A Smokin’ Hot Networking Tip

In Backdraft Two Chicago firefighter brothers who don’t get along have to work together while a dangerous arsonist is on the loose. In the entertainment industry, you don’t always get to choose with whom you work, but, the more people you know, the more likely you are to work with likeminded people!

I once walked into a room where I was about to give a seminar on networking and a cheerful looking man walked up to me and handed me his business card.  I took it, looked at him, and waited.  He said, “I just wanted you to have that before the business card barrage at the end.” I thanked him, and asked if it was okay if I used him as an example during my talk.  He lit up and nodded that it was okay.

Perhaps he thought his was a smart strategy, and I wanted to acknowledge him… but you know I wouldn’t be writing about it if that were the case.  While he did stand out by avoiding the fire-hosing of cards I “would have” received at the end of my talk (had I not made a gentle example of him), he still missed the “When & Why” you give a business card.

Want to know a human need you can tap into to take the pressure off of networking? 

When a child playing soccer scores a goal, what do you think is his first instinct?  To turn to the sidelines, find his parents, and bask in the glory of their cheers.  When you book a job that you’re really proud of, what is your first instinct (after you’ve done your happy dance)? To tell someone you know is going to give you praise.  

What do these two situations have in common?  In both instances, the person who accomplished the success has a basic, instinctive human need for recognition.  

One of the biggest concerns people share with me about networking is, “I don’t know what to say to people.” So, here’s the smoking hot networking tip I promised you…


Knowing that the basic human need of recognition exists, when you meet someone new, do you think they want to talk about you? No. Not yet, at least. Not until they can fulfill their need for recognition by telling you all about themselves.  So, let them talk.  No fire-hosing a potential new relationship with one thing after another about you.  Ask about them, and let them talk until they run out of things to say.  

By doing so you’ll do a few things:   

1.    Learn about the person so you will know what to say and what to ask.
2.    Make a great first impression as a good listener.
3.    Figure out if this is a person with whom you’d like to continue a business relationship.
4.    Remember who this person is and what’s interesting about him/her when you find their card in the pile you collected from people who were just handing out cards to as many people as possible.

Which leads me to the “gentle example” I made of the cheerful guy.  I’ve been working in the entertainment industry since the early 90’s.  I know A LOT of people.  When I have to hire someone, do you think I’m going to hire someone I know, or pull out a business card from someone who: didn’t tell me his name, didn’t try to engage in conversation, didn’t tell me what he does or why he was giving me his card other than he wanted to make sure I had it?  If you guessed someone I know, you guessed right.

A business card given to someone you haven’t created even the beginnings of a relationship with, is a waste of the paper it was printed on.  If I come home with a card that doesn’t have notes on the back, that I wrote because I wanted to remember the person, it goes in the recycle bin.  Now that may sound harsh, but what is the point of me holding on to it?  I will NEVER call a stranger off of a business card I find in a drawer for a job.  I don’t need to.  I know enough people who can either do the job or know someone they can recommend. And I am not alone.  

So, next time you get the urge to fire-hose someone with your card and your life story… stop, and ask about them.    
1.    Recycle the business cards you’ve been saving of people you realize you will never call.  It will create space for new cards of people you will create a relationship with.
2.    If networking is a weakness for you, check out my class for Stage 32.  It’s limited to 20 people so act fast.  

The firefighters in Backdraft “fire-hose” the flames to put them out.  When you fire-hose people, you are doing the same thing… putting the sparks of a relationship out.  Instead gently stoke the flames.