For many people, networking is a dreaded affair. This is especially true for introverts who loathe the required small talk that comes with the territory. That said, even the most gregarious among us can be a little intimidated by the process, especially if their conversation counterpart is seen as a more powerful or politically important player.
As an executive coach, writer, and businessperson I’ve been on both sides of the conversation many times. Still, I’ll admit, requesting a meet for coffee conversation is not my favorite sport. To combat my discomfort I leverage the following three rules to help ensure the interaction is beneficial to both parties.
- Have a Clear, Specific Reason for the Meeting: Don’t say you want to pick my brain, be as specific as possible e.g. I want to learn how to break into professional speaking; I want to collect job leads for a career in finance; or I want to learn how to take my coaching practice to the next level. The more specific your request, the faster I’m able to help or refer you to someone who can if the topic is outside my expertise.
- Take an Action/Request an Action: I’m not a fan of homework, but if I’m meeting with you it’s because I care, because someone helped me and I’m paying back the karma, or both. So let’s get to work. That mean’s two things. First, make a clear request of me e.g. send me a contact, provide a referral, loan me a copy of a book, etc. Second, demonstrate that you have skin in the game by committing to an action that you will follow up on.
- Help Me….Or at Least Offer To:Learning is a two way street so always end the conversation with an inquiry as to how you can return the favor. Everyone has contacts and knowledge to share so take a moment to ask what I’m trying to achieve with my business and offer to help where you can. Perhaps I’m writing a new book and you have a friend who is a rock star literary agent. You never know…
Bonus Tip: Follow up: Let me know how you are doing. If I spent time with you, chances are I want you to be successful. So circle back now and then to share your triumphs. I’ll take pride in the little role I played in that success, be more invested in your future, and thus more likely to help again down the road.