Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

May 16 2016

Is Networking A Dirty Word?

Staci Wuokko


Buyers, suppliers, entry-level employees, C-level executives — no matter who you are, chances are good that you’re searching to expand your network. And if you work in the meetings industry, chances are also good that you may have even organized some of those networking opportunities. From early morning roundtable coffee discussions to late-night cocktail receptions, the face-to-face landscape is checkered with chances to “meet, greet and get business done.”

But are we thinking about networking all wrong? Ben Casnocha, entrepreneur, author, Silicon Valley executive and featured speaker at PCMA’s 2016 Education Conference in St. Louis, thinks so. “There’s a distinction between networking and genuine relationship building,” Casnocha wrote in a LinkedIn piece that highlights his perspective on the evolving definition of networking in an online world cluttered with social and professional networking sites.

“Networkers are transactional,” Casnocha wrote. “They pursue relationships thinking only about what other people can do for them. And they’ll only network with people when they need something, like a job or new clients. Relationship builders, on the other hand, try to help other people first. They don’t keep score. They’re aware that most good deeds get reciprocated, but they’re not calculated about it. And they think about their relationships all the time, not just when they need something.”

Casnocha’s piece highlights one of the key realities about typical networking: it can feel like a very selfish act, and it can only seem to matter in desperate times (“I need a new job!” Or “I need some new sales opportunities!” Relationship building takes time and energy. It means regular coffee outings to catch up. It requires phone calls and emails with no other purpose than to say hello. It means thinking how certain people might be great connections for other members of your network. Simply put, networking often feels about what works for you while relationship-building makes each person’s well-being equal.

SEE ALSO: It’s The End Of Networking As You Know It

Casnocha’s perspective may make you reevaluate your personal approach to meeting new people and maintaining relationships, and I also think it holds a deeper question for the type of “networking” we aim to facilitate at meetings and events. Do we want to organize three-hour receptions where people can collect business cards? Sure, those receptions are fun and can provide informal environments for introductions, but the organization must help facilitate the real relationship-building Casnocha mentions — not just business card exchanges and LinkedIn requests. What happens when everyone goes home? How can the organization offer support that turns the networking reception into a year-round relationship? This means investing more resources in facilitating the 365-day conversation among those attendees. For example, I’m biased, but I’ve been impressed with PCMA’s efforts on Catalyst to help create stronger discussions among peers.

Read Casnocha’s full LinkedIn post here, and be sure to register for the PCMA Education Conference to hear more of his insights on how you can help build stronger relationships among the members of your team at work.

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