As you gear up to reach your 2010 goals, take advantage of all the wonderful networking opportunities that exist at this time of year. Fear of not knowing the “right” things to do when networking is one of the top reasons people simply don’t participate in this extremely effective business strategy. Here is a brief guide to help you make your next networking event your best networking event.
-- First of all, choose the networking events you will attend wisely. Don’t waste time attending events that won’t serve you the way you want or don’t fit your personality. Make a list of your top five networking event choices and put them on your calendar.
-- Do some research on the group and event that you plan to attend so you have talking points and an idea of who else will be there and what’s expected of you. Keep notes on each event so you know what works and what doesn’t as you refine your networking process.
-- Get organized. Bring your business cards and other helpful materials such as a notebook, pen, etc. with you to each event. Create a networking toolkit that you will have at the ready for every event. What will you include in your networking toolkit?
-- Prepare ahead of time so you know what to wear, what to bring and how long it will take to get there. This way there is no last minute rushing to detract from your confident arrival.
-- Remember that it’s not a race. Networking is about quality of the people you connect with, not the quantity. Talk to people who appeal to you not just as many people as you can. Always begin a conversation with small talk rather than jumping right in to business topics. It’s more polite and a much better way to build relationships. Be yourself and enjoy the process of connecting with others. When the conversation turns profession, always share the most value you can. What strategies will you use to approach people with whom you would like to become acquainted?
-- Debrief your experience of each event. Take a few minutes to write down some notes or comments about how you felt, who you spoke to, if you feel this was an effective venue for your networking, etc. What did you do or say that worked and what didn’t? What are the criteria with which you will assess networking events?
-- Follow up with anyone you promised to contact. Make the calls, send the emails and forward along any material in a timely fashion. This is an extremely important step. If you don’t think you will follow through on a promise, don’t make one. Not keeping promises will have a negative impact on your personal and professional reputation. Create a simple process for following up with networking contacts so nothing “falls through the cracks.”
Now, go out their and enjoy your success!