It's easy to get burned out on networking, especially in January.
Matt Krayton, Founder of the PR and creative firm Publitics hates networking, yet he’s typically committed to at least one event per week. That ramps up around the holiday season as his calendar becomes flooded with events. By January, Krayton is burnt out. "I find myself trying to make excuses as to why I should skip events," he admits. When he does force himself to attend, Krayton admits it’s usually not a positive experience. "I’ll wander off to a quiet corner to check email, which totally defeats the purpose of being at a networking event," he says.
Devora Zack, author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking says Krayton’s situation isn’t uncommon. She wrote the book because she loathed networking and estimates that 70% of people feel the same. The problem, Zack says, is that traditional networking tips (more is more, constant contact, never eat a meal alone) don’t suit the majority of people’s temperaments and cause us to either hate networking or feel burned out very quickly.
But we know we can’t avoid networking forever. So if you’re suffering from burnout, try these tips on for size:
"Real networking is about building and maintaining connections," says Zack. How many times have you gone to networking events, collected dozens of business cards and stuffed them in a folder to review later? The New Year is the perfect time to reflect upon all the events you attended during the holidays and pick out a few of the individuals you want to follow up with.
Filter through the dozens of event invitations that land in your inbox and choose the ones that are most likely to help you meet your goals. Don’t be afraid to change the type of networking events you attend, either. Events that aren’t business-related but that are interesting to you personally may yield more positive results than a business event.
Search for groups that match your interests, whether cooking, wine tasting or photography. "Life is a networking event," says Zack. By joining an informal meet-up about a subject matter you’re interested in, you’re more likely to be relaxed, positive and can forge more meaningful connections with individuals that are interested in the same things as you, rather than dragging yourself to a roundtable where you’re going half-heartedly and won’t be your best self. "If you’re putting yourself places where you already shine you’re going to be much more effective at building meaningful connections," says Zack.
While Krayton feels guilty about fiddling with his phone while at an event, Zack says his actions don’t render him a poor networker. "If you need a little downtime to yourself, it’s perfectly okay to go off by yourself for a few minutes, go for a walk outside, and then come back re-energized," she says. Having some "me time" in the middle of a networking event not only helps you avoid burnout, but can help you forge better connections later.
Take a few moments after meeting someone to sit alone and jot down a couple of facts about the person you met on the back of their business card. You get a few minutes of reprieve away from the crowds, and will be better able to craft a more meaningful follow-up email rather than the generic "it was nice meeting you at ‘X’ event".
Repeating the same elevator pitch at dozens of events can cause anyone to become bored with herself. Use this time post-holidays to revamp your pitch. Zack recommends thinking about interesting questions to ask people. "An elevator pitch is great but rather than talking right away about you, make the person you’re talking to happy to talk to you," she says.
While asking "what do you do?" will result in individuals giving you their (over-used) elevator pitches; asking "what’s your favorite part of your work?" causes them to switch up their words and, because they’re talking about something they like, they’ll be way more enthusiastic when answering. You may find out more interesting tidbits that you can later use to build a meaningful connection.
[Image: Flickr user Jordanmit09]