If you need a business card to remember me, I didn't do it right. ;)
Good networking is about planting seeds, not scheduling as many coffee dates as you can.
Networking is not a one-time event or meeting; it's a living, breathing thing.
Quality networking (really, the only kind that works) takes time. When you plant seeds, you need to be able to step back and accept that some of those seeds will grow into blooming relationships, while others will not.
That's OK. Actually, that's normal.
We have all been to networking events, handed out business cards, and recited our well-rehearsed "elevator pitch." We've all watched and listened as others did exactly the same thing. Sometimes that's painful, and resembles having lunch with a bunch of robots.
We have all seen people do a better job of it, and seen people really kind of botch-it (every one of us has botched it ourselves, too!).
But when you stop to realize that the most memorable people you meet never hand you a business card or "pitch" you, you have an awareness that can take you to a different level.
There are two types of networkers. One is easily forgotten, while the other is memorable.
The first type says things that could be coming out of anyone else's mouth. In other words, there is nothing special or memorable. They are an insurance salesman/financial advisor/car salesman/exterminator/whatever...blah, blah...they pride themselves on excellent customer service...blah, blah...their company has won awards...blah, blah.
It literally sounds like a dozen other introductions you have heard that day. (It's the 'insert industry here' template of introductions.)
With the second type, however, nothing they say could come out of anyone else's mouth. It is unique to them. There is no 'pitch.' They don't talk about what they do or their customer service or how long they've been in business. In other words, they don't make it all about them! Rather, they give you something solid to consider or think about. Their words and their uniqueness stick in your head, whether you are in need of their service at that moment or not.
The first networker talks about himself; the second talks about someone else. The second type is the more effective networker.
The first guy might say, "Hi! I'm Bob. I'm with ABC Company. We are the nation's leading provider of professional development programs and coaching. We've been the leader in the industry for 27 years and pride ourselves on our excellent customer satisfaction."
After you're done yawning, you probably aren't terribly interested in asking Bob to continue telling you about his work. More likely, you are looking for someone you know so you can say, "Excuse me, Bob. I need to go catch this person...."
It's way too clinical, and not at all conversational; it's "pitchy."
However, when the second guy says, "Hi! I'm Tom. I help small business leaders feel more calm and confident when they have to speak in front of groups," you're probably more apt to think, "I could use that...like almost everyone else I know!" You might even want to ask him to tell you more about what he does - that's when he can tell you about what he does and his company and all that other stuff...because you just gave him permission to do exactly that! You did that out of genuine interest and curiousity.
Chances are, you will remember Tom, simply because he made you think about YOU, and chances are that you will think of Tom if that need comes up for you or someone you know.
The best networkers make you think, even if for just a moment, not just listen to their words. They bring genuine energy to what they say, not just recite a script. They also do that with everyone - they show-up as themselves all the time. That is why, if you ask someone five weeks later, "I'm trying to remember someone I met here a few weeks ago that helps people feel more confident when they have to speak to groups," anyone else who has ever met them will say, "Oh, that's Tom!"
It's easy to figure out who they are, and connect with them.
I guarantee that if anyone ever asks you, "Hey, I met someone a few weeks ago here that sells insurance, they have great customer service, and have won some awards," you will have no flippin' clue who they are talking about.
See the difference?
Be the person people remember. You don't need a business card to do that! What you do need is to show-up in a way that makes people want to keep talking with you...even after you have walked away.