On Gamifying Networking
“I don’t like networking, but I have to do it” is a common sentiment I hear from my friends and clients. My usual response is as follows:
- You might as well enjoy it, if you have to do it
- You’d enjoy it more, if you feel like you were getting “better” at it
- You’d feel you were getting better at it, if you gamify it.
For folks who aren’t sure where to begin, I simply say “as human beings, we all want to find common ground to feel comfortable to be in each others’ company”. So here are some tactics to address the above 3 points:
- Find common ground first by asking questions (regardless of if you have a particular agenda, like you are looking for a potential client, etc.).
- Asking questions engage the other people, rather than having to listen to you.
- If you just heard a lecture, ask how that person liked it, what their take away was.
- The more natural the question, the better (i.e., you are genuinely curious about hearing their answers to your questions).
- Don’t think too hard, it can be as simple as “Have you attended this event before?” and then move onto more open-ended questions
- Give yourself a goal or a challenge each time, and “keep score” to gamify. Define “success” in networking as having accomplished these goals (vs. “I found a potential employer/client” etc.).
- Push yourself to meet x new people each time (keep track by asking for their cards or giving your cards)
- If you want a deeper conversation vs. number of people to meet, then aim to learn x things you didn’t know from people who attended the event
- Both tactics avoid having to put yourself where you have to be heard, which puts pressure on people who find networking difficult. People find you more interesting when you are more interested in them than if you say interesting things, so there’s no pressure to make the conversation about you giving information.
- Follow other hints in the previous post for following up and developing the relationship.
- Don’t forget to reward yourself for a successful session (by buying yourself a drink at the event, or some other action that make the networking place “where good things happen”).
Photo: Tempura zucchini blossom at Chef Mavro in Honolulu, Hawaii.