9 Practical Steps to Help You Maximize Networking
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Today I'm writing for those of you who want to get more business and/or make your lives more exciting and interesting. If you don't need more business and your life is already beyond thrilling, you don't need to read this — but you might pass it on to someone who does!
This morning I went to a networking meeting. I try to go to at least two a week, since most of my work as a coach comes from referrals. I have already thrown myself at my network of friends and close associates who have been great about sending referrals my way.
Now I've begun to step out of my comfort zone and start meeting new people.
It's not that I mind meeting new people, but what I really enjoy is coaching and writing. Networking takes me away from that. However, if I don't get out there, I doubt new clients will start banging on my door. So I've started putting on make-up and presentable clothes and I go out networking.
When I arrived at the meeting this morning, there was that awkward moment when the sea of unfamiliar faces turned toward me and gave me the quick once-over.
I was dying to make sure I didn't have spinach in my teeth or toilet paper stuck to my shoe, but I faked it and found a seat as though I knew what I was doing.
I won't go into all of the details, but the meeting was quite valuable. I met one potential new client. I reconnected with a woman I knew in my previous career who is now a coach too, and we talked about doing a workshop together. I met several people who might refer me business in the future. And I met a really interesting woman who shares a personal passion which we yakked about.
Networking works. Whether it's for business or a personal interest, meeting up with new people to share ideas, referrals, and support is an extraordinary tool that will make your life more interesting, stretch your social skills, and help you in business.
Here are some ideas on maximizing networking and making it fun:
1. Research the meetings. You probably don't have time to attend ten networking events a week, so choose carefully. Google the words “networking events” or “meet-ups” in your area and determine those that fit best with your business or interests. Some are better than others, so try out several to see what feels right.
2. Think about serving others. Before the meeting, think about how your business serves others. Put yourself in the mindset that you have something valuable to offer people, and you can't wait to communicate this great news. Yes, we are all networking for ourselves, but be in a giving mode and others will want to share with you.
3. Have a strong elevator speech. At most of these meetings, everyone has a chance to give a one minute introduction. Prepare something in advance that catches people's attention and makes them remember you. Help them think of how and why they might refer you. Speak loudly and with authority, but in a conversational tone. Rehearse this if necessary. Smile and make eye contact. It's only one minute and you can fake confidence for a minute!
4. Speak up. If there is a time for sharing information or asking questions, speak up several times. You don't want to be obnoxious, but you want people to remember you and see you as someone with good ideas. If you sit there like a quiet mouse, you won't get much from the meeