Real World Connections

 We all say we want to create a stronger network, and make better connections. But what are connections, really? And how do you actually make them, for real?

Networking can make or break your business, tread carefully.

I am often amused at the number of connection requests I receive via social media, particularly business platforms like LinkedIn that are followed almost immediately with a copy paste message, generally offering a combination of the following statements in the first paragraph. 

 “I like to bring my connections into the real world” and “I usually like to do this around a couple of events”

What follows is a lengthy invitation describing a networking event or “platform” to meet at, and the offer of two or three scheduled ‘convenient’ event dates.  I’m sure you have received them yourself.  

On the surface, this sounds like a great way to meet with other business people, time management at its best. There are however a couple of issues every business owner needs to know about.  

Firstly, when I receive the same (in some cases identical) message multiple times, I question both person who sent the invitation, and, the integrity of the event. 

It may be convenient to copy paste an entire message, but before you hit send consider these questions:  

How many others may be doing the same, with the same message, and sending it to the same potential connection? 

Is this message congruent with my intentions for connection? 

If you genuinely want to connect with someone new, whether in business or your personal life, make it personal, keep your message simple and welcoming with a clear message. 

How does this message benefit your business reputation in the common marketplace? 

You never get a second opportunity to make a first impression.  If your business communications do not demonstrate integrity, genuine intent, professionalism and approachability you are closing yourself off to a lot of potential business.

 What I find frustrating about these invitations, is not the event invitation, it is the delivery which is completely incongruent with the message.   Bringing connections into the real world is a great strategy, yet the delivery - not so much. 

True networking is about building personal connections, developing working relationships with an individual over time, and developing a true understanding of the skills and services offered by others in your network.  

That takes time you say? Exactly my point. 

Now this is going to sound a lot like dating, but when you think about it you are looking for compatible business to grow your network and net worth with so perhaps dating and networking aren’t so dissimilar.

My advice - Take the time to connect slowly, this isn’t speed building, it is human connection. Build on common areas of interest, tell them why you want to connect – collaboration, product interest, mentorship, aligned business interests. Ask about their business, check in from time to time with a short note on their recent post or some information you have come across that might be of interest to them. 

The more of a connection you build, the more likely your connection will last. Sustainable connections are often the most profitable in terms of business and personal growth. I am not saying there is no value in these large networking formats, there most definitely is. The issue is in the delivery of your pitch. 

If you want to meet a new connection at an event, tell them about the event, who is speaking, what about and why you think they might be interested in hearing that person. In other words ad value to your invitation! 

So, the next time you are tempted to invite someone to an event with a copy paste email, ask yourself why you want to meet them in the first place and then tell them that instead. 

They may not go to the event, but they will remember you, and that’s what networking is all about.