How To Gain Value From Networking: Don’t Network

If you’re planning to attend our NextBank Silicon Valley event on May 12, hopefully one of the reasons is for the networking possibilities — which are many.

You’ve probably been to similar events before, or at least events with a networking component to them. Despite how many professionals in finance and banking have attended events of all types, there’s still a lack of clarity on the best approaches to networking. Maybe we can provide some value-add here.

Rich Stromback lives outside of Detroit, yet has billionaires and C-Suite people all over his Rolodex. He owns Davos every year. Even The New York Times has admitted this.

And here he is, speaking to Harvard Business Review and talking about networking.

Remember: this is a guy who doesn’t live in a power corridor (NYC, DC, London, Asia, etc.) by any means, and yet he has access to some of the most influential decision-makers and money-spenders in the world. So it’s probably wise to listen, right?

Two things:

1. Stop caring about first impression: Here’s his quote on that topic —

“Everyone gets this wrong. They try to look right and sound right and end up being completely forgettable. I’m having a ball just being myself. I don’t wear suits or anything like that. I do not care about first impressions. I’d almost rather make a bad first impression and let people discover me over time than go for an immediate positive response. Curiously, research I read years ago suggests that you build a stronger bond over time with someone who doesn’t like you immediately compared to someone who does. Everything about Jack Nicholson is wrong, but all of the wrong together makes something very cool.”

If you want some research on this idea that maybe first impressions don’t matter as much as we think, read this.

2. Stop networking. Wait, what? Here’s a quote:

Nobody wants to have a ‘networking conversation,’ especially those who are at the highest levels of business and politics. They are hungry for real conversations and real relationships. It just has to be authentic, genuine and sincere. I don’t look at people’s badges to decide if they are worth my time. Davos is 3,000 influential people and I need to be selective, yet authentic  — focused, yet open to possibilities. In the end, I put myself in the most target-rich area and then just go with the flow and spend time with who I enjoy.”

One of our staff guys here working on the event had the pleasure of attending an F1 race in Austin and sitting in a suite a few months back. There were numerous senior executives up there from WalMart, Proctor and Gamble, and KPMG. In a standard professional context, our employee could never get in front of these guys. There’d be far too many gatekeepers. In the F1 context, though, he easily conversed about race relations, politics, racing, engines, marriage, t-shirts, jeans, etc. with them — and they ate it up.

Was he networking? Yes. But did it come off like networking? No. It came off like two guys having a discussion about engines.

So … want to network better?

  • Be organic (read: real) on your first impression; don’t try to control it too much
  • Chase a real relationship, not a business card or LinkedIn add; treat them like a friend as much as a guy or girl you need help from

If you want to incorporate this advice at Next Bank Silicon Valley, connect with us below.

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