Column: A networking relationship means meeting more than once
Photo by Greg Peters | Contributor
Not long after she turned three, we took my daughter Kaylie on a vacation to Disney World. If you were to look through my photos from this trip, you would notice a common theme of my daughter hugging and posing with the various characters at the different parks. This was the year that she met Goofy for the first time.
She loved him.
We were over in the Animal Kingdom, and Goofy was dressed in his Santa costume. When it was her turn, Kaylie did her usual running hug with him and then posed. She hugged him several more times (which Goofy didn't seem to mind) before thanking him politely and saying goodbye.
This was all well and good.
Then we went to Epcot. They have a whole pavilion devoted to the classic characters. Mickey, Pluto, Minnie, Donald, and, you guessed it, Goofy. Well, of course we had to get in line to see her friends. and, once again, she hugged them all with all the love in her heart. Once again, delightful.
The next night, our last at Disney, we once again found ourselves at Epcot. By this time, my daughter has become a savvy fan of the House of Mouse and knew exactly where that pavilion was located. As I waited in yet another line for her to go through her hugs again, I reflected on the lessons I could learn from her behavior. I realized that, for her, this wasn't a once-in-a-lifetime event, meeting these characters. For her this was a chance to reconnect with friends.
Applied to our networking, this means that to create great connections with our networking contacts, it's not enough to meet with them just one time. We need to take the opportunity to meet or communicate regularly with our network. Put another way, how many of your good friends have you met only one time in the course of your relationship?
I've made this mistake in my early networking career. I met someone at a networking event and then had a good sit-down with them over lunch. I thought we had established a good relationship, so I put their name and number in my contact list and did nothing further. After all, they would probably contact me eventually, right?
Well, about six months later, I thought I would give them a call. Their response?
"Now who are you again?"
So, take another lesson from my daughter. The strongest connections require regular maintenance. It's not enough to run up and give them a handshake (or a hug) just one time. We've got to maintain a regular practice of saying hello and reconnecting through phone calls, email messages, coffee, and lunch.
Hopefully, Goofy will remember Kaylie next time.