People often ask me how I’ve had an action plan for networking for past 20+ years. Here are some strategies that have worked for me. Here are a few:
- Don’t walk around handing out cards and collecting cards in return. You are at the event to meet new people and find out how you can help them and how, in return, they may be able to help you. Your goal is to create a network of people you can call on for ideas, pass along leads to.
- Be genuine, helpful and thoughtful. Your network will build much faster when you talk to people, understand their challenges and give them enough time to feel like you are making a mutually beneficial connection.
- Do carry a working pen in one hand and a place to keep notes – the back of the business card they just handed you often works well. Additionally, as mentioned above, you should be taking notes about the people you meet (kids are the same age as mine, knows xxx) so you can keep calls and exchanges more personal.
- Don’t drink more than two drinks at any networking event to stay alert.
- Make sure you are focused on the person you are speaking to, not the person over their shoulder or people coming in the door.
Once you have determined if following up next week or in a few weeks makes sense, continue in a more quiet setting. When you do connect outside the event, don’t ask for a favor out the gate. Find out more about what they do and how you can help them. Help, then ask.
Remember that networking out and about doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as it used to be. Schedule 30-minute phone calls or Zoom video chats to connect without leaving your office. It will save you time vs. meeting for coffee or lunch and will still have you sharing a one-on-one experience.