One of the biggest mistakes people make when networking is thinking that it’s just about running around the room collecting as many business cards as possible. These are often people who don’t really like networking but they know they have to do it and they think this is the best way to get it done. I’ve tried telling them that this is not networking—it’s either face-to-face cold calling or worse yet, it’s simply “card collecting.” Years ago, I ran into a couple of business partners who made a competition of collecting cards at networking events. The person who collected the least number of cards had to buy the other partner dinner that week. They were very proud of this networking strategy (seriously – they bragged about it to me). I tried to tell them that this was really not a good networking strategy but I don’t think they ever got it.
Unfortunately, I still find myself running into people who think this is a great approach to networking effectively. My co-author of Networking Like a Pro, Brian Hilliard, has given me the solution to dealing with this issue.
Here’s what you can do:
Brian has a dog whose name is Barley. He’s a 55-pound Shiba Inu, which means he doesn’t like cats and he looks like a fox. Barley is a very well-trained, well-behaved dog. If you’d like to collect business cards at an event but you don’t want to spend all that time collecting the cards, here’s what you can do. You can hire Barley from Brian ($20/hour, two hour minimum + travel) to attend your next event. Brian will put a satchel around him (like a horse), where on one side he’ll place a stack of your business cards, along with a sign that says “Take One” and on the other side he’ll have a pocket that says, “Leave Your Card Here.”
Brian will then drive Barley up to the event, send him into the room, and return two hours later to collect Barley and his new stack of business cards. (I’m confident he’ll come out with a big stack because he’s very well trained and people really love him.)
Now after you take those cards from his side pocket (and make sure to walk him, since he’ll probably need to use the restroom after all of that hard work), will he have truly networked?
Of course not! How could he possibly have networked by getting a stack of business cards?
It sounds ridiculous, but that’s how more than a few business professionals approach their networking. It’s like a game of who can get the most cards—and it doesn’t make any sense. Collecting cards at a networking event is not networking – it’s card collecting (which is not a profitable way to build your business). If you put this in the context of Barley running around the event letting people exchange cards with him – it seems obvious. However, if you’re still on the fence and would like to contact Brian about potentially contracting Barley’s services, please feel free to do so.
Based on material from Networking Like a Pro (Entrepreneur Press).
Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is also the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s largest business networking organization. His latest book, Who’s in Your Room, The Secret to Creating Your Best Life, is available at bookstores and at Amazon.com.