This might sound a bit harsh if you take it out of context, but in almost all networking situations, one side is networking up, and one side is networking down. Put another way, one side needs the other more than the other side needs it.
With that in mind, when you are networking, and more specifically, when you are communicating with the hopes of increasing your network, always ask yourself which side you are on and then act accordingly.
Here are some examples.
If you are on the receiving end, you should be on the sending end.
Take calendar invites for example. If you are a startup looking for advice or for a potential partnership from a CEO, and you manage to get her attention and she even agrees to meet you, now comes the calendar invite. While this might seem like a tiny detail, you should not be asking her to send the calendar invite, but rather, you should be sending it. The same is true for anything else in the ongoing dialogue, at least until there is a relationship in place.
You are on the receiving end so you need to minimize the other person's time and investment by removing all friction from the situation. Provide the context, be clear with your ask, suggest some times, and ask for a location that is convenient for them, then send the calendar invite, which should include some context, so it is clear to them what the meeting is about when looking back at their calendar.
You need to do the work and not ask the other side to help you cut corners.
Ok, here is a huge pet peeve of mine and I mean huge. There is nothing that makes me hit the Delete button on an email faster than when someone writes me "Hey, I want to break into tech, who should I meet?"
Oh, hold on, let me do some market research for you, put together an Excel sheet for you, reach out to all those people for you, and arrange the meetings. What? My own productivity and tasks? Don't worry about those, after all, you need to break into tech.
How about you do a little research, make a list of people you want to meet, send me those names and ask me if I am willing to introduce you to anyone on the list, followed by a short forward-able email to that person with the context of why you want to meet them?
Remember, you are on the receiving end here and while most people are happy to help, asking someone to do your work for you is just not cool.
If you are on the receiving end, then you need to reply to the original intro email.
Such a simple thing but so important. As I was writing this article, I got a Facebook Messenger notification from someone who asked me to meet his wife and give her some business advice. I told him at the time to email me, and he did. I got the email and waited for his wife to reply to his intro with some context on why she wants to meet. But that email never came. They were expecting me to respond first. Today, he messaged me asking if I saw the email. I said yes, and that I was waiting for her reply.
If you ask someone for an intro, and they send it, you should reply, and not wait for the person to whom you are being introduced to reply first. Remember, you are asking for something so you need to own the process.
Again, most of this is common sense, but if I have learned anything over the past decade and a half, it is that common sense in business, is anything but common.