How NOT to Network

July 16, 2015 by Rick Brewer

A client recently joined a local wedding association (on my recommendation) and boy did that leave brewer3us something to talk about. Over the past 5 years, I have seen the rapid decline in local associations, yet this one has thrived and has always been kind and well to me. When my client showed up he had a very different experience. I have withheld the name of the association as I want those of you involved in associations to take a long hard look; and without criticism, look in the mirror and see if something similar is happening with your group.

He told me of three struggles;
1)      They were very “clicky”
2)      They almost scolded in advance on rules they did not follow through with
3)      They had excessive amounts of those in his category

They were “clicky”

My Client is a master networker as he has led groups previously as well as has 25 years experience in going to meetings like this one. When he walked in, he was not only not greeted, but felt like he had a bad smell (for the record, he did not…). This is one of the biggest problems with any networking groups, not anything that is indicative to weddings. The reason why this is a big problem is that people are uncomfortable in these situations and gravitate to those they know. This gravitation is seen as “clickiness” whether intentional or otherwise.

The Public Scolding

At this meeting there was a professional panel and every one of the panelists agreed that one of the quickest ways to get on their bad side is to not be responsive. They suggested that 24 hours was more than enough time to respond to them. My client wanted to connect outside of the meeting after meeting them face to face, so he picked up a business card from each of the panelists. Well he wrote a very professional follow up email with these folks to start building a relationship and after a week, 3 of the 4 panelists have yet to respond. Seems to me they would want to be consistent with their own rules/expectations as you never know what another professional has to offer (see my final note below)

Excessive in each category.

Seems like there are a million photographers, and to have a meeting that is stacked with 30% photographers out of 100 people seems excessive. I understand that there is business enough for all of these fine folks, but it takes away from the effectiveness of the association, not to mention is not fair to that individual who just joined.

While all these problems are “fixable” and can be argued either way from the associations’ point of view, I think it is reasonable to realize a few things:

First- it takes a while to build these relationships (and I guess at that point, you would be considered in the “click”) so while he had a bad experience at his first meeting, because he is an expert networker he still made the most of that meeting and my prediction is that he will find great success by following the right steps. Most would give up and be upset.

Second- individuals who have a keen sense of networking can still have a sour experience. It isn’t that networking doesn’t work, it is that you are still dealing with people, not to mention groups of people.

Third- He will continue to go to the association, but think of this- how will the association thrive if others have this similar experience? We all have a part to perform in this play and if we do not consider those coming in and are new to the association we are accustomed too, the association will falter.

This is not a post to dog on Associations, but to the contrary. The face to face model is the model that is strongest in this day and age of disconnect. We build trust when we are face to face better than any other modality. The associations are the key place to start the trust process.

By the way…unfortunately for one of those 4 that he had tried to connect with- he has a $100,000 per year lead with his wife’s company that he will push off to another company. After all, he doesn’t want to sully his reputation with a business that potentially won’t get back to his wife’s company and make her look bad.

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