I was speaking at the BT/Telegraph networking event in Edinburgh last night, and something happened right at the end of the evening, which shocked me… and prompted this blog. It’s also a common mistake that many of us do naturally when we network. 

So what happened?

Heather Townsend Kenny Logan and Sian LLoydIt almost feels like the start of a certain type of joke… but there was a retired and well-known rugby player, Kenny Logan, a TV newsreader and journalist, Sian Lloyd, and me. We’d all been speaking at the BT/Telegraph event, which co-incidentally had a brilliant buzz and vibe to it. It was at the end of the evening and we were joined by a fourth person, let’s call him Fred. When he established I had no connection to Gregor Townsend, I wasn’t interesting to him any more. Fair enough, I was standing next to Kenny. I’m not precious about these things and very happy watching the conversation unfolding.

As Fred was starting to exit the conversation, he said these immortal words to the three of us. (Or something similar. It was nearly midnight by that point).

I’ll give you my card Kenny as you can help me, but you two others can’t

At this point, it was all I could do to keep a straight face…

What’s the take away from this story?

Make people feel good

How did you think this – probably throwaway line – made Sian and myself feel? No-one ever likes being dismissed like this, least of all myself.

Don’t always assume that people you meet can’t help you

What Fred hadn’t taken the time to do was take the time to explore what Sian and I actually did. He just assumed that we couldn’t help him. A TV newsreader and journalist, errr…. So a bit of PR and exposure for your business isn’t helpful?

But probably the biggest crime wasn’t realising that out of the three of us, I was the one who was exceptionally well-connected to a network of people who could provide Fred with referrals day in, day out. And, even better, they would probably give him the referrals based on his experience to date. Given that Fred wasn’t bothered in talking to me after I wasn’t related to buddy Gregor Townsend, I definitely wasn’t going to offer up that titbit in conversation.

When networking don’t always go for the ‘direct’ clients

The real mistake ‘Fred’ made was not bothering to have the conversation with the three of us. He just wanted to chat with someone who he thought could be an easy win and great connection to have. The ironic thing was that Kenny had spent so much of his talk that evening stressing the point of making people feel good and developing the relationship first and foremost. So, after Fred had left the conversation, the first thing Kenny said was “I would have never given him anything anyway”

In summary…

Do have the conversations with people you meet and go beyond your original assumption that ‘they can’t help me’. Sometimes it’s the not always obvious connections who can be your most powerful referrers.