When I was still a daily employee in my director’s role, I joined the local chapter of a national organization for my profession, which was patient account directors across the country. Locally, there were 8 meetings a year in Syracuse and one big 2-day conference in Alexandria Bay at the time.

I wish I could say it was a lot of fun, but I’d be lying. The truth is that I got friendly with a few people and that was pretty much that. When I joined the board in the late 90’s I now had a few more people to talk to, but it was always about organizational stuff. I had never even heard of the concept of “networking” at the time, so I didn’t do any of that.

Fast forward to today. I’m still not the best networker in the world, but I’m better than I used to be. However, these days, because I’m into so many different types of things, I network way differently. I’m now president of that group I mentioned above, my second stint, and I try to at least greet all the new people I meet. However, I still can’t remember everyone’s name, and some of those people I’ve seen at least a couple of years; I need to rectify that.

I’m on the board of a consulting networking group and I do know those folks. It’s a relatively small group, but I made the suggestion years ago that we needed to do more to learn more about each other so that if there were business opportunities we’d know enough to at least mention a name. They embraced that and thus I know every name and what every person does.

Other networking events I’m not so good at. In the past three weeks I’ve gone to a networking event where I talked to 2 people and left after 45 minutes and another where I talked to most of the people in the group when I could, meeting some new people along the way that I’m now connected to in some fashion. Will it turn into business? Who knows.

That’s really not the point of networking. Many people show up with the intention of not leaving without a phone number and a business contact no matter where they’re going. That’s probably 5% of what they should be looking at, and truthfully, I probably need to add that 5% to my networking.

I go to meet people and to hopefully get them comfortable with me. I figure the more comfortable someone is with me, the more they’ll open up and the more opportunities I might have to spread my influence, which in turn could mean more business or at least more opportunities for connections down the line.

I’m not the best networker, as I mentioned. I don’t ever interrupt a conversation that’s going on, even if I know the person. I don’t want in the middle of a group unless I’m invited. I don’t just walk up to people and start talking to them; I’ll do it if I’m the “star” for the day, but otherwise it’s just not going to happen.

I am a watcher, though. I’ll take as long as half an hour to evaluate a new group of people before deciding what to do. I often don’t think people take enough time actually watching others to see what they do and how they act or perform. It’s kind of like being a manager or director; you see someone sporadically and then make judgments on their performance based on some criteria without actually watching them to see what they’re doing. I was guilty of that as well, although every once in awhile I’d have a day where I told someone I was going to sit with them for a couple of hours just to see what they did. Yes, it unnerved them, but at least no one could say I was never attentive.

How well do you network with others? I’m talking about in person right now; we’ll get to social media networking another time. Do you need improvement? Can you give others tips on networking? Or do you shun it totally?