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.