Plan your networking

Plan your Networking: Work Your Plan

To be a great networker, you’ve got to be the life of the party, right?  WRONG!!!!!

Certainly, people skills are helpful in networking, but the truth of the matter is that the technical skills of networking are much more important if your goal is to generate business connections and build business relationships. Otherwise, you are merely socializing. This starts with the simple act of bringing business cards to an event and following up.

Establishing a pattern of discipline to make sure we prioritize following up is paramount if we are to maximize our networking results.  If we neglect to follow up and send that email thanking our host, inviting the person we just met to coffee or lunch, or sending that LinkedIn request, we just lost an opportunity.

Expanding on the previous concept of networking as connecting the dots for others, we should always be thinking of who we know that could help the person we just met, or what event or organization is out there that would be beneficial to them. But we can’t help others if they don’t first help themselves.

How many times have you met someone who says they don’t have a card, that they will reach out via email or connect on LinkedIn, but they don’t? Sometimes this is a business loss for you, but oftentimes it is a bigger loss to them, as many times I’ve promised I would connect someone with this person or that, but they never follow up for me to help them.

Very focused networking skills would include looking at a registration list and having a key list in your mind of who you want to meet, maybe even having researched them on LinkedIn or social media.  For large conventions or events that require travel with a unique group of professionals, this may also include setting up targeted meetings with individuals also attending the event.

It is also beneficial to be strategic about which events you choose to attend, as some just do not lend themselves to great networking.  If there are multiple events at the same time, this is crucial; but even if there are not, your time and energy is valuable.

We also need to push ourselves to meet new people at events, not just socialize with our immediate circle of industry friends –otherwise, we miss the opportunity to expand our network or meet a new contact we can connect to someone else. This doesn’t mean we don’t say hi to our industry friends or join in a conversation, but we also need to break away and focus on meeting someone new or reconnecting with someone we haven’t seen for a while or keep trying to set an appointment with.

Recently I’ve started using my drive time to events (since I moved out of the city during COVID) to connect with my dear friends whom I anticipate I will see at the event. This may seem redundant as I will see them in a short time, but it has proven very beneficial, as we have already had a chance to have a deep, personal conversation and “catch up”, or take care of board business if we are on the same committees so that at the event we can focus on meeting someone new, introduce industry connections to each other, or continue to reconnect with someone we lost touch with or expand a relationship with someone we don’t know that well.




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