Pace Yourself

I recently experienced a phenomenon I call a “networking feedback loop”. You’ve undoubtedly been in a presentation in which the presenter pointed a microphone the wrong way (usually towards the P.A. system), and an overwhelming screech was emitted. This is what’s known as “feedback” – a situation in which the input is amplified, and the amplified output is fed back into the input, eventually overloading the system. The same thing can occur with networking.

While this is usually not a problem with face-to-face networking, it is common with online networking because of the increased speed and volume. Consider this example:

Monday – You initiate three new networking contacts.
Tuesday – You haven’t heard back from any of them, and you initiate three more networking contacts.
Wednesday – You hear back from one of Monday’s contacts in the morning, who refers you to three other people, who you contact. Later in the day, you hear back from the other two Monday contacts. You reply to all three.
Thursday – You hear back from Tuesday’s contacts, each of whom introduces you to two other contacts, whom you contact. Plus replying to all of Tuesday’s contacts.
Friday – You hear back from Wednesday’s three referrals, whom you reply to, plus you’re still carrying on a conversation with the three contacts from Monday, whom you reply to.
Saturday – Everyone you’ve reached so far plays catch-up and replies to you.
Following Monday – You start your day with thirty messages in your inbox, all expecting a reply!

As you can see, those conversations can quickly grow exponentially. That may sound great at first, but when it gets to the point that you can’t handle the appropriate responses in a timely manner, it’s really not so great. In fact, you will actually hurt your reputation by being unresponsive. You have to pace yourself – don’t initiate new networking contacts any faster than you let existing ones slip into “passive mode”. Keep track of your active conversations, and every time one comes to a conclusion or tapers off, then you can initiate a brand new contact.