Networking is about being human. I was attending a networking event recently (as I often do ;)) and the host of the event, a friend of mine Jonathan, told us a story. It was about him walking on a rainy day near central station in Amsterdam and he saw a man who was walking in the distance in the pouring rain. The man suddenly stopped and gave someone who was begging on the street some change. Jonathan said that he quickened his pace to get closer to the man in the distance. When he catched up with him he held his umbrella above the man’s head. He didn’t know the man, it was a total stranger, but because of this kind gesture the man said, here is my card call me sometimes. And the man turned out to be a director of a large American company and was visiting Holland for a conference. Jonathan couldn’t have known that the man was such a ‘big shot’ and it could mean business for him. Jonathan’s message was very clear, sometimes meeting new people, making new friends or even getting potential new clients comes from being humane.
Using this as an anekdote I want to offer you some practical steps to train the habit of getting out of your comfort zone and being spontaneous in networking. I will offer you this in the context of a networking event or conference, but off course you can apply it anywhere. It all depends on how much spontaneity you want to bring.
1. Just walk up to a random person
Go talk to a person who doesn’t look like you at all. Or someone whom you normally wouldn’t approach and see what happens.
2. Visit someone face-2-face
Visit a contact of yours when you are in the neighbourhood. Go to their office or it could also be a family member or friend. Call or text shortly upfront, but it can be a nice surprise.
3. Pick Up The Phone
Platforms such as Linkedin can offer you great reminders to get ‘spontaneous’. For example when there is a pop-up you can congratulate someone on a promotion. But the beauty is to just pick up the phone and call. Or maybe send flowers or a book?
Just play with this and depending on how comfortable you feel you can make it more challenging!