Imagine the scene, if you would.
You’re at a networking event, chatting casually to some people you’ve just met and a couple of old acquaintances – generally getting to know them, relaxing into the evening while still trying to place where you met that person who said hello earlier as you first walked in.
Suddenly the door to your left is flung wide open and in rushes a rather manic looking figure clutching a big bundle of business cards. Racing around the room, this figure thrusts a business card into everyone’s hands, not saying a word and not even making eye contact. You glance down and see the card bears his name (which you don’t recognise) and an invitation to join “his network”.
Before anyone can utter a sound or offer a welcoming hand, he exits stage right (as they say) with the air of someone who considers himself to be an accomplished networker, leaving in his wake a trail of business cards and bemused onlookers.
A little bizarre, perhaps … or indeed totally ridiculous? Well, let’s hope that you feel that way!
Unfortunately, while we (hopefully!) laugh at this type of behaviour in face to face networking, we seem to somehow consider it acceptable (even the norm?!) online for someone to send a default “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” when they want to connect, often without even glancing through the profile of the person they are looking to connect with. Surely that is just as ridiculous?!
Whether you consider it is or not, I’d really encourage you to take a different approach. If you are going to connect with someone then make sure that you let them know why – it really doesn’t need to be long-winded, just a simple note that at least points out that you are in the same area, have the same interests or want to discuss business opportunities … whatever.
So, when you write that first invitation, tell them what the reason is for connecting. We all like to receive things that are personalised and relevant to us – it makes us feel at least a little bit special. If nothing else, what it does is demonstrate that people have actually taken some notice of what we do and made a conscious decision to reach out and connect. And I’m certainly much more likely to accept an invitation like that.
At the end of the day, don’t be the manic card giver – you can follow a “quantity” rather than “quality” philosophy of networking by all means, that’s up to you. But still show respect to the people that you are asking to link with you and spend a few moments to personalise the invitation you send to them. It’s not just a case of politeness (though that’s no bad thing!), above all it’s good business sense.
It seriously is worth it!