Nurture Your Network

By WISE National

Person virtually trying to network

Photo credit: Sergey Nivens /

WISE's Speed Mentoring Roundtables is a WISE Within signature event that brings participants together with industry veterans to discuss today's most pressing professional questions. It's also a great opportunity to grow your network. Cheryl B. Walker-Robertson, a certified international protocol and etiquette expert, moderated the event for the NYC Metro chapter in 2016. Shortly after, she expanded on several points, including what to so with all those business cards you have stacking up. 

Body Language a Key in Networking

You started Speed Mentoring Roundtables with a warm-up game — two truths and a lie. What about that simple and relatively well-known game makes it worthwhile in such a setting?
One, we had so little time. We really wanted to get to the meat of the event, which was the networking. Also, the room setup. Participants were already sitting at tables, so I thought, “OK, we want to make everybody laugh; we want to make everyone demonstrate body language.” You can always tell what the lie is because they’re squirming; they can’t look at you. Those types of things are so important in networking, so I wanted to make a lesson of it, too.

Why is body language important to the bigger picture of networking?
When you’re networking, you want to be able to hear what people are saying; you have to listen very closely. But you also have to hear or listen for what they’re not saying. People will say things to you because they think that’s the thing to say in networking situations, but they are often telling you other things that they’re not really saying that you can read in their body language.

Investing in Your Network

During the event, you spoke about the importance of not only networking, but having a network. What’s the difference?
We always talk about how who you know is important, but it’s also extremely important who knows you and, to take that a step further, who you know that you can call on to be a resource when you need it. So there’s that notion — it’s a Stephen Covey (author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) concept — that says relationships are like bank accounts. You have to make deposits if you’re going to make withdrawals. So if you have a network, it’s because you’ve developed something, you’ve made deposits, so when it’s time to make a withdrawal, it’s easy to do because the money’s there.

Participants walked away with the business cards of their peers and the industry veterans. What is the best strategy to nurture these new relationships?
No matter how good you are about networking, no matter how amazing the people you meet in the room are, if you don’t follow up with them, it really at the end of the day means nothing. It doesn’t make a difference if you have a huge shoebox full of businesses cards if you can’t go to the person you met when you need them. It doesn’t make a difference if you don’t have the relationships. ... One of the missing pieces around networking is people always show up looking to get something, but they don’t show up looking to give something. If you show up looking to give something, then you’re making the first deposit in that bank account. That can be almost anything: a good tip, some good advice, an article based on something we talked about when we were together. All of these little things are investments in a relationship.

What are some of the more overlooked aspects of business etiquette?
Our ability to connect with people. So many of us are real good at our phones and our computers and all the apps. But are we equally as good with people? Do you make people around you comfortable? Are you skillful at making people comfortable around other people? Are you able to build trust and build relationships with people in a quick way? This is a talent and a skill, but it’s also a way of life — understanding what people need from other people, then giving it to them. It’s not some pretentious thing; it’s not faking it. It is really a way of carrying yourself.

What is the best piece of advice you never received?
Ask. Just ask. Ask for it. Ask for the meeting. Ask for the deal. Ask for the follow-up. Ask the question. Ask for the big money. Ask for the job. Ask for it.