Years ago when I attended what were termed as “Networking Events" we basically walked around smiling and exchanging business cards. Networking when performed with a plan and with panache, however, can reap huge benefits including client leads, helpful referrals, needed information, or business. Let's take a look at networking with a purpose that produces results.
Know why you are networking. Before attending any kind of event, trade show, and/or gathering, ask yourself why you are taking the time to do this. Making a networking plan with goals that will add value to the time you spend. I often attend gatherings to touch base with people I know, plus meet at least one new person, and learn at least one new piece of information or find the solution to one problem. I even suggest jotting down your goals and the questions you are planning to ask those you meet. When we ask someone for advice or a solution, they are not only flattered by the attention, we also get the answers to a nagging question.
Focus on one or two conversations. There was a time when I would set my networking goal to talk with as many people as possible. It was lively and fun, but from a follow up business standpoint, not very fruitful. I now focus on having one or two in-depth conversations, take down some notes on a business card, and follow-up within a few days. This takes the superficial quality out of the meeting and I have made some excellent on-going contacts. By dropping a handwritten note or card to someone, along with a brief article about a topic you discussed, you will make a long-lasting impression. So few people take the time to write notes today, your gesture will be unforgettable.
Handle business cards with professionalism and thought. At a networking event situation, I only exchange cards with those I want to follow-up with. I am always ready. I wear a jacket or outfit with two pockets - one with my cards and one for the cards I am handed. This makes the transition of cards smooth and easy. Also, I always have up-to-date cards with me. I feel that there is nothing more unprofessional than someone handing me a card with a phone number or other information crossed out or written in. Business cards are so reasonably priced, there is no excuse for handing out a poor excuse for a card.
Be on the lookout for networking opportunities. When attending meetings, seminars, classes, and presentations by others, you will have a chance to meet and talk with people who are attending because they have similar interests. Being active in associations and clubs in your field of endeavor is a great way to make contacts and become known as a good and dependable worker. I am always on the lookout for networking opportunities that pop up during my daily routines. I often see people at the grocery store, the library, and coffee shops and after striking up a conversation, we will exchange business cards.
Remember, networking in today's tough market is a necessity. Moreover, with a bit of imagination, the opportunities to make it successful are all around us. Go to it, have fun, and make lots of excellent contacts!
Chris King is a free agent, professional speaker, storyteller, writer, website creator / designer, and fitness instructor. Chris has what she calls a “Portfolio Career” -many careers at the same time. If you wonder if you could handle and love having a “Portfolio Career” you will find a free assessment to take at http://www.creativekeys.net/portfoliocareertest.htm Sign up for her eclectic E-newsletter, Portfolio Potpourri, at http://www.freelanceliving.com You will find Chris’ business website at http://www.creativekeys.biz