We all have so much to do. I don’t know a single person who isn’t “busy”. Yet, every time I go to a networking event, I see people unknowingly wasting their precious time. To put it bluntly, I see people networking wrong. It pains me to see people who don’t know how to effectively network, so let me shout out my definition of networking for you to ponder for a few seconds:
Networking is a deliberate activity to build, reinforce, and maintain relationships of trust with other people to further your goals.
Networking is supposed to build relationships and further your goals. When was the last event you attended in which you had a goal in mind and strengthened your relationships that will further that goal? It sort of puts all those chamber mixers into perspective. Have you been wasting your time? Here are three tips to help you network more effectively.
- Don’t forget the basics. Wear your nametag and bring business cards. It becomes awkward and difficult when you are at a networking event and can’t recall a person’s name. The nametag helps people remember and retain your name. Wear it. While you've maybe made a great impression, people meet a lot of people, and no offense, not everyone will remember who you are. And if someone asks for your contact information and you don’t have a business card at a networking event, they will question your ability to take care of whatever business you are in. It’s the little things that make for solid good impressions.
- Have a goal in mind for each event. This could be an easy goal, like “introduce myself to three new people” or a more complicated one like, “invite the Mayor to a sales pitch”. Whatever the goal, don’t enter the doors without one. This will give you some focus and help you frame the reasons you are networking in the first place.
- Follow Up with the people that you meet. This one is the hardest one, because I don’t just mean file the business card. I mean to recall a point of interest in the conversation you had and connect with that person over that point further. Maybe you talked about a great business book or the next trend in their industry; now send them a follow up article that relates to the things you talked about or share a relevant podcast or video. Another idea may be to connect them to someone that you think they need to meet. This follow up will help solidify you in their minds and them in yours so it needs to be meaningful. After all, you are working to establish yourself as a trusted alliance so when they need what you sell, they will call you first. Make them remember you.