Nobody Wants Your Business Card. Here's Why.
It’s 6:15 PM. The networking event started at 6:00 PM but you chose to come 15 minutes later so as not to risk being one of the first attendees there. Don’t worry, we all consider that. Anyhow, you grab a glass of wine to calm your jitters (and to keep your hands occupied). Then you scour the light hors d’oeuvres to buy time for when you’re scanning the room hoping to see someone you know. You’re out of luck, there’s no one there or if there is, they’re already holding court with someone you don’t recognize.
Finally, someone approaches you and introduces themselves. You all chat about the weather until you finally get around to discussing your occupation. The conversation carries on for five to ten minutes before you both eventually run out of things to say. So, you exchange business cards and bid each other farewell.
If you’re diligent, you’ll follow up with that person by the next day via an email and write something like “It was nice to meet you. Hope we can stay in touch, blah blah blah…” but the reality is that more than likely you won’t stay in touch.
You probably repeated this step quite a few times for the entire duration of the networking event and ended up wasting two hours of your life.
Mutually beneficial professional relationships take more than one encounter to build into something lasting and worthwhile. Therefore, follow-up is the most important part of taking a business card even more important than the business card itself. This is where you can stand out with the person you just met. Instead of following up with a generic greeting, do these things:
· In the body of your email, bring up something that was mentioned to you by that person (i.e. upcoming vacation, update on their favorite sports team, new restaurant, etc.). It shows that you were listening and not there just to collect their business card.
· Ask how you can help that person before you ask them to do something for you. Most people go to networking events just to take, take, and take. Be the one who gives. They’ll remember your favor.
· Building a professional relationship is a lot like building a romantic relationship. It takes time and intention. After you’ve offered help, ask that person out for coffee so that you can ask for advice. And don’t just ask for advice in general, be specific about what you want from them. After coffee, invite them to an event that you think would be beneficial for them. Keep building on that momentum. The more time you spend with someone, the better they’ll get to know you. Once they know you, they’ll start thinking of you when opportunities come up.
Networking can be a much deeper experience when you go with the purpose of meeting one or two people that you can genuinely connect with instead of trying to gather twenty business cards that will produce no worthwhile results.