One of my favorite movies of all time is The Wizard of Oz.
I love the journey Dorothy takes down the yellow brick road, building relationships along the way and eventually ending up in Oz, only to become a legend for freeing the land from the Wicked Witch’s evil reign.
While I still love the movie as an adult for the fantasy and whimsy it brings, I can also see some real life implications for some of the actions in the movie.
For example, Dorothy would probably be arrested or at least questioned for her murder of the witch and theft of the ruby slippers. More importantly however, Dorothy could run a workshop on building successful networks.
Today, I will attend my organization’s annual Gala. I’m sitting at the table of one of our corporate sponsors and all of their representatives and the event will be attended by 600 of our corporate and individual constituents. It would be very difficult for anyone to read this event description and not think about the networking element of the evening.
I am going into Oz and need to go equipped with the Dorothy Gale networking strategy.
Each relationship Dorothy built was based on a quid pro quo arrangement. When she met the Scarecrow she got to know him enough to understand that he needed something, a brain. She gave him hope by inviting him to go with her to see the Wizard.
This is a key element of networking. It is not just about what the person can do for you but about what you can offer the other person. Dorothy’s offer of hope to the Scarecrow translated into him putting his own life on the line (several times) for her.
Going into Tuesday’s event I have an advantage that even Dorothy did not have. I am able to review the list of attendees prior to the event and get to know a little about each person before we meet. While I have no intention of delving into the backgrounds of 600 people, I will strategically understand connections between people, companies, and organizations. “How can we help?” will be my internal battle cry in preparing for the evening. I will start conversations that night with that question at the forefront of my mind.
Oftentimes when I speak to my class about networking, I hear people describe the act as being disingenuous, or calculating. This is primarily because people enter these conversations and try to build relationships solely on their needs. You are hoping to get a new job, new business, or become connected to a particular group or person based on your acquaintance with this person.
The challenge of networking, as is the case with every element of career search, is figuring out what you bring to the table. I do not want to go into my event focused on being a taker. There may be people in the room that can help me and my organization, however understanding that I need to return the favor, if at all possible, is important.
How would the world of Oz have felt about Dorothy if she had not tried to save the Scarecrow when he was lit on fire?
How do you approach networking at events? Is there a particular strategy you use?