How to Fail a Networking Session

Me.
 “Hey, J. Thanks for inviting me here tonight. I got to go now.”

J.
 “Huh? You are leaving…”

Me.
 “Yeah, I have a product design work to do. See ya’ in the next event, Cheers!”

The event started at 7 pm, and I only lasted one (1) hour and forty (40) minutes. I walked out from Canvas, at Clark Quay and headed straight home with a smiling relief. I didn’t lie, really, as I do have an outstanding costing document to work on before meeting a client tomorrow. Anyhow, to the host, my early departure has somehow cast a negative light on me: anti-social.

Yes, I have to admit that I am an introvert or INFJ by nature (backed by Truity Psychometrics with some degrees of extroversion).

But, in my line of work as an effective teacher, a design consultant and a pro-bono event coordinator who had co-helped to organize events that catered for few thousands of participants before, I would never shy away to mingle with people at times.

Then, what happened there? I do not know.

Maybe it is the environment; there were more than hundred (100) of peoples in this B2B Biz-Connect session. Everyone is so eager to sell. I have never seen the hosts and the emcee themselves, who had to raise their voice so hard and peak the already amplified sound system with a microphone! Yet, they still failed to address the crowd who is so self-indulge into their fast paced mingling style. Also, there was this interesting behavioral pattern that I have observed from the attendees, “time is money, be hasty if you don’t want to be empty handed when you leave.” In such a rowdy and pressing situation, some of us have no choice but to raise our voice just to be heard. I still remember a young entrepreneur (who I first talk to) apologizing for seemingly shouting her conversation to me. Now, even after a night sleep, my throat is still kind of sore at this point while writing this at 4’oclock in the morning.

As John Maxwell taught us before in one of his conferences, any life event that you have experienced, there is always something that you can learn and love from it. Here is my sharing of what I have experienced:

: : What I learned

Networking is not card ditching activity

It is all about the “be hasty if you don’t want to be losing” kind of behavioral act again. It was fascinating to see people bring boxes of their business card, and try to distribute it all within a single night! Although it might seem that they were about to empty their acrylic container, actually they were not; everyone was busy like a bee for replenishing his or her container with other people’s business card.

By talking to one of the participants that I mingled with, he had frankly revealed an insight to me that in such buzzing card-exchange activity doesn’t help him to know a person while establishing his image to others. Rather, the stack of business cards that he collected was more like a trail to him for promoting his services to a person at a later time.

No doubt that such approach is considerably efficient within a rowdy environment, but it would not be effective at all during an actual 1-to-1 follow up. It would be wasteful only later to learn that you are closing a wrong target audience and not connecting. Also, I bet that not everyone would really follow through every name that they have collected. It is either a multi-level-marketer or insurance agent that would contact the names that they got.

Networking is not net casting (and hard selling as well)

Enough said with the above heading. Just do a simple search here in LinkedIn Pulse, and you will catch on many good networking habits given by successful people. In a nutshell, the art of networking is about connecting people through a service oriented attitude and not serving with a price tag kind of mindset.

Networking is not about being someone else

It is quite perplexing when someone is introducing him/herself as a fund manager who helps clients hedge their money in all kind of legal vehicles that could yield attractive return, or source you some money to improve your business cash flow with a competitive interest rate. However, (s)he has a job title as business manager…well, you got the idea.

This might sound repetitive but personal branding is about trust, and the concept of trust is no more than consistently proven behavior. So, be authentic and stay present.

: : What I love

Reality Checkpoint

I have never thought that the UX profession and the work of user research that I am so engrossed in were quite alien to many other entrepreneurs. It struck me when people were asking me politely what is user experience all about after I have briefly introduced myself each time. This had prompted me to crosscheck the dual reality that presented in front of me. Within a minute of time, I begin to understand and see through the trap of perceived virality that most of my UX peers have fallen into! In tech and service design, we saw that UX is the hottest thing, as the methodology helps to drive conversion and improve the quality of life. Nevertheless, to some other business entities, it may not appear so yet.

In all such instance, I realized I might be the only human-centered designer among the crowd too. This little discovery did not make me worry. Rather, I am quite excited about it, as this has indicated that there are plenty of opportunities here! Indirectly, this had also led to my next loving point.

Communication Practice Range

The event was an excellent venue to improve your communication skills. People always get distracted from their surrounding and brevity alone won’t do the trick. You would need to embed your idea with some transitional phrase that can easily relate to your present listener circumstances within such a rowdy environment.

By recounting my experience, I still remember that I didn’t make my point across in my first conversation exchange; I was blank and short of words for a while, and fail to communicate to my listener what is user experience within few lines of verbal speech! I bet I looked utterly stupid to that talented entrepreneur who is a Lamda speech trainer.

However, as I moved on speaking to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th participants and so forth, I became quite efficient. For example, in one of the instances, I had drawn on my design acumen and quickly adapted my usability analyst skills to uncover the discoverability issue of my audience’s business card. The scenario happened to be that the audience failed to identify his own business card among a handful stack of others. Interestingly, I have even helped him to realize that he forgot to include his company’s URL on the card. He was utterly amazed, and shock that few sets of his newly printed business cards were inconsistent with the previous version. With a pivotal moment like this, I took the opportunity to enlighten him that how a design consultant can save you from costly fixes and unnecessary patches!

Conclusion

So far, this is what I have learned and loved about this event. Also, there is this last failing component that I would like to disclose: I failed to protect my business card for the first time. I purported only brought six (6) business card with me, and my initial target is not to quickly give out four (4) of my cards. This constraint was meant to make me selective, as quality network presides quantity. Somehow, I had presented my last two (2) business card to the first and last participants that I had mingled with before I left the venue. I think it was a right move, as we just follow up on each other.

 

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