If you network for business, this is a situation that you may have faced or at least thought about. Should you network at a funeral?
If not at a funeral, perhaps you’ve been at a family wedding, child’s school assembly or other family gathering and wondered how you should approach networking during those circumstances. The question becomes, “Is it appropriate to network for business at events others see as off hours?” The answer is no … and perhaps sometimes maybe, but only under the most controlled of circumstances.
- Don’t go just to prospect: If the time taken away from your business responsibilities will truly be a hardship, just don’t attend. Never look at an hour or two away from your work as time wasted. Hope that when you’re gone; others will remember you.
- Be present to the actual event first: Don’t ever be seen as the one who’s working the room while other people are mourning the loss or a loved one or listening to their child performs. If you are there to simply network, you will be branded an opportunist and perhaps worse. Your credibility is a key factor why people will ever use your products or services. Don’t destroy that by making an awkward first impression.
- It’s how you say it: Don’t come out and ask the bereaved or members of the family, “So … what do you think you’re going to do now that Paul has passed?” Use your expertise to offer support and compassion, not digging for an opportunity. Turn it around to say, “I’ve had the opportunity to help many people sort through this situation. When the time is right, I would appreciate the chance help you review your options.”
- If you are approached: If someone else in attendance asks you a question, by all means answer it and then shift the energy to follow up with them away from the event. At such gatherings, others in attendance may mention you and your capabilities. This is the best way to ever network at an event. If someone says, “I understand that you are a (profession), I was wondering if you could answer a question for me?” Answer the question briefly, but remind the person of the reasons you are both there … then suggest that the two of you follow up in the next few days.
- Warm Introductions: If there is someone you absolutely have to know and this is almost the only opportunity for you to meet, see if you have someone else in attendance can make a warm introduction. Have them introduce you, “I know we’re here for a different reason, but since the two of you are mutual friends of mine, I wanted to make an introduction and hope that at a better time, the two of you would able to talk about your mutual interests.”
Networking happens. While there is the maxim that you can network anywhere people meet, this shouldn’t ever be your main focus at family events. When you’re at a chamber event or business mixer, the tempo to meet and mix is at 4:4 time. At family events, the tempo should be 1:8. In the long run, you will be best served if meetings happen naturally.
BOTTOM LINE: Be present to your family and your circumstances at family events. Don’t just network at them because you think you can.