When it comes to networking, practice alone is not enough. It must be effective practice. Just showing up at meetings and going through the motions will not improve your networking or your business.
In martial arts, the sensei (master) says, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” In other words, if you’re just going through the motions, you’re not learning and growing. Every time you do a kata (a system of basic body positioning and movement exercises in karate), you must do it as though you were in a tournament, or as though the sensei were there watching you. Only with that intensity of focus does one improve. The same applies to your networking efforts. If you’re applying the techniques halfheartedly, you’ll get less-than-acceptable results.
Practicing the skills necessary to become a good networker is important. But would-be networkers cannot expect to become master networkers just by going through the motions. Take, for instance, the 60-second presentation or brief commercial you make every week when you attend many types of networking groups or various other organizations. Most people come to the meeting unprepared and unrehearsed, with only a vague idea of what they will talk about. While others give their presentations, instead of listening, they’re thinking about how to say what they need to say. When their turn comes, they stumble through an amateurish, marginal presentation. Yes, they practiced, but it was far from perfect practice, and the results prove it.
If you’re a teacher, do you wing your lesson plan? The better teachers set goals and objectives for what they want their students to learn. They spend time planning exactly what they are going to cover in class, sometimes down to the exact wording, and they prepare visual aids and handouts that reinforce the subject matter and facilitate learning.
As a businessperson, you should have similar goals and objectives: What, exactly, do you want your listeners to learn about your business that they can pass along to prospects for a possible referral? If you’re vague about your lesson plan, if you’re unprepared to stand and deliver, your potential referral partners are going to leave the meeting without a clear idea of how to refer you. And you need to practice delivering your message. Standing up and winging it is not going to get you what you want. You have to practice it perfectly if your goal is perfection.