Picture this: “Archie is the most incredible storyteller in the world. He was an executive for 30 years. And he has an uncanny ability to turn any topic into something interesting. Seriously, ANY topic. Clay. Golf. CPA scores. When he speaks, it becomes memorable. The man is a business networking dream come true.”

executive_networkingWelcome “back” to the world of networking in-person. Lost art, isn’t it? With the plethora of devices available in the connected world of today, the illusion of being in touch requires a massive overhaul to motivate us to meet people in person. Pray, how does one go about it?

1. Storytelling – it is incredible how, despite the tremendous push for a data-backed approach, the human brain yields timelessly to stories. Chalk up a narrative, and you have an audience. Talk in bullet points, and they are immediately on to their alter egos – their smartphones.

2. Doing things together – The sheer act of doing physical activities together (eating, drinking, playing games etc.) sends a signal of bonding to the human brain. Precisely the reason why a person with whom you have done even one or two team-building exercises relates to you far better than the one you met on social media and exchanged several messages with.

3. Commonality – The age-old idiom that the fastest way to build a bond is to find something in common with the other person. Crack the tribal code – common lineage, common friends etc. – so that the cannibal does not eat you.

4. Giving, not getting – The most misunderstood piece of the puzzle. How often have you avoided the hanger-on who is perpetually in need of your help? How often have you felt like approaching that wise old man with a smile and a goatee who is generous with his time and timeless wisdom? Apply the same yardstick when you switch to the other side of the court.

5. Anti-instant gratification – The gestation period for a baby has always been nine months, irrespective of all the advances in medical science. Relationships take time. Period. No quick fixes. The quest for instant success leads us to ask for favors immediately after invites are accepted on social media.

6. Homework – With all the information that is out there on social media today, a bit of homework on the person’s likes and pet peeves helps one get over the hill faster and build a meaningful conversation (the best gateway to an exciting relationship). A friend of mine keeps talking about his initial embarrassment when his “what do you do?” was greeted with a “didn’t you check my social media profile? I know what you do!” response.

7. Sweetest sound of ‘em all – It is a well-known fact that the sweetest sound for a person in any language is his/her name. Leverage this by lacing your conversations with the person’s name…but over-do it.

8. Basic etiquette – The person in front of you is more important than your smartphone. Texting/calling is a no-no. While obvious, this is one of the most under-rated tenets.

9. One hand free/notes at the back of the card – A small but important point is to keep one hand free when dining or drinking. You don’t want to be embarrassed if you are not in a position to shake hands. Also, make it a point to write down highlights of the conversation on the back of the card to ensure you have a strong string for follow-up.

10. Follow up – We just miss this, don’t we? What’s the point in meeting someone if there is no intent to take it forward? While there is no quantification of meetings for crossing the threshold, it goes without saying that one meeting does not qualify as a meaningful relationship.

As we wear more gadgets, let’s not forget to wear our emotions with transparency and genuineness during the quest to build meaningful relationships. Society is a network of relationships, so let's indulge in that most basic activity of human beings, viz., meeting others, with full gusto. The more we meet people, the better we feel and the more we learn.


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