For the past three years, I have expanded and experimented with my online networking skills and definitely grew a healthy and helpful network.
In-person networking in my life has been largely ignored. In 2013, I decided it was time to change that so I spent January making an effort to get out there and network much more.
My January networking experiment:
- January 12: Launch of new Marketing focused networking group.
- January 24: Entrepreneurial Roundtable promoted by RelyLocal, a monthly networking event. My first visit.
- January 30: Christian Business Leaders Group, monthly networking and leadership group. I attended since 2008.
- January 31: Thrive Lunch, weekly lunch networking group that moves from restaurant to restaurant. My first visit though I have known about the group for a few years.
1.Decide that you will make the effort to network. Funny as that might seem, I am not at loss for opportunities but I was reluctant to go.
2.Find a friend. Since we are a one car family, I use it as an excuse. But it is so much easier to go with a friend and amazingly, no one had a problem with being the driver. If you don’t want to go alone, find a friend.
3.Bring business cards or other information about who you are or what you do. Even a job seeker can have a business card with name and contact information. A portfolio or briefcase with your information in it (resume for job seekers or fliers for entrepreneurs) will be handy if someone asks.
4.Plan your short intro (elevator speech) in advance and tailor it for the group you are with.
5.Real networking isn’t speed dating. Don’t feel you need to speak with everyone in the room but strive to make one or two new contacts at every event you attend.
6.Though I don’t recommend you to run around just collecting business cards, if you have the opportunity to share business cards around the table or room, take them for future reference.
7.If you are a story-teller (guilty), remember that active conversation is key at networking events. If you are finding yourself telling your life story or long paragraphs, think briefer.
8.Be interested in others. Truly listen. For people who are nervous about attending events, remember others are too.
9.Don’t stick to a clique. When you start attending more events, you will meet people from earlier ones. You certainly can interact with them and even get to know people better but strive to expand your network with at least one new person at each event.
10.Follow-up. Now you can take that real-life experience to online. Connect on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ or wherever you are comfortable.
11.Bonus: Determine to connect with at least one person you met at a networking event in a one-on-one. Lunch, breakfast, coffee, or even a phone or Skype call. Expand the relationship.