Chris McCann's Personal Blog

Life's too short to not do awesome things

Business Networking

with 17 comments

TLDR: Networking is about helping other people. Tweet this.

I get pitched a lot on “business networking” apps and ideas and I always have an adverse and skeptical reaction to them.

I was never really good at putting why into words why I felt this way but my friend Jonathan Nelson who runs Hackers and Founders said it perfectly:
 

I get pitched this idea [event/business networking apps] every 2 or 3 months because of our events, and I’m very adverse to using this type of product at our events.

Why? In my opinion, people who are great at networking don’t go into an event trying to find X, Y or Z. People who are phenomenal at networking go to events with the attitude that they want to help others who are of similar interest. Adam Rifkin got a full page in Fortune magazine last year for being Fortune’s most networked. His attitude is to be as helpful as he possibly can be. And, then occasionally, he asks for a favor in return.

“Find interesting people” apps tend to invert that process and make it, “What can you do for me” centered rather than “You’re awesome. I’d love to help you in whatever way I can”.

Also, I’m a huge believer in synchronicity and happenstance. The brownian motion at seemingly random networking events is actually a very complex ecosystem that works really well.

 
This is the basics. If you want to get deeper here is Jonathan’s philosophical stance on why this is so, which contains much wisdom in here:
 

Why?

Metcalfe’s law: the value of a (computer) network is equal to the number of the nodes in the network squared.

Holds true for people’s personal connections and networked relationships as well.

When a person goes into an event looking for 1 or 2 specific things, they aren’t increasing their network, they are routing a single request. They are looking for one specific thing at that event. In web terms, they are looking for a single URL.

That makes them a client in the system, and not a server.

Growing a personal business network requires making as many quality connections in that network as possible, and then routing as many requests as possible. Essentially, uber-networkers want to be the Domain Name System servers for other people’s requests. They want to know where all the URLs are stored, so when someone comes in looking for one specific URL, they can route that request quickly and efficiently.

Knowing where other people’s URLs or requests are stored connects you to as many other networks as possible, and makes the value of your own network exponentially more valuable.

Building the database of what other people’s specialties and interests are takes time and concerted effort, but this is what true networking looks like.

 
If you’re interested in this kind of networking check out StartupDigest Brain Trust or leave a comment below.
 

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Written by Chris McCann

May 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

17 Responses

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  1. Great post, the DNS analogy is awesome.

    memapblog

    May 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm

  2. speaking as a shy person, I think that the networking part is the hardest one…. add that for me it’s also hard to remember names and faces… I’m doomed :°(

    Ulrik

    May 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm

  3. Fully agree with this, and I try to apply it as much as I can. Only trick with this is, how not to lose one’s credibility when connecting two people and then it turns out one of them is not playing the game by the rules (not following up, etc…). I end up sometimes in uneasy situations, having just tried to help…

    Christophe

    May 14, 2012 at 8:52 am

  4. I think the toughest part is not trying to remember to be helpful – it’s getting someone to let you be helpful. Maybe I’m being pessimistic, but I think most of us know that if someone does us a favor, they will, at some point, request a favor in return and so in general they have their guard up.

    Adam

    May 18, 2012 at 12:52 am

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