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Posted on Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 6 a.m.

To succeed in networking, you must always be present

By Greg Peters

"I'm not sure if he even had a cell phone."

My wife, Lisa, was describing a rather prosperous gentleman she had met at a recent networking event. She loves to observe human behavior around her. Being a scientist, she attempts to draw conclusions based on those observations (and then test those hypotheses and, eventually, write up a lab report). I learn a lot from these observations as she often notices patterns I don't always see.

This includes behaviors that have bearing on networking success.

The other day she pointed out something that she'd noticed. She said that, in her experience, the most successful people with whom she had spoken were always completely present.

They weren't checking emails while listening to a speaker. They weren't wearing their Bluetooth earpiece when they were in the middle of a conversation. In fact, their cellphone was never in evidence, let alone sitting in plain sight on the table. When you spoke with them, they never looked over your shoulder seeking a "better" conversation.

They were always there in the moment, as if what they were doing was the most important thing in the world.

Now, maybe they had "people" to take care of these things for them, but I prefer to believe instead that they have learned something about the petty distractions that modern life has thrown in our path...

...and they've rejected them.

This is something I know I struggle with. While I'm pretty good about maintaining my focus when I'm chatting with someone, I do have my Droid phone with me almost always. It's so easy in a quiet moment to pull it out and just "check the email". You know, just in case there are any emergencies.

Guess what, though. On those extremely rare occasions when something has come up, there wasn't much I could do until after whatever it was that I was already doing had ended. The only thing that reading the email did for me was make me distracted for the remainder of the event.

I've spoken before about keeping our focus on the person we are with. Looking around for someone more important" doesn't impress anyone. It's certainly not going to lead to any stronger relationships.

Now, I'm not saying there aren't emergency situations which justify our having the phone on hand. If we're honest with ourselves, though, 99.99 percent of the time, we are using these bits of technology to escape the now. Oh, and the whole "looking over the shoulder" thing? I can't think of a single good reason for that behavior.

So, for me, one of my goals for this year is to be present in every networking situation. Of course, as I've mentioned, I'm nowhere near perfect. If you should happen to see me being distracted, call me on it.

After all, isn't that what friends do for friends?

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to 52-tips.thereluctantnetworker.com.