Networking is an essential part of building a strong business. Or so the story has gone for decades. Get out there. Meet people. Identify needs. Solve problems. Build business.
But is it working?
I attend a lot of networking events. I connect with people. I ask questions, learn about someone’s business and product, and find out what drives them. I shake a lot of hands. They, in turn, inquire about what it is I do. Sometimes we connect. Sometimes we don’t.
And while a small percentage of these relationships have blossomed, I would question how effective networking has been for me when it comes to advancing my business goals.
I do, however, belong to two groups that have brought me numerous benefits. The difference is that the conversation at the table isn’t about networking, connecting, and exchanging business cards.
Instead, it’s about growing relationships authentically. About investing in each other. Supporting each other’s businesses. Making referrals—not because we are required to but because we want to. Connecting on a much more personal, heart-centred level. The time I spend at these events are filled with laughter, support, and encouragement, and the conversations land very differently. There are few handshakes, but lots of hugs.
In his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John C. Maxwell argues that for one-on-one connections to flourish, we need to establish an outward focus. We need to authentically demonstrate that we care about the person with whom we are speaking, we are happy to help, and that we can be trusted. If these three essentials do not exist, true connections are not established.
When I recently read this, his three criteria for building relationships resonated with me. He very concisely summed up what I’ve been learning over the past couple of years.
So what would happen if we entered our networking events with the approach that Maxwell suggests: How would our approach change? What impact might it have on the conversations we are having? Would we be building a network, or would we be building a community?
I challenge you to try Maxwell’s criteria next time you attend an event with other business owners. How does it feel? What are the results? I’m curious to hear how and/or if it shifts your approach to connecting with others. Share your comments below!
 Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the most effective people do differently. Maxwell, John C. Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville Tennessee. 2010. Page 42.