Recently I attended a networking event. At the event, as everyone was juggling their beverages, food, handshakes, and business cards, someone commented that he wished he had a third arm when networking. Immediately I was inspired by that comment. While he quite literally meant a third arm (and possibly even a fourth), my thoughts have taken a slightly broader interpretation of “the third arm.” (Although I do agree an ability to juggle or have a third physical arm to deal with the logistics of networking would come in handy—pun intended!)

Reaching Out: One Kind of Third Arm

In networking, one key thing to keep in mind is the objective of why you are at an event or meeting with a person one on one, and it certainly isn’t the food or drink. Networking is about making the connection, getting your information out and getting the information about the other person, the exchange of the contact information, and agreement to connect again at a later date. So the “third arm” is first and foremost keeping a hand free to do the logistics, planning in advance to have your business cards at the ready (if passing out business cards is acceptable) or having a way to get a information to get in touch later. From a practical standpoint some standard third arm logistics are:

  • Wear your name tag on the right hand side. This positions your name in the line of sight for when the person is shaking your hand.
  • Wear a jacket with pockets. Keep your business cards in your right hand pocket and put the ones you receive in the left hand pocket. This way, you won’t get them mixed up and accidentally pass out someone else’s card.
  • Leave your briefcase, purse, and coat in the car, with coat check, or strategically close by where they’re safe. This leaves your hands (and mind) free; don’t tie up the two hands you have while longing for a third.
  • Come to network, not for the food. Get a beverage because networking is thirst building, but don’t get caught up in eating and add juggling plates and napkins with drinking, shaking hands, getting cards, and talking. Not only is it one too many things, it may be too, too many things. Having a few refreshments is fine; overdoing, overindulging, coming just for the food, or possibly having not-so-great “table” manners can be very bad for networking.
  • Focus on getting a few quality contacts, not on collecting every card you can. Quality is definitely more important than quality.
  • Identify the wallflowers and introduce yourself. You may not be comfortable in networking situations, or even if you are, inevitably if you look around any networking event there will be individuals standing by themselves, islands of isolation in the crowd of avid networkers. Zero in on these individuals and reach out to them and make them welcome.

“No Man (or Woman) is An Island”: Become the Ambassador or Host

When you reach out to others and become the instigator of a contact, like approaching the networking event wallflower, organizing a networking group, or hosting an event, you are the third arm to others and their businesses. You are lending a hand not only to building your own business but also to all those whom you meet at an event or who join your group or attend an event, and the subsequent “ripples” from those contacts. What you create with your efforts continues to flow out and create even more positive impact. The third arm of your influence and introductions increases the connections and potential for everyone.

Follow-ups and Doing Lunch or Coffee

Events and contacts that keep on giving are the objective, so reaping the rewards usually means sharing information and scheduling time to get together after the event. However it is done—by phone, by e-mail, or getting it down on the calendar at the event—affirming the connection is where you get to show your new colleague what you can do. The first opportunity to demonstrate your value as the third arm in business is by delivering on your first promises of information, introductions, and more. These are the beginnings of trust and a real relationship that both of you will be able to get something out of. Isn’t that something we all need?

The Third Arm: A Hand to Help, Guide, and Shake

So, the third arm has a hand to help you connect to others. It has a hand to provide guidance toward opportunities and other connections. It has a hand that when you shake it on a deal, you know it will happen. The third arm of networking is available in your local area, across town, down the street … wherever successful businesses are.


Copyright ©2008 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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