I’m all for networking and actually get a real buzz when I meet with new people who I can share ideas and best practice with. It can be a daunting experience for some though and there are obviously a few tips that can help people to get started including:
- If it’s your first event then go with a business colleague or friend
- If you have to give a 60 second pitch keep it simple
- Don’t forget to let people know who you are and what you do
- Find a friendly face and take the time to say hello
- Remember that everyone is there for the same reason – to meet people
- Take lots of business cards
I don’t profess to be an expert networker but I do enjoy going to a few regular events that take place in and around West Yorkshire. That said I am always on the hunt for new hints and tips to help me to improve my networking skills and increase the contacts I have.
So when a link came through last week I was intrigued. It was titled Gender proofing your 1-2-1’s. I thought that sounded a little strange but still proceeded to open the link to read what gems of advice and wisdom would await me.
To say that I was astounded is an understatement. The piece was more of a warning than anything else, and after reading through it I didn’t know whether to laugh or be completely insulted.
The piece provided the following advice:
Consider this: A married person and a single person have to measure the obvious potential dangers of networking with the opposite sex. Without careful consideration, you could easily find yourself in an awkward situation which might diminish both your credibility and integrity.
Here are four guidelines to keep you on a productive course when networking with the opposite sex.
- Keep your meeting times early. Plan to meet either for breakfast or lunch. Try to avoid after-hour connections or a quick glass of wine…
- Keep your meetings brief. Set your initial meetings for no longer than an hour. No matter how well it is going, the initial discovery contact should not extend beyond your set time. Let your partner know you have a schedule to keep, which will help keep your business meeting focused on the details of each others’ goals…
- Fine-tune your filter. A word of caution to singles: Do not let your chit-chat drift into describing the wild party you attended last week or how many people you are dating. In other words, do not become a distraction or temptation to your partner. And if you’re married, feel free to mention your wife and kids, but edit your complaints…
- Set the tone. Show how serious you take the other person by doing some background research on them and their company. Have some specific questions ready; this is standard protocol for anyone you network with but particularly important when networking with the opposite sex. Compliment the other person on their capabilities and achievements and avoid the “I love your dress” and “you look so young” type of remarks which moves you quickly off your business agenda…
As a married business woman I found this piece offensive and very short sighted. I network with both men and women, married and single and I can honestly say I have never ever had to consider any of the points listed above – not once.
I consider many of the people I network with regularly to be friends, as well as business acquaintances, and would like to think I’m a good judge of character. I would expect that if I were to take this advice seriously they would be especially hurt, as would I if it were the other way around.
This may have been relevant advice in the 60’s but I would like to think that times have changed and I wouldn’t for one second recommend that we take these suggestions into the real world of business, not least because it puts unnecessary barriers up against communication and professional engagement.
In complete contrast however, and as a warning to all – it would appear that there are still a small breed who don’t quite ‘get it’ and perhaps would benefit from the advice given about gender proofing your 1-2-1’s.
I was amazed to see in today’s Daily Telegraph Jeremy Irons explains that a ‘pat on the bottom’ is just friendly and that it shouldn’t end up in court. He is actually quoted as saying ‘Most people are robust. If a man puts his hand on a woman’s bottom, any women worth her salt can deal with it. It’s communications. Can’t we be friendly?’
No Jeremy you can’t be ‘friendly’ and the reason is because that isn’t friendly it’s rude, suggestive and perverse. As Chris Evans said on the radio this morning, if you pat a woman’s bottom with your right hand expect her husband’s right hand across your face.
The boundaries seem clear enough to sensible people, personal space is exactly that and watch what you say – it’s not that difficult, or is it?