It was with interest that I read Andy Lopata’s blog a couple of weeks ago (13th August 2009, full article here: http://www.networkingandreferrals.blogspot.com/)
His first point is his pet hate of the use of the question “what do you do?” Well I’m very sorry, but after my experiences over the last couple of networking events I think this is actually one of the most useful questions you can ask! Let me explain why.
I really enjoy talking to people, it’s one of the main reasons that I do what I do. I also enjoy meeting new people, so I quite enjoy networking events. I think that like most people I can sometime be apprehensive walking into a room full of strangers but I’m lucky, because I target my networking, I now usually find that I know at least one friendly face in the room and if not there’s usually someone else standing alone so I usually start by talking to them, or the person next to me in the queue for a drink or to register.
In the last month I’ve been to 2 large networking events with a lot of new faces at them. Something happened to me at both these events that hasn’t happened before: someone was very friendly, talked at me with a lovely smile on their face and then offered to sell me their services. Now this isn’t unusual, but because they hadn’t asked “what do you do?”, well in one case hadn’t asked me anything at all, they were offering me services that I offer to my customers!
The first time this happened, the gentleman, who is employed by a large government agency as a business advisor, asked twice if we could meet to discuss my business at my premises, or at a coffee shop and he’d like to carry out a business review for me. I should perhaps say that the event we were attending was organised by a friend of mine, I had been on the organising committee, I had my photo and profile in the brochure for the event, I had opened the event by welcoming everyone and introducing our host for the evening and as we were having the conversation we were standing by a table, on which I had my business cards, some marketing materials and a promotion for all the attendees at the event, - the offer of a free business review!
He then walked away without asking my name so how could he follow up on his offer anyway? Which brings me onto the subject of exchanging business cards and the people who use this exchange as an excuse to bombard you with newsletters and emails... or perhaps I’ll leave that one for another time.
But in the mean time, please find out who you’re speaking to and what they do, or you will be very memorable, but perhaps not for the reason you want to be. And Andy, I’m very sorry to have to disagree with you on this one.
Enjoy your networking,