why) and ‘networking’ encourages you to be on top of your game. You need to know your business inside out and be armed with a short, snappy description about your key services and point of difference that you can tailor to each occasion. The key thing to remember is that if you feel a little bit uncomfortable then don’t worry because you won’t be the only one. Attending functions or events that are appealing and are of special interest to you and your business will help to ensure that you remain focussed and energised so you get the most out of the experience.
I have heard on several occasions that joining a golf club is great for ‘connecting’ and developing business networks but lets face it I am not the best golfer in the world - just ask the various greens that remain scarred from a near death (divot) experience at the hands of yours truly. Joining a lodge or lions club is another option but sadly not the right one for me. But wait, there might just be salvation in the form of the new golf which is called cycling since I am a bit of a devotee. In fact I know that ‘connecting’ in this way on group rides actually works as my colleague has won new business this way.
I read an on-line article recently which suggested that it would not be long before a university somewhere actually offers a degree in ‘networking’ - a crazy idea or is it actually genius? Perhaps they could combine it with a degree in facebook and twitter, but then I am confident that there is already papers out there covering social media! I expect a degree or diploma in marketing will more than suffice in the interim for the less technology dependent? It would be fair to assume that the formula for becoming a successful Business Development Manager (BDM or ‘hunter’) is based on experience, the gift of the gab, a penchant for the thrill of the chase and maybe just being in the right place at the right time. If you have ever attempted to find a ‘hunter’ you will understand that these people are extremely elusive and just may in fact be a figment of our imaginations.
A contributor in Entrepreneur recently defined ‘networking’ as follows… “Networking I see as a means to an end,” says Jill Leiderman, executive producer of the late-night show Jimmy Kimmel Live. (We cannot really argue with this definition). But then ‘connecting’, she explains, is about using a genuine love of meeting people and making friends to engage and assist one another, which actually sounds a bit more appealing to many of us less hard core ‘networkers’. So by its very definition ‘connecting’ is the new buzz word which should be used to describe non-business related social occasions such as sporting and cultural events in our local community.
Just to confuse the issue of where you fit even more there is also the wild card of the bunch which by default probably falls into the ‘connector’ camp. The term is a ‘joiner’ and possibly more appropriately what could be termed an ‘active participant’. A ‘joiner’ is someone who gains pleasure in joining a committee or board in a voluntary capacity because they believe that they can make a difference for the greater good of that organisation. (By the way that is my definition of what a joiner is because my wife and friends have given me the label!)
I actually think that someone should form a ‘joiners’ league because us ‘joiners’ seem to have a lot in common. Our genes may have something to do with it so thanks to my Mum and Granny for influencing my ‘joiners’ disposition! Before you say that sounds just a little bit nuts think about how many of your children’s school, sports clubs or cultural groups you are involved with in more than a carpool or cheer on the side-line capacity? When you put it in that context it doesn’t actually sound quite as crazy after all does it?
Walt Disney had to be the ultimate ‘connector’ engaging his audiences with magic and wonderment but only enough to ensure that they would come back for more, time and time again.
In recent years however ‘Apple’ have stolen a bit of ‘Walt’s’ thunder and may just be the epitome of what a ‘connector’ is from a holistic global marketing perspective. With their disruptive technologies and beautifully designed products they have revolutionised how we communicate and connect with one another and considering their exponential growth curve it appears that we cannot get enough of ‘Apple’ fullstop. Put up your hand if you don’t have an ‘Apple’ addiction or at least a third party ‘Apple’ inspired addiction!
These examples are actually more to do with brand engagement and brand experience than ‘networking’ per se so we should perhaps park the idea for another blog post!
To end I will share the ‘spork’ (a word made up by combining two or more words) to describe myself. The word is ‘connectioner’ and is the combination of ‘connector’, ‘networker’ and ‘joiner’ which actually sounds a little bit like something you would find in a box of lego but it works brilliantly because I fit into or ‘connect’ with (excuse the pun) all three camps.
If anyone out there in business cyberland has any words of wisdom on how to be the ultimate ‘networker’, agrees or disagrees with the sentiments expressed in this blog then don’t be shy as we would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
In the meantime I will leave you to muse over what you think you might be! A hard nosed ‘networker’, laid back ‘connector’, community spirited ‘joiner’ or an allround ‘connectioner’?
Check out these links to read some other peoples thoughts on ‘networking’ and ‘connecting’…