Networking is a skill unfortunately not taught in most schools.
A network is built one person at a time, but how does one optimize for each encounter, hoping the interaction manifests into a deeper relationship?
It should be no surprise that first impressions count for a lot and are sometimes referred to as “blink impressions“. Most people pass judgment on someone in only a few seconds. So what variables and/or environmental factors can we control to help leave the best impression?
The three key variables I see factoring into an impression are: Context, Timing and Perception
To really ‘hit a home run’ ideally all of these variables are in alignment.
For example, you could have a killer presentation, look sharp and be well rehearsed, but if slow traffic makes you late to the meeting: there is nothing you can likely do to change that perception of you as someone who on some level is not to be trusted: you did not keep up your end of the bargain.
The context is often what is most in your control. Where you meet, what you say, etc, can often be prepared for.
Perception is more nuanced, but small things can help insure a good perception. To be taken seriously in a business context, looking sharp, being a good listener and perhaps having done some background research on the person and making sure they know it “btw, I am a big fan of your blog!” all go a long way.
Timing is the most random in nature. It can work for, or against you. Say you meet someone amazing, someone you could see yourself dating, only to find they just started dating someone – ugh, timing! But Timing can also work in your favor: you are introduced to someone and you mention that you are a consultant who specializes in social media. Turns out that person just left a meeting where the company decided to hire a social media consultant, perfect timing!
While I’m sure there are many more than three variables, I have found these useful as a framework for thinking about building relationships and networks. Remember: luck favors the prepared mind.
Here is a great Ted Talk on building your network by focusing on people rather than process.