Lesson 69 - When Networking Events Fail

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The Story

In a quest to create strategic alliances, coalitions, and partnerships, we don't usually allow ourselves to imagine our efforts failing. We don't imagine faltering at building relationships with people, since working with others comes naturally to most people.

It's even harder to imagine that people would decline to help us with our work after they've gotten to know our reputations. It is unthinkable to consider that after doing all the right things, attending the right events, having a polished image, keeping lines of communications open, and establishing proper business rapport, that business ventures set up through network could fail.

We don't typically invest our time, effort, and money in attending events that in some way are not mutually beneficial. For example, frequently benefactors donate large sums of money to their favor charity for several reasons. First, because they support the work the organization is accomplishing, and second, to increase their reputation and prominence in the business community through establishing and advancing their niche in the market place through public relations. Monetary donations also provide tax credit to the donor's organization. So given all that we do to be successful in establishing networks to make our work and events successful, how do we handle networking efforts that fail?

A while ago I began attending an organization called the "Love Corporation's" yearly fundraising event. The first year a friend invited me to accompany her. Each year after that I began attended the event on my own. By the fourth year of participating, I had pretty much gotten to know certain people and these certain people knew me. Many of the relationships I found through this event blossomed into more permanent friendships, with people whom I would communicate with on a weekly basis.

During the fourth year an incident occurred. I asked a certain NBC Washington news anchor if I could interview him for my second book. He agreed, and we had the interview on the spot. Up to that point when we saw each other we would have great conversations. So, when Barbershop Talk was released I sent him a complementary copy. With that complimentary copy, I wrote up an idea for a news story and hoped that he would include my book and me in the story.

It is difficult to admit that through this incident I realized that for four years I read our relationship wrong. He liked my story idea and subsequently aired a story using my idea and suggested topic. However, he didn't include my new book or me, and gave me no credit for the idea! I sat angrily in front of the television and watched him interview other people using my idea without getting any credit as the person to whom the idea was attributed.

My years of networking with him at this yearly event failed. It failed for one reason, because I assumed that he was honorable and would help those who helped him. I was so wrong. Another reason the relationship failed was because I didn't know his work ethic well enough before trusting him with an idea. We never can exactly know what goes on behind the scenes of a news programming business, and journalism, like other professionals, are not always straight and honest.

Maureen Dowd described the way I felt through defining the Woodard-Darman Law that, "A friendship between a reporter and source lasts only until it is profitable for one to betray the other."

The Lesson

What is the best way to handle failed networking events or situations? The best thing to do is evaluate and learn from what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it from happening again. Though one cannot predict what will happen in every situation, predicting consequences of certain situations comes easier with age and experience. Analyzing all the factors that lead to the specific outcome you desire will allow you to be prepared when the outcomes unfolds. So in retrospect, I was betrayed but in the long run given material to reflect on through which to teach others.

Melvin Murphy is a Consummate Speaker, Noted Author & Certified Seminar Leader. His latest book is title, It's Who You Know! Creating Alliances and Partnerships through Networking. Contact him at:

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