I want to talk about networking because I feel that the art of hearing and not listening is perfected at these events. I know because I was great at it. Personally, I appeared to be listening when in fact I was in my head searching through what they said while thinking up clever comments that would impress them, which never really happened, and then promptly forgetting their names.
The art of listening is a lost skill in our day-to-day lives. It’s something we should all strive for, but it seems like many people have forgotten how important this really can be when you’re trying to make connections with others or get ahead at work.
In my experience, I’ve found that networking is a necessary evil. It seems like everyone has an opinion about which type of networker you should be. I listened to and read anything I could find to become a great networker. After a while (dare I say months) I registered for my first event. Off I went with business cards in my pockets, purse and hand ready to whip out. On the way there, I rehearsed my elevator pitch and was ready to sell myself silly. Upon arrival, I marched in with my head held high and a smile plastered to my face. I was terrified. I scanned the room like a professional networker and attempted to walk up to a few small groups or individuals. Instead of stopping, I would do a “walk-by”.
My heart was pounding so hard that I literally thought I was going to faint. Finally, I mustered up the courage to stop and actually begin talking. And talk I did! By the end of the event, I had a lot of business cards and had successfully given many of mine out. I felt good…until I got home and realized that I barely remembered anybody’s name much less what they did or what we talked about. I wish I could say I learned my lesson right then and there, but I did not. It took a couple more times until I realized that I was hearing (barely) – not listening.
Networking events are a great way to meet new people and learn about their businesses. But, all too often we spend time talking without listening or taking notes – which means that when it’s over with you’ll have no idea what was said! To make the most of these networking sessions (and really connect) listen carefully for something important: Every person at this event has something worthwhile to say; they just need someone who will actually hear them out first before we jump in to talk about ourselves.
What does it mean to Stop Hearing and Start Listening?
Hearing is different from listening. Hearing is when you are only partially interacting in the conversation because you already have an agenda in mind and are waiting for the chance to go into “sales mode.” Active listening makes you influential because you are leaning into the person and trying to understand, build trust and empathize before developing solutions and recommendations
It means paying attention to what other people are saying, not just waiting for your turn to talk. It means taking cues from their body language and facial expressions. And it means being responsive, both verbally and nonverbally. When you do this, you’ll build strong relationships with the people you meet, and they’ll be more likely to remember you and recommend you for future opportunities.
Just like your personal relationships, business relationships take time to develop. It’s an investment. And it is exactly the quality of the experience you offer that will determine whether or not you’ll establish long-term business success. “In a recent study, 86% of customers claim that their experiences are just as important as the actual product or service they purchase”. ~superoffice.com
Start listening! Not just at network events but to everyone. You may learn something new or form a new friendship. You never know.
I will end with this: Networking is much more enjoyable for me now. I can’t say that it’s perfect but at least all my worries melt away when I’m listening to what they have cooking and getting a little bit acquainted with them as people! Most of the time someone will ask about what business I’m in and I will give a brief description–if they want to know more they will ask and I will be more than happy to tell them 😉