You Can?t Spell Networking Without Serendipity

"Fear not to entertain strangers for by so doing some have entertained angels unaware."

This quotation is from the book of Hebrews, which means it probably has nothing to do with networking.

Or does it?

Networking is the process of sharing knowledge, helping others, and developing mutually beneficial relationships. Serendipity is the lucky tendency to find interesting or valuable things by chance. Mix the two forces, and you've got a sure-fire formula to boost your business.

Now, I understand the Catch-22: if it's serendipity, how can you plan it? Well, you're right - you can't. But you can do a few things to be more aware of it and prepare yourself to leverage it.

What is Serendipity Networking?
First and foremost, serendipity networking is unexpected. You never know whom you're going to meet! So don't discount the power of each person to affect your business or even your life. For example, the birth of my career was a direct result of the "Start Conversations with Random People on the Bus Who Happen to Know the Editor of a Major Newspaper Theory." Works every time!

Secondly, being at the right place at the right time is good; but being at the wrong place at the wrong time can be better. I once attended a small group discussion under the impression that the speaker was a certain author, only to realize I had read the flyer incorrectly ? the author wasn't coming at all. When I learned who the actual facilitator was, I was initially disappointed. I then realized how much she and I had in common, and now I'm happy to say we're great friends and colleagues who share information and ideas on a frequent basis!

Next, serendipity networking is powerful. I mean REALLY powerful. How many times have you met a valuable contact and said, "Wow! The planets must have been aligned tonight!" "The Gods have smiled down upon me!" or "What are the odds of meeting someone as perfect as her?"

World renowned speaker, author, and my friend Carol Weisman experienced the power of serendipity networking years ago. She was giving a speech at a conference that unfortunately conflicted with a concurrent session by Dr. Steven Covey. Obviously, attendance was low, but Carol didn't care. She did her absolute best and blew the audience away ? all six of them. At the end of her speech she announced, "And now, I'm going to do something that Steven Covey would NEVER do ? I'm going to take my entire audience out to lunch!"

Little did she know that a member of her audience worked for PBS. Five seasons of a hit program and a Telle Award later, Carol understood the power of serendipity networking.

Warning Signs That Networking is in the Air

  • Do you see the same person time and time again at similar meetings and events? Great! You are experiencing "Networking Dejavu," and it's not an accident. This is a person with whom you obviously share common interests. So go talk to him! There's a good chance you can help each other.

  • Have you ever walked away from a coffee shop, bar, store, gym, church, mailbox, park, train, street corner, or bus and said to yourself, "Thank God I had one of my business cards with me today!" What a great feeling! Remember, chance encounters like these may be more valuable than you think.

  • Did you recently have a business conversation that contained the words, "A friend of a friend," or, "I don't know how I ended up at your website, but?"? Perfect. Localize this connection; then generate mutually valuable information and CPI's (Common Points of Interest).

  • A person called, emailed, wrote, or contacted you because "something made her think of you." This should set off an alarm. Discover what associations were made so you can learn how to recreate that tipping point in the future.

    7 Serendipity Networking Tips

    1. Talk to everybody. We are conditioned not to talk to strangers, but some people enter our lives and change them forever.

    2. Be nice and help people. Reciprocity is an inherent human need. Go out of your way to extend kindness, friendliness, and assistance to everyone - they are likely to pay you back. Possibly by giving you millions of dollars.

    3. Keep a list of your "People Collection." (In an non-crawl-space-under-the-deck kind of way) Whether you use a journal, database software, or bar napkins, make sure you write down the names of every person you meet ? not just business contacts. You never know when, 6 months down the road, an idea will pop into your head and you'll need to call someone.

    4. Get out there. Make a weekly/monthly networking plan. Serendipity networking has a lot to do with being at the right place at the right time. And although you can't create serendipity, you can certainly put yourself in a position to grab it when it crosses your path.

    5. Always have business cards. Always. Most of your networking won't occur between Monday and Friday from 9-5. So remove the following phrase from your vocabulary: "I don't have any of my business cards with me right now." No excuses. Unexpected conversations are the stuff serendipity networking is made of.

    6. Always have something free to give away. People like free stuff. They also like to show it to other people.

    7. Wear your nametag. A person's name is the single context of human memory most apt to be forgotten. So, at a meeting or event when you're given the chance to remind someone who you are ? do it. They'll thank you by approaching you. And possibly by giving you millions of dollars.

