Think Networking is Hard? Relax and Try Something Different

Author Wayne Yoshida

Principal Technical Writer | Contributing Editor | Senior Technical Writer | LinkedIn Optimizer Writer | Author | Magazine Columnist

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Whenever anyone says “networking is hard,” I always tell them to look at it from a different angle. I tell them about a conversation I had with my retired elementary school teacher friend. We talked about networking, Facebook, YouTube, eBay and other social media outlets, and how “connected” we have become.

She looked at me and said, “You young people are always re-inventing the wheel. When I was a little girl, we called it ‘making new friends.’”

So if you think networking is hard, think about that story.

Not long after that conversation, I read Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone, and I was inspired to lead my version of a dinner party. Keith says that food “has a unique ability to facilitate conversation.”

As a serious barbecue cook, I know this is true.

So I started something I call “BBQ Networking.” It is a simple summer pot luck event with a twist: I strategically select my guests from my network, mixing business- and non-business people in as many different fields as possible. Most, if not all of the invitees do not know each other, but I am the common thread between everyone.

In my invitation, I tell them up front the BBQ Networking event is a pot-luck party, and “an opportunity to make new friends and enjoy great food in a relaxing, no-pressure atmosphere.”

At first I hesitated to do this, since it was the first time I mixed my various “friend groups” at a single event. (This was covered in a Seinfeld episode, where George has the fear of having “Independent George” socializing with “Relationship George.”)

When guests arrive, I have them enter their name and contact information into my vintage data terminal. They can enter their information or decline to do so. Name tags are also available so everyone can see each other’s names, decreasing the awkwardness. After the event, I share contact information with the group if they opted-in.

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The first event turned out much better than I hoped. Everyone made some new friends. At least two of my friends got introduced to possible job opportunities. And of course, the food was fantastic.

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The BBQ Networking events fit well into my normal repertoire, and it is fun to watch the chemistry work among my friends.

But it does not have to be a BBQ. What about trying the same concept with a round of golf or a diving session? What non-work passions can you share with others?

So give this new-old idea of making new friends a try, and let me know what happened. If we are not connected, reach out to me so we can leverage the power of our networks to get what we want!

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