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What Dog Walking Taught Me About Networking

Mike Essex

by Mike Essex on 24th May 2011

One of the main goals for everyone at Koozai this year has been to get out of the office and network. Which is why you’ll have seen the team at conferences, as well as networking events with more to come. This week sees a new networking group kick off in Southampton – Soton Digital – and for that reason it feels right to share some of the things I’ve learnt about networking from an unlikely source – my dog Rosie.

Talk to everyone!
Before I had a dog I didn’t know my neighbours’ names and had never really said hello to them. However as soon as I took Rosie for a walk spontaneous “Hello’s” erupted from people I’d never met before. Neighbours were asking me questions and I then began to ask them in return. In doing this I learnt a lot about my community and made some local friends.

Flip this over to networking and the same concept applies, everyone is worth saying hello to, and if you do you’ll most likely discover something interesting about the person. Standing in the corner doesn’t achieve anything, but walking around and saying hello is the only way to get something out of a networking session, so just go for it!

Everyone is in the same situation
My neighbours and I wake up every morning knowing our dogs will need walks. We have to do it, and so we do. Networking is the same, it’s just something you have to do even if you don’t want to. Plus once you get going you’ll probably grow to love it.

Rosie Walking

My dog Rosie

You have a common interest
One of the main concerns I had about networking was running out of things to say, but now I’ve had some utterly random conversations with other dog owners it’s less of a concern. If you’re going to a networking event, then you’re bound to have a common interest with the other participants. My first networking event was a Twestival (Twitter festival) where if we ran out of things to say at least we could always talk about Twitter. If in doubt talk about the weather, it works for dog walking.

Don’t rush it
When walking the dog it’s easy to get to the park, run around for 2 minutes and then walk home, but that’s not a proper walk. Likewise with networking you can turn up at the event, say hi to someone and then leave. You’ve still networked but haven’t achieved anything. If you give a dog a rubbish walk, they’ll make you do it again. With networking if you rush it you’ll just have to do it again another time to achieve the same thing. So take your time and make the most of it once you’re there.

More Walks Now!

My dog Rosie

Timing is everything
Arrive at the park too late and everyone will be gone, too early and you’ll just meet the strange neighbours who never sleep. With networking it’s the same thing. Get there too early and you can end up sitting with the same people all night, too late and you have to dash around everyone at the end. So time it right, don’t arrive before the start time, and ensure you stay as late as you can to meet the maximum amount of people.

Don’t forget the new faces
A lot of my neighbours seem to talk to the same people every day, which is good for growing those relationships, but you’ve also got to welcome the new people as well. Whenever I see someone new in the park I try to say hello to them, and welcome them as I was welcomed. With networking do the same. Don’t neglect your existing contacts, but be sure to talk to anyone new as a priority.

Dog walking is a lot of work, but it’s necessary. So is networking. On a side note be sure to grab the last tickets for Soton Digital!

Share your own stories below, or let me know if I’ve missed anything.

Mike Essex

Mike Essex

Mike Essex specialises in digital marketing and everything search. A recent project of Mike’s was featured on BBC News, Radio 5Live and the Times here in the UK, whilst also featuring on USA Today and ABC News in the US. He will be writing throughout the month about digital marketing and much more...

2 Comments

  • Paul Mackenzie Ross 24th May 2011

    Mike, I couldn’t agree more with the basic sentiment of this piece: everyone is worth saying hello to.

    I recently read a piece from a guy I know about his mode of networking and he basically only aims for the solicitors, the accountants and the people who seem to have money, wealthy connections and drive the flashiest motors. Bit of a WAG really.

    Whilst I do see his point, and I’ve met numerous people at networking events whose businesses are flogging products from those awful pyramid schemes, I also think he was too dismissive, a little arrogant maybe.

    But yes, great analogy and a massive amount of respect to those genuinely friendly and non-judgemental networkers – they’re the ones who might get you the most important jobs from and who lend credence to the old saying that one should never judge a book by its cover.

    Reply to this comment

  • Mike Essex

    Mike 24th May 2011

    Thanks Paul. That’s good advice, there are always people in the park trying to tell me to use a particular groomer or dog trainer, so I will watch out for the snake oil salesmen at networking events too.

    Reply to this comment

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