Sphere of influence: Strategic nurturing of relationships during business networking events


Networking is a golden opportunity to boost your career and business interactions. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

In Nairobi’s ever-optimistic business scene, Mitch Omondi found himself trapped in the cycle of attending every networking event that promised connections and growth in his field. Armed with a stack of business cards and rehearsed pitches, Mitch’s enthusiasm waned with each event, as the meaningful connections he sought remained elusive.

Sadly, many of the events required paying sizable fees to attend. Disillusioned, he wondered if the promise of networking events was nothing more than a mirage, designed to keep hopeful professionals on a never-ending treadmill and gaining revenues for the organisers.

Then, a valued mentor introduced Omondi to a seemingly revolutionary approach of hosting his events and focusing on nurturing existing relationships rather than chasing new ones in endless circles. He organised a small, intimate gathering for his clients, centred around a shared interest in Kenyan art.

The event proved to be a massive hit that fostered genuine connections and even attracted interest from potential clients without a single sales pitch. Mitch discovered the power of adding value to his network instead of fake smiles and forced small talk conversations at big regular events, therefore transforming his approach to meaningful business growth.

Derek Coburn’s book helps business professionals navigate more meaningful networking approaches in “Networking is not working”, which challenges the traditional approach to business networking, arguing that large networking events often fail to deliver consistent results.

He advocates for a more strategic approach, emphasizing the importance of adding value to your network through hosting personalised events, engaging in a sort of double dating with clients and strategic partners, and reconnecting with dormant ties. Such an approach not only deepens existing relationships but also opens doors to new connections in a more meaningful and productive manner.

In Kenya, where networking is one of our beloved career traditions, businesses frequently host events, often charging attendance fees as described above. These events are widely seen as golden opportunities for professionals to expand their networks. Yet many of us can point to barely a handle of useful connections solidified at such events.

Luckily, the book’s insights suggest that the key to effective networking lies not in the quantity of events attended, but in the quality of interactions and the strategic nurturing of relationships.

Job seekers can leverage these strategies by focusing on quality over quantity in their networking efforts.

Instead of attending every available event, they can organise small meetups around shared interests or reach out to dormant contacts for insightful conversations. Be creative in shared interests often in charitable, cultural, or self-betterment through unique learnings.

The approach not only conserves resources but also increases the chances of making meaningful connections that could lead to job opportunities with more quality interactions and meaningful post-event memories.

Business professionals, human resources executives, and company owners can apply the author’s principles to refine their networking strategies and hiring processes. By advising interview panels to look beyond superficial charm and to assess the depth of a candidate’s network and their ability to nurture relationships, companies can identify individuals who bring long-term value.

Essentially, Derek Coburn’s research offers a fresh perspective on building professional networks, challenging the status quo of traditional networking events. By focusing on adding value to existing relationships and strategically expanding one’s network, professionals can achieve more meaningful and productive outcomes.

Mitch Omondi’s journey from a disillusioned networker to a thriving connector exemplifies the transformative power of the approach, providing a blueprint for success in our dynamic East African business landscape and beyond.

Have a management or leadership issue, question, or challenge? Reach out to Dr. Scott through @ScottProfessor on Twitter or on email [email protected]

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