Meet. Follow-Up. Repeat.
Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither are our networks. In the same way that weight-loss goals aren’t met from one day of healthy eating or one strenuous workout doesn’t mean you’re in good shape. A valuable introduction is a great start, but it’s only a beginning. If you’re serious about extending your networks, I have one word for you—repetition. By increasing exposure over time, you work to build a relationship beyond the introduction.
In the book I wrote with VIPorbit Software co-founder Max J. Pucher, Who’s In Your Orbit?, we outline the four components of meaningful relationships: time, intensity, trust, and reciprocity.” For those who resolved to work on building more relationships, both business and personal, I recently wrote a post about “Networking in the New Year.” To build on that, I want to share from my experience from the past year.
I’ve branched out and begun attending a professional group. I was looking for an opportunity to sharpen my professional edge with a monthly learning opportunity while building new connections with new like-minded folks. This particular group highlights two professional or personal development books each month and then gives a thought-provoking synopsis meant to serve as a quick overview and a teaser to delve more deeply into relevant topics.
The first time I attended I was immediately intrigued. The format provided an excellent mixture of information and opportunities for socializing. I made several great new connections. Some led to follow-up opportunities. Others led to key introductions to other members, guests, and even authors. If I had intended to attend only once, I might have still achieved my objective of learning something and meeting a few people, but I would have left so much on the proverbial table.
Often the decision to try something new requires a bit of gumption. Who among us hasn’t walked into a meeting feeling a little bit like the new kid in school, holding a lunch tray in the cafeteria looking for an empty seat and a smiling face? When your purpose outweighs your trepidation, great things can happen. After all, most great things happen outside of your comfort zone.
Stepping into a new networking group can be intimidating, but it can also be self-affirming. Introducing yourself, your organization, and your purpose can all help you solidify what resonates with others and what leaves them scratching their head. Showing the initiative to try something new is something the other attendees or members can relate with as well. Everyone is new sometime.
If that first meeting you attend sets a foundation, repetition is what builds the house. Attending again and again says something about your purpose. It shows that you aren’t looking for a quick payoff but belonging to a group. Anyone can say that they are sincere. Only behavior over time can demonstrate it.
For a recent speech, I wore my signature lime green sport coat. During the meet-and-greet time and even the meal preceding my keynote, I had several people compliment my coat. I’m sure there are others who wondered about my color choice. Beyond the fact that I just really like it, it usually serves to illustrate one point: We are all constantly evaluating each other. What you wear one time may not make an impression, but how you interact, how you follow up, even how open you are to others definitely shows. And people are paying attention!
Not only does repetition develop trust over time, it also offers opportunities for reciprocity. I wholeheartedly assume the burden for building new or developing existing connections. If something is important, you make it happen. If not, you make an excuse. Rather than wait for a connection to reach out to me, I take the lead and reach out to others.
I’m not waiting around for something when it’s in my power to do it. That said, repetition reveals my dedication to the group overall. It’s often rewarded by opportunities for others to reciprocate my efforts. I might not be top-of-mind throughout the month, but my dedication to attend time after time puts me in their path. It’s like an in-person reminder to follow-up with me. Consider it built-in access to what they may otherwise forget or simply fail to do.
You may attend a yearly conference or a once-in-a-lifetime event that yields amazing results, but those are the exception and not the rule. However, consistent efforts produce long-lasting results. In fact, your future success is hiding in your daily routine. Networking events or development group meetings may not be everyday routine. However, over time, you’ll find success when you step outside of your comfort zone to show initiative, keep going to demonstrate your sincerity, and over time reveal your true dedication!