The business of “not networking”

Networking overload AND very media

Where would we be without networking? I reckon it’s a subject worth investigating.

 Anyone in business — especially one as competitive as communications, marketing, PR, media and so on — knows the importance of networking. Did I say important? Essential is closer to the mark.

That’s why, whenever we attend functions, events and meetings, we all click into networking mode. We have our stories straight and we just can’t wait to tell them.

Part of the loud crowd: are the networking basics being lost?

Trouble is, if we’re all doing it, that means we’re all doing it at once. That's a problem, because it's tough to convey your message when it's lost amid the overall noise. All clamour, no clarity.

What's more, as much as you might be pitching to a potential client, someone else might be pitching to you, and someone else might be pitching to them, and yet no one is cutting through.

Instead of successfully presenting your big picture, you merely become part of – pardon the pun – a big pitcher. When that happens, networking is not working.

Sure, I recognise the need and value of networking, and I’m not suggesting for a moment that we all go to our next function, sit in a corner, clam up completely and rely on mental telepathy for business leads.

It's just that sometimes we need to find other ways to make the best impression and, strange as it may sound, 'not networking' might be one to consider.

Networking tips: Why discreet is sweet

There's a lot to be said about adopting a more discreet approach. Pull back to go forward. Just have a chat. Relax and enjoy an event and the company and others will too. Listen as well as talk. Engage rather than encroach.

Every now and then, let your message find its own natural place and time. 

A connection made quietly is still a connection. It’s still networking, but it’s 'not networking', if you get what I mean.

As one of the buzzwords of our sector, networking has been around a long while. For good reason. Done well, networking is still relevant, still necessary and still effective.

Networking no-no's

Done poorly, we all know the signs and the outcomes, don't we? For example, there's …

  • The in your face networker: Talk about too close for comfort. It's hard to absorb a message when your dodging canape crumbs and garlic breath.

  • The off their face networker: Free beer, wine and bubbles can be a recipe for trouble.

  • The too close and clingy networker: In trying to get on, all they do is get on your nerves.

  • The too critical networker: More than happy to tell you that everything you're doing is wrong.

  • The too desperate networker: Here's my pitch, here's my card, here's my car keys, here's my bank statement, please hold me.

  • The too one-sided networker: They have their say, then they want to have your say too.

 Why not “not network”?

Obviously, those are tongue-in-cheek descriptions, but the more I think about it, the more I believe 'not networking' is a viable and refreshing occasional alternative, one that communicates a number of positive qualities, including:

  • Courtesy

  • Consideration

  • Individuality

  • Intrigue

  • Focus

  • Calm

That's all good stuff, I reckon. I want to hear from that person.

Look, in the end, I wouldn't advise 'not networking' to be the new core of your business strategy. We still need to get out there and be seen and heard.

However, I also believe that in the right circumstances, 'not networking' has its own place and its own virtues.

Not networking. It just might be the ultimate quiet achievement.

Written by Michael Jacobson, Very Media’s editorial director.