The following question came up during a business brunch the other week:
How do you network? What´s your strategy?
Do you try to collect as many business cards as possible, or do are you selective about your network? Will you bring 50 or 5 business cards home from a networking event? What´s your aim in networking – connecting to as many new people as possible, or to start building new relationships?
A recent women´s conference brought up similar reflections. The networking expert Petra Polk stated her own strategy very clearly: as many contacts as possible, you never know what it´ll be good for and when you might need just that kind of expertise. Her Xing contact count is up to more than 5000!
I was stunned – 5000 contacts, wow! I felt kind of small with my less than 200 contacts. Coming home from this conference, I had collected only 4 new business cards, well, I had met 4 new intersting persons, with whom I had started a relationship through longer conversations. We even had had some phone conversations since then.
Which is exactly the difference I see to Ms. Polk, and other, more quantity-oriented networkers: it is important to me to know the person behind the business card, to have a clear idea who this person is, so that I can be effective in connecting them to other acquaintances.
Which is another reason why I do not accept all requests to connect on either Xing or LinkedIn – I see those tools as a kind of mobile, self-updating addressbook, not so much as a marketing channel. I will only accept requests to connect from people I know – or who take the time to start a conversation with me, and not from those whose aim is solely to market their own product, whether I like it or not.
Maybe I´m just one of those „unwilling customers“ who simply do not understand their luck or the usefulness of a certain product – and who rather go out searching for what they need when they need it. Or... might it be my age?? I do prefer real relationships to virtual ones.
Anyways, I will dedicate some time during the holidays to look through my addressbook, through my various contact lists and decide – is this still a real relationship or do we really not have a lot in common – and release those people kindly to their lives.
It is just another way of creating space, space for new relationships in my life.