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No More Hidden Agendas in Networking!

By: Bonnie Coffey


It had been a very long day at work, chock full of unexpected fires to put out, so I was more than looking forward to the networking event that evening. It would be an opportunity to relax a little and extend my circle of connections, to meet some new people. After nibbling on some mediocre finger food and with a drink in my hand, I looked around the room to find someone with whom to talk.

A casual conversation started up with a lovely woman, impeccably dressed and quite interested in learning all about me and what I did. Completely at ease, I explained my job and some of our latest initiatives, delighted that someone from the community might be happy to hear what we were about. As our conversation wound down, she asked for a business card and said she’d like to meet me later next week—whoopee!
The next week arrived and Guinevere arrived in my office at our mutually decided appointment time. She settled into her chair and, no sooner than after she had said, “It’s so nice to see you again!” launched into a 15-minute full-fledged, all-out presentation on the products she was selling. I’m telling you, the woman barely took a breath between sentences before she moved on to the next benefit of what she was selling—which I had no interest in whatsoever.
Guinevere’s hidden agenda totally undermined what little trust I’d begun to place in her. She wasn’t at all interested in what programs and amazing plans our department had, she was looking for another potential buyer. She wasn’t looking for a mutually supportive business relationship; she was after someone to (a) hear her presentation so she could make her numbers for that month, and (b) perhaps make a purchase if she wore me down enough—just to make her go away!
Hidden agendas have no place in Face-to-Face (F2F) networking. They’re false and are always found out. They waste people’s time and seriously undermine the whole concept of a reciprocal networking relationship. One of the best ways to ensure you don’t walk into a networking event with a hidden agenda is to be ready with a “Give” and a “Get.”
One of the quirks of human nature is that when you give something to someone, they not only will want to give you something back, they will want to give you back more than you gave them. Using this trait, your first job is to “Give.” Everyone has lots of “Gives;” because of who you are, what you’re interested in, where you have traveled, what you’ve done in your life, you have so many things to offer. Learn to “Listen Generously” to what your conversational partner has to say. Chances are you’ll find a resource you can provide—your “Give.”
Having a “Get” will not only enable you to achieve something from your networking event (“I’m looking for a great summer camp for my son—do you know of any?”) but will also give you an opportunity to remove yourself from a nonproductive conversation (“You know, I’m looking for a summer camp for my son—I’m going to circulate and see if I can find a resource. Nice to meet you!”).
No Hidden Agendas allowed!
Published: October 23, 2013

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Bonnie Coffey

Bonnie Coffey is a business and community leader and, as a Certified Trainer and Associate with Contacts Count, LLC, she teaches the skills and strategies of face-to-face (F2F) networking for professional and personal success. Her far-reaching career has impacted business, political, financial, and leadership organizations throughout the country. Her client list includes AARP® Foundation, Heinz Family Philanthropies, U.S. Department of Labor–Women’s Bureau, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, American Chemical Society, Decorating Den, American Business Women’s Association (ABWA), McCombs School of Business/University of Texas at Austin, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Union Pacific. She’s been featured in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, Creative Training Techniques, Women in Business and has been a columnist with the Lincoln Journal Star since 2001.  Her book, “Dreams for Our Daughters,” embodies her belief in the future of our next generation of women leaders.

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