Tired of awkward, one-on-one exchanges with strangers at networking events? Try acting like an event organizer and start introducing two other people. You may be surprised at how this three-way investment can pay off.
At a typical networking event, most job seekers will be all too familiar with that initial moment of scanning a room of strangers and realizing that the evening will be spent awkwardly clearing their throats and introducing themselves. This form of networking is like playing darts blindfolded — you may get a lucky bull’s-eye, but the vast majority of your shots will be off the mark.
But think of the last time you attended one of these events. What was the event organizer doing for most of the evening? Odds are, the organizer was greeting each attendee, searching the room to facilitate introductions and making it all look effortless. Successful networking hosts don’t talk about themselves. For them, the entire point is to listen to each attendee and help guide them toward others who can solve their problems.
Now, think about your own job search. How comfortable are you in making new connections one-on-one? It’s usually no easy task. But if you act more like a networking event host — if you take the time to focus on the needs of the people you meet and make introductions — the pressure would be off of you. In turn, you would also be viewed by the two people you introduced as a helpful person — helpful enough that those two people might make an extra effort to assist you in the future.
In the 2008 business management book “Tribal Leadership,” this three-way connection is called a “triad,” and is considered one of the basic building blocks of a solid organization. Rather than laboriously forming “dyads” — one-on-one relationships between two people, where there is often uncertainty about what each person wants from the other — a triad is a more symbiotic arrangement, where one trusted person brings together two others, creating a positive feedback loop for all three parties.
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In the book, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, a devotee of triad networking, is quoted as saying that dyad relationships are an ineffective way to search for work. “From a business perspective, 80 to 90 percent of the reason that a person would spend time with other people is based on referrals,” he said.
So, before you go to the next networking event in your industry, try emulating the event organizer. Consider the people in the group you may already know and research their needs. Then, see if you can introduce them to other like-minded people in your network.
By forming these triads, you effectively double your networking efforts, strengthening two contacts at a time. With enough triads, your contacts will be more likely to send new referrals your way — all without ever having a single awkward, throat-clearing moment.