Three Possible Reasons Why NETworking Is NOTworking For You

Posted by Duane Cummings on 04/01/2016


Several times a month I have the opportunity to be a guest speaker at various networking events. Often, the organizer keeps my selection a secret from the group. So, I’ll usually dress down, slip in, and just act like a new member. After being introduced, (usually to everyone’s surprise) I begin illustrating networking lessons by sharing my observations of those in the room. The attendees know I’m not making something up, nor is my presentation “canned,”because THEY are my material. It’s never easy. I have to be tactful and creative, otherwise I’d make a room full of enemies, rather than providing value.

For those “doing it wrong,” I’m sure the examples I point out are difficult to hear. But for ones who’ve learned and apply proper networking etiquette, the recognition from a guest speaker may be refreshing. Although, I’m not anyone special and my opinion isn’t the “world standard,” the lessons I share are widely considered acceptable common courtesy, and are applicable to most social interactions.

What you’ll find below are three of the most commonly made networking mistakes I come across. Since you’re probably reading this alone, NOW is the time to reflect on your own behavior.

Be honest with yourself, and if you are making any of them, take note and work to improve that area. In addition, if you believe I’ve missed something, feel free to add your comments. 


If you truly want to reap positive results from networking, my advice is to stop focusing on yourself. THAT’S RIGHT, I’m saying you should focus on shining the light on everyone else you meet or connect with. I realize it may be contrary to what you’ve been taught, or even your instincts, but it’s effective. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to “shrink” or lower yourself---just begin by focusing your time and energy on others.

I'm not sure why it happens, but people just think it has to be about "ME." It could be that’s how they were trained, or it comes from a need to impress, but after the “15 second elevator speech” they tell you EVERYTHING, without any thought or consideration of your story. Yes…Yes…I get it, they are excited about whatever their product or offering is and want to share it with the world, but most people find it to be a turn off.

Networking is a game of opposites, just like golf. In golf if you want the ball to go up, you hit down, want it to go left, swing right, and in networking you focus on others instead of yourself. There is a quote that’s been well used, but will never be worn out. It’s by Zig Ziglar, who once said…

“You can have everything in life that you want if you just help enough people get what they want.”

That mindset is the opposite of what many people do and think. Personally, I’m at this magical place in my life where I just keep showing up and serving others, without any worry for my own needs, and fortunately I never want for anything. 

My friend Bob Burg and his writing partner John David Mann wrote an incredible book called The Go-Giver. In summary, it’s a parable that teaches the importance of giving, which could also be looked at as “focusing on or making it about others.” Sure, your time will come and you’ll need to be prepared to share who you are, and how you can serve others…but in the beginning, DON’T MAKE IT ABOUT YOU!


We’ve all been there---someone you’re meeting with is “broadcasting” rather than participating in a healthy conversation. This is similar to #1, but even those who shine the light on others sometimes forget to listen.  They may even ask good questions, but then they get distracted and begin to think about what they're going to say next.  Sometimes they'll space out, and will often ask the same question again later or miss the simple information you went over several times.

Sometimes, when I come across a person that seems like they are somewhere else, I’ll say something like, “I wonder why that guy isn’t wearing any pants.” Believe it or not, about half the time I get no response. Many times they are simply waiting for you to take a breath, so they can go again, or worse yet…they play the “ONE UP” game. That’s when no matter what you share, they feel a need to top it. 

Being a good active listener requires that you stay engaged in the conversation. One good way to do this is to ask great questions and truly listen to the answers. Please don’t ask, “So what do you do for a living?” or “What’s your value proposition?” Get creative for goodness sake, this is a place you can really stand out from the crowd.  People will remember your interesting questions.

Asking great questions is also how you’ll find out what the other person needs, and if you have the skills or products to serve them appropriately. That’s called bringing value. If you struggle with remembering details, ask the person if you can jot down some notes, or better yet, ask their permission to record the conversation with your cell phone, so you can “be fully engaged.“


This week a friend and I were discussing this topic, because there seems to be someone at every event that tosses business cards around like a Las Vegas blackjack dealer. Funny enough, that person is usually the same one that will interrupt other people who are already engaged in a conversation, to talk about themselves.

As we talked, she told me about Rick Iacona (known as the Millionaire Connector) and how he puts the business cards of people he wants to follow up with in his right pocket, and the ones he doesn’t in his left. I’m sure you can imagine what he does with the contents of that left pocket after he leaves. 

You may not agree with my methods, but here’s how I handle business cards. First, I NEVER offer one. Yes, you read it correctly…NEVER. But, if someone asks to connect with me, then and only then do I provide my contact info. Although depending on the situation (as arrogant as it sounds) I sometimes  tell the person I’m “googlable,” and easy to reach with a quick Internet search. This is a good litmus test as to whether that person truly wants to take the connection further. Now, if no one asks for my card, then I can deduce they didn’t need me and I can feel good knowing I’m doing my part to “ go green.”

When someone does happen to present their card before even telling me their name, I will usually say something like...

"Do you really want me to have this card, or would you rather I got to know who you are?"

I could very easily have it all wrong, but for me it's simple.  Everything should start with a respectful and proper greeting, followed by a discovery phase. This will help you gather appropriate and accurate information to determine "if and why" the parties should move forward. So from now on do these three things---MAKE IT ABOUT THEM, FOCUS ON ACTIVE LISTENING, and USE YOUR BUSINESS CARD APPROPRIATELY. Stick with this plan and you'll be YESworking instead of it NOTworking at every NETworking event you attend. Wishing all of you #aSensationalLife!

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Duane Cummings