Blog by: Debbie Lundberg Life & Business Coaching
While there are a lot of suggestions for networking and attending various functions, there are few that we believe serve you best. You will find each of our suggestions are easy to remember, require action on your part and focus more upon the other person than upon yourself.
Just know, networking is not synonymous with communicating. It is your responsibility to make the other person feel connected and interested!
Network by focusing your attention on results, and not just the action of being at an event. Before you use any of the ideas for networking, commit to the following:
1) If you go to a networking event with someone, agree to drive to and from the location together and have minimal (or even no) contact at the event. Having a conversation with your friend while at a networking event just means you wasted time and energy driving to the function when you could have just met where you usually do. If you want time with your buddy, go get a coffee or drink after the networking function; just do not spend your time together since that is not productive!
2) Have enough cards for two per person you can potentially meet. Make sure those cards are up-to-date with no changes in name, email or phone scratched out and written in pen. Is the focus a change in your career? If so, then get professional cards printed with minimally your name, email and phone with your 2-4 areas of professional prowess listed. Make sure your cards are only UV coated on the front so that people can make notes on the back.
3) Have easy access to your cards and place those you receive from others in an equally convenient location. Ladies…no purses at networking events, or at least carry small ones and ensure you do not need to fumble with zippers, etc. when getting your cards. Go for functionality at the events and use your pockets for your card and cardholders.
4) Check your attitude and outside interests at the door. Keep in mind the situation, opportunity and focus, and know that your truly do not get a second chance to make a first impression!
A quick way to remember how to communicate is with the acrostic NETWORK:
- N - Names
- E - Event
- T - Target
- W - Work
- O - Offer
- R - Reach
- K - Keep
Now that you have a way to remember the sometimes seemingly daunting experience of networking, here are a few ideas for being successful in a NETWORK:
- N - Names - Get names, in advance, of who will be there.
- E - Event - Attend for at least one hour or more.
- T - Target - Plan to make 3-4 solid contacts per hour.
- W - Work - Act as if the event is one that you created – work it.
- O - Offer - Decide what ideas or benefits you can provide for others.
- R - Reach - Reach out to people afterward.
- K - Keep - Keep in touch and keep networking.
Locate the person in charge of the event a few days prior to the date. Ask for a list of attendees. Sometimes these lists will not be disclosed, but it’s worth a shot. If you do not get the names, arrive early and review the name tags to come up with a plan for who you would like to meet. For your name, wear a name tag. Go ahead and have one made so that you are comfortable with it.
No matter how long the networking event lasts, commit to attending minimally for an hour. When people “blow in” and “blow out”, others notice. Additionally, staying at least one hour gives you the opportunity to catch latecomers. You already arrived early to see the names and prepare for whom you wish to meet. Now you are poised as the person whom others wish to meet.
Target people or companies when you arrive early and plan for whom you want to interact. Target 3-4 solid connections for each hour you are at the engagement. This does not mean you can only speak with 3-4 people, but focus on quality over quantity. Collecting business cards is one thing…getting the perhaps few cards of people who can be a collaborator, is another. This is communicating versus networking.
Work the room. Yes, work it! This is where you take on the role of a host or co-host. This is not to say you take credit for the event or the party, rather you make it a point to welcome others and introduce them with a firm, quick handshake of 2-4 pumps of the hand, and interested, interactive conversation. When you appear as the person to meet, you become the person to meet.
Even though you are looking to advance in your area(s) of life focus and move forward with your approach or business at each networking event you attend, make sure you devote equal time and attention to listening to and learning about the other people you meet. They may also have areas of life focus and business plans, and good communication is a two-way street. If your experience can assist someone else is attaining his/her goal, they will be much more likely to assist you with your focus/goals. Make an offer to follow through with information, a contact or something else, and you will endear yourself to that person. When you follow up with him or her in the future, you are now a welcomed call, e-mail or letter coming across his or her desk, rather than another person just looking for a favor. This is a value position that must be sincere in the offer and quick in the execution.
You have made the new contact and figured out a value-added connection you can provide. Now be sure to reach back out to him or her after the event. Typically, a follow through outreach within 24 hours is optimal. Keep in mind, a phone call can appear pushy, and an e-mail can be impersonal. Contrarily, a handwritten note is quite personal, and a note with a relevant article or bit of information is a real connection (if you have agreed to follow up via phone or email do that, but if there is no commitment, go for the personal note). Think about it…how many people display, or even save, phone messages or emails? Not many. However, many of us keep handwritten notes as keepsakes because they create a personal connection.
It has been stated that you must network regularly…not just when you need something. Networking is a function that you must constantly keep on your weekly to-do lists, not just something to do if you need a new job or referral. Keep also stands for keeping in touch and keeping your word. When a person says he or she will be somewhere or do something on a particular date and then lets it slide, this becomes memorable for all the wrong reasons. Keeping up with your commitments keeps progress on your personal and professional goals heading in the right direction!
Make the most of your full-time, full contact “sport” of NETWORKing. Have fun, make connections, and look for the value in your efforts. I’ll see you at an event…engaged in conversation, and engaging others to do the same!