"Fear not to entertain strangers for by so doing some have entertained angels unaware."
This quotation is from the book of Hebrews, which means it probably has nothing to do with networking.
Or does it?
Networking is the process of sharing knowledge, helping others, and developing mutually beneficial relationships. Serendipity is the lucky tendency to find interesting or valuable things by chance. Mix the two forces, and you've got a sure-fire formula to boost your business.
Now, I understand the Catch-22: if it's serendipity, how can you plan it? Well, you're right – you can't. But you can do a few things to be more aware of it and prepare yourself to leverage it.
What is Serendipity Networking?
First and foremost, serendipity networking is unexpected. You never know whom you're going to meet! So don't discount the power of each person to affect your business or even your life. For example, the birth of my career was a direct result of the "Start Conversations with Random People on the Bus Who Happen to Know the Editor of a Major Newspaper Theory." Works every time!
Secondly, being at the right place at the right time is good; but being at the wrong place at the wrong time can be better. I once attended a small group discussion under the impression that the speaker was a certain author, only to realize I had read the flyer incorrectly – the author wasn't coming at all. When I learned who the actual facilitator was, I was initially disappointed. I then realized how much she and I had in common, and now I'm happy to say we're great friends and colleagues who share information and ideas on a frequent basis!
Next, serendipity networking is powerful. I mean REALLY powerful. How many times have you met a valuable contact and said, "Wow! The planets must have been aligned tonight!" "The Gods have smiled down upon me!" or "What are the odds of meeting someone as perfect as her?"
World renowned speaker, author, and my friend Carol Weisman experienced the power of serendipity networking years ago. She was giving a speech at a conference that unfortunately conflicted with a concurrent session by Dr. Steven Covey. Obviously, attendance was low, but Carol didn't care. She did her absolute best and blew the audience away – all six of them. At the end of her speech she announced, "And now, I'm going to do something that Steven Covey would NEVER do – I'm going to take my entire audience out to lunch!"
Little did she know that a member of her audience worked for PBS. Five seasons of a hit program and a Telle Award later, Carol understood the power of serendipity networking.
Warning Signs That Networking is in the Air
Do you see the same person time and time again at similar meetings and events? Great! You are experiencing "Networking Dejavu," and it's not an accident. This is a person with whom you obviously share common interests. So go talk to him! There's a good chance you can help each other.
Have you ever walked away from a coffee shop, bar, store, gym, church, mailbox, park, train, street corner, or bus and said to yourself, "Thank God I had one of my business cards with me today!" What a great feeling! Remember, chance encounters like these may be more valuable than you think.
Did you recently have a business conversation that contained the words, "A friend of a friend," or, "I don't know how I ended up at your website, but?"? Perfect. Localize this connection; then generate mutually valuable information and CPI's (Common Points of Interest).
A person called, emailed, wrote, or contacted you because "something made her think of you." This should set off an alarm. Discover what associations were made so you can learn how to recreate that tipping point in the future.
7 Serendipity Networking Tips
1. Talk to everybody. We are conditioned not to talk to strangers, but some people enter our lives and change them forever.
2. Be nice and help people. Reciprocity is an inherent human need. Go out of your way to extend kindness, friendliness, and assistance to everyone – they are likely to pay you back. Possibly by giving you millions of dollars.
3. Keep a list of your "People Collection." (In an non-crawl-space-under-the-deck kind of way) Whether you use a journal, database software, or bar napkins, make sure you write down the names of every person you meet – not just business contacts. You never know when, 6 months down the road, an idea will pop into your head and you'll need to call someone.
4. Get out there. Make a weekly/monthly networking plan. Serendipity networking has a lot to do with being at the right place at the right time. And although you can't create serendipity, you can certainly put yourself in a position to grab it when it crosses your path.
5. Always have business cards. Always. Most of your networking won't occur between Monday and Friday from 9-5. So remove the following phrase from your vocabulary: "I don't have any of my business cards with me right now." No excuses. Unexpected conversations are the stuff serendipity networking is made of.
6. Always have something free to give away. People like free stuff. They also like to show it to other people.
7. Wear your nametag. A person's name is the single context of human memory most apt to be forgotten. So, at a meeting or event when you're given the chance to remind someone who you are – do it. They'll thank you by approaching you. And possibly by giving you millions of dollars.
Luck is Not a Word
For effective serendipity networking, remember the three L's: Listen, Localize, and Leverage.
Listen: the most important communication tools you own are your ears. Keep them open for iceberg statements – key phrases under which 90% of the remaining important information awaits.
Localize: If you've ever been stricken with food poisoning, the first thing you always do – after chugging the bottle of Pepto – is localize your sickness. Serendipity networking is the same way. Retrace your steps and discover where the rock created the ripple.
Leverage: After you've identified which person, event, situation, letter, gossip, or bathroom stall writing was responsible for the spark and development of a mutually valuable relationship – make a mental note. Hell, make a post-it note! Do anything that will remind you of the chain of valuable events so in the future you can put yourself in a position where it is likely to happen again.
Serendipity networking takes time. As the definition says, it means a lucky tendency to find interesting or valuable things by chance. Now, you can't make it happen. But you CAN make yourself more aware of the warning signs and more accessible to that which fortuitously affects you. And even if you really DO think it's all about luck, remember: L.U.C.K is an acronym for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge.
c 2005 All Rights Reserved.
Scott Ginsberg is a professional speaker, "The World's Foremost Expert on Nametags" and the author of HELLO my name is Scott and The Power of Approachability. He helps people MAXIMIZE their approachability and become UNFORGETTABLE communicators – one conversation at a time. For more information contact Front Porch Productions at http://www.hellomynameisscott.com.