    Luck is Not a Word

    For effective serendipity networking, remember the three L's: Listen, Localize, and Leverage.

  • Listen: the most important communication tools you own are your ears. Keep them open for iceberg statements - key phrases under which 90% of the remaining important information awaits.

  • Localize: If you've ever been stricken with food poisoning, the first thing you always do - after chugging the bottle of Pepto - is localize your sickness. Serendipity networking is the same way. Retrace your steps and discover where the rock created the ripple.

  • Leverage: After you've identified which person, event, situation, letter, gossip, or bathroom stall writing was responsible for the spark and development of a mutually valuable relationship ? make a mental note. Hell, make a post-it note! Do anything that will remind you of the chain of valuable events so in the future you can put yourself in a position where it is likely to happen again.

    Serendipity networking takes time. As the definition says, it means a lucky tendency to find interesting or valuable things by chance. Now, you can't make it happen. But you CAN make yourself more aware of the warning signs and more accessible to that which fortuitously affects you. And even if you really DO think it's all about luck, remember: L.U.C.K is an acronym for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge.

    © 2005 All Rights Reserved.

    Scott Ginsberg is a professional speaker, "The World's Foremost Expert on Nametags" and the author of HELLO my name is Scott and The Power of Approachability. He helps people MAXIMIZE their approachability and become UNFORGETTABLE communicators - one conversation at a time. For more information contact Front Porch Productions at http://www.hellomynameisscott.com.

    In The News:

    Major networking event returns  Broadband TV News
    Extreme Networks Explains Cloud-Driven Networking for Higher Ed  EdTech Magazine: Focus on Higher Education
    Networking 101: What is a Service Mesh?  EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet

  • 62 Ways to MAXIMIZE Your Approachability

    If you walk into your local bookstore and pick up... Read More

    Lesson 15 - Meeting the Prince with More Reputation than Power

    The StoryBusiness has a habit of testing us as individuals... Read More

    The 4 Actions of Awesome Hospitality

    These Actions of Awesome Hospitality? will help you manifest the... Read More

    Networking Skills: Arguing in Context

    If you're fond of a good debate, you know how... Read More

    Putting The Fun Back In Networking

    Networking is one of the most important skills a person... Read More

    7 Step Plan To Get Going With Networking

    Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, feel like you... Read More

    Sharpen Your Business Networking Skill To Grow Your Small Business

    Most people become lax at maintaining their professional business network... Read More

    Lesson 14 - Whats In A Handshake?

    The StoryAs a child growing up, one of the many... Read More

    Are You Really Listening: The Importance of Strong Communication Skills

    Let's face it, when most people think of IT professionals,... Read More

    Social Networking: A Link To Like Minds

    Not all dot-com dreams died when the Internet stock bubble... Read More

    Unforgettable First Impressions Part 2: Its All About Them!

    Jean de la Bruyere said, "The great gift of conversation... Read More

    How to Turn Water into Lemonade by Giving a Flavored Answer to a Fruitless Question

    I remember the first time I opened the fridge to... Read More

    Strategic Networking: Take the Shortest Path to Success

    Do you use Ryze or LinkedIn to promote your web... Read More

    Networking Know-how

    Successful networking requires the understanding from the get-go that it... Read More

    How to Find Participants for a Trial Run

    Why is a network meeting the best place to get... Read More

    The Festive Season: Your Networking Opportunity

    The festive season is a great time to sharpen and... Read More

    It Pays to be Friendly

    Most small business people do not take advantage of human... Read More

    Develop a Great Network - Pay It Forward for Maximum Success

    Who needs a network of people to talk to about... Read More

    34 Power Affirmations for Networking with the Affluent

    Here are 34 affirmations I have created after studying the... Read More

    Politics, Religion, Race; Conversational No-No?s in Business

    Do not destroy all your positive displacement and high energy... Read More

    Effective Networking

    The process of finding out about a job, getting interviewed,... Read More

    Jump Start Your Network

    Networking is often identified as a key business building activity... Read More

    How to Announce a New Product

    How can the introduction of new products affect the way... Read More

    Growing Your Network of People Can be Easy and Fun!

    A few years back when I moved to Charlotte, NC... Read More

    Are You Leveraging Your Business Network?

    Just yesterday I received an email from a colleague telling... Read More