When we talk about social media at Tribe, one of our strongest recommendations is to make sure you don’t talk about yourself too much. We encourage people to make comments on other people’s updates and blogs, to retweet or post about others’ work, to spend some time promoting others. If it’s all about you all the time, you’ll wear people out. Even more importantly, you’ll be missing an opportunity to create a connection and build a relationship.
Same thing applies to actual face-to-face networking. I had lunch today with someone referred to me by an old neighbor. He recently moved from San Francisco to Atlanta and his work has some overlap with ours, so she thought I might be able to connect him with some people in town he’d like to know. (I’m not naming any names, but Michael, you know who you are.)
This guy is filled with energy and ideas and plans. Over our Flip burgers and Cokes, he talked about innovation and change and shaking things up. He talked about a major conference he’s planning. He talked about his speaking career. He talked and talked and talked.
At the end of our lunch, I told him I was going to give him some unsolicited advice. (My business partner said, fairly loudly, she claims, “Don’t do it.” I didn’t hear her, but I’m not sure that would have stopped me anyway.)
I will introduce you to a few people I think you’d enjoy knowing, I told him, but you have to promise to let them talk about themselves a little. I pointed out that we’d been at lunch for over an hour and he had not asked either of us one question. Not about our company, not about either of us personally, not even about where we managed to find a parking place.
Easy mistake. One I’m sure I’ve made myself. But driving back to the office, it struck me once again. Courtesy is courtesy, whether you’re online or sitting across the table from someone. You have to flip the focus back to the other person once in awhile. Like your mother always told you, it’s important to be a good listener.