How I Stopped Loathing Networking and Started to Love Kibbitzing

Don’t kvetch about your upcoming networking function. Have fun kibbitzing instead!

The problem with networking is that it’s called networking, which doesn’t sound like a fun thing for humans to do. It does sound like a fun thing for computer equipment to do.

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    The other thing is that everyone’s always doing it and everyone’s supposed to be doing it, which is another reason I always hated it. I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. It’s been beaten to death.

    So, I stopped calling it networking and started calling it kibbitzing, which is both more accurate and more species-appropriate. Kibbitzing is what old Jewish men do at the schvitz or the deli, usually about something unimportant. Kibbitzing often precedes kvetching, which literally translates to “straining” but is used to describe complaining, usually about your significant other or your good-for-nothing son-in-law.

    Gamify your networking

    The other problem with networking is that it sometimes feels really contrived. I know it’s totally necessary, but I never got over the feeling that everyone there would rather be somewhere else.  

    So, after changing its name, I started treating it like a game to make it more appealing. I’d go to kibbitzing events and dare myself to walk up to perfect strangers and introduce myself and at the end of the night I’d count the number of business cards I had and see if I beat my personal record for random walk-ups. Then, I’d play this other game where I’d see how long I could go before there was an awkward silence, or before I started talking about myself or my business.

    I went an hour once. It was a proud moment.

    Then, I started paying attention to people who did it better than me and then I took notes. I work with one of those people right now. He’s fantastic. He’s a ninja. I went to a lunch with him a few months ago and it totally upped my game. After that lunch, I went back to the office and wrote this down (for purposes of this post, I’m going to call him Jon Fishman. His name is not Jon Fishman, but the drummer of my favorite band is).

    Listed below are the seven successful tactics Jon Fishman uses when he is in a networki … er … kibbitzing … situation.

    • Jon Fishman fills up almost all his meals and social beverages (breakfast and lunch, coffee and beer, sometimes dinner) with meet-ups with clients, potential clients and contacts. I’ll tell you this: he’s absolutely killing it at the firm.
      
    • Jon Fishman studies up on the other guy before the meeting, then comments during the lunch on things he already knows about that guy.

    • He also studies up on the restaurant he’s going to. I can’t tell if that’s because he’s a foodie or because he’s trying to be prepared for the meeting. I think it’s both. Jon loves to eat good food. That doesn’t hurt.

    • He waits until the end of the meeting to discuss business, if he has business to discuss.

    • When he’s finished with his meeting, he does a recap where he tells the other guy what he (Jon) is going to do for him when he gets back to the office (like make an introduction, or send him an article). Magically, this prompts the other guy to do the same thing. I’m sure that helps both of them better remember those things too.

    • (Incidentally, prior to the meeting, he had already asked himself this question: What can I do for this guy that will help him? If he couldn’t come up with an answer, and sometimes even if he does, Jon asks the other guy what he can do to help him.)

    • When Jon gets back to the office, he then does exactly what he told the other person he was going to do. He makes it his first priority. He doesn’t wait, or return calls, or return emails. He knocks it out. He also uses this as an opportunity to send a thank you or follow-up email to the other person and comment on how much he enjoyed the jovial little kibbitz they just had.
     
    Good stuff, Jon Fishman. Way to kill it.
     
    And that’s how kibbitzing helped me to stop loathing my next networking event.

    Alex Gertsburg is a litigator, corporate lawyer, and head of the Gertsburg Law Firm, a seven-lawyer, full-service business law firm with offices in Cleveland and Chagrin Falls. He is also the founder of CoverMySix, the audit that keeps businesses out of court by repairing the six legal areas most likely to put them into it.  For more information, go to www.gertsburglaw.com and www.covermysix.com.  


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    Since 2010, more than $24 billion in economic development has taken place in Cleveland and the surrounding region. What’s the best way to keep all that positive momentum going? That’s the question posed to the panelists (Chris Ronayne of University Circle; Ann Zoller of LAND Studio; and Vickie Eaton Johnson of the Cleveland Clinic) who took part in the “Region on the Rise” plenary session during BizConCLE on October 13, 2016, which was moderated by the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Deb Janik.

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    Since 2010, more than $24 billion in economic development has taken place in Cleveland and the surrounding region. What’s the best way to keep all that positive momentum going? That’s the question posed to the panelists (Chris Ronayne of University Circle; Ann Zoller of LAND Studio; and Vickie Eaton Johnson of the Cleveland Clinic) who took part in the “Region on the Rise” plenary session during BizConCLE on October 13, 2016, which was moderated by the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Deb Janik.

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    Time and again, the panelists remarked that Cleveland and Northeast Ohio must live up to being a region that people want to move to and do not want to move away from. Economic development is obviously one way to accomplish that goal, but to get there requires the many different groups in Cleveland (civic, philanthropic, development, residential, etc.) to continue to work together and build a plan for the region that will continue to retain and attract people to the region.

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    RELATED: Attend our Nov. 7 Business Growth Boot Camp: Creating a Culture of Innovation to Drive Business Growth

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    Q: What is the biggest challenge your clients are asking about today, and how are they overcoming that challenge?

    A: Ultimately, clients always ask for a path to an improved situation, whether it be obtaining new clients, improving financial results, or finding relief from an employee issue. As a Business Coach, one of the important benefits I bring to clients is awareness: 1) awareness of aspirations and self-imposed limitations, 2) awareness of options they have for improving their companies or their individual situations, and 3) awareness of resources to keep them from going it alone. 

    Once clients are really aware of these things, their demeanor changes, they are enthusiastic, a door has been opened.  Yet many fail to walk through to the other side.  Even though this side of the door may be dysfunctional, it is comfortable, it is known, and it works to some degree.  Those who succeed at real change understand that it takes 1) a clear vision of what the improved situation would look like, 2) a clearly-expressed SMART goal, 3) definitive action steps, and 4) practicing new behaviors. 

    Q: Talk about Project Management.  What are four things companies can do to help a project go more smoothly?

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    1) Are candidates for Project Manager evaluated at all on their communication and people skills?  Why not?  Obviously the project will require the coming together of many minds, hearts and hands to achieve successful completion.  Does this candidate have the right combination of cognitive and social skills to complete the Project in the most effective manner?

    2) The use of electronic communication tools to inform participants about Project information should be supplemented by face-to-face human interaction, even if that communication is accomplished remotely, using tools like Skype. And, yes, scheduling a team meeting may mean building in the cost of a day-long session at a nearby off-site facility, but it will be worthwhile.  The opportunity to interact face-to-face with other team members will enrich the process and create synergy.

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    • RELATED: Learn about COSE’s B2B Cleveland Matchmaker event

    The first thing to do is get into the right mindset. Effective networking is about farming versus hunting. Farmers plant seeds. They are patient and make sure their seeds get the proper caring and feeding and then they can reap the harvest. Hunters go a mile wide and an inch deep, they value quantity and shoot at anything that moves. Most people do not go to networking events to buy something, so why go there with the intent to immediately sell?

    When you are going to a networking event, do your homework first. Find out who else might be there you want to connect with. Learn what you can about them on social sites such as LinkedIn and also go to their website. When you find them at the event, ask them questions about themselves, their business and their challenges. Take the time to learn about them, show them you care and you want to build a relationship. There will be time for talking about how you can support them—but only really after you know what they need. When you get to share, tell them a story of how you have solved business problems for clients similar to their problems, then it shows you listened and you have some experience.

    Ivan Misner, Ph.D, founder of BNI, shares the need to first have visibility. People have to know who you are and what you do. He warns against premature solicitation and asking for a sale before you have visibility and offers some tips on effectively navigating networking events. He uses a 12 x 12 x 12 rule. From 12 feet away—make sure you are dressed the part. At 12 inches away, perception is reality. Don’t complain to someone you just met because they will think you are a negative person. And think about the 12 words you’re going to say. After you listen to them, be able to concisely share your value proposition.

    I facilitate a leadership program focused on building influence and connecting with others leveraging John Maxwell’s books—“Everybody Communicates, Few Connect” and “Becoming a Person of Influence”. In it, we focus on how to really listen to others to better connect. It’s not about us, it’s about them. I love this quote by Norman Vincent Peale:

    “Humble people don't think less of themselves ... they just think of themselves less. When you really listen to others, you make a connection.” John Maxwell says “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand” and it is the same here for connecting.

    10 questions to ask at networking events
    Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals and other great books, is a great connector and says, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” He shares 10 Feel-Good Questions to ask at networking events:

    1. How did you get your start in the widget business?

    2. What do you enjoy most about your profession?

    3. What separates you and your company from the competition?

    4. What advice would you give someone just starting in the widget business?

    5. What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?

    6. What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?

    7. What do you see as the coming trends in the widget business?

    8. What ways have you found to be the most effective for promoting your business?

    9. What ways have you found to be the most effective for promotion your business?

    10. What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?

    The One “key” questions that will set you apart from everyone else: “How can I know if someone I’m speaking with is a good prospect for you?

    Important: Please keep in mind you won’t have time to ask more than two or three of these questions in any one conversation. These are questions people enjoy answering and they are simply meant to make them feel good and establish initial rapport.

    So, it’s about farming and cultivating relationships and building a network of people that really know, like and trust you—this is your referral network. Be selective, don’t chase everyone, and focus on building a network of people that can leverage your services or product. Focus first on adding value and the rest will come! And most of all: Happy networking!

    Jill Windelspecht is president of Talent Specialists Consulting. Contact her via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.

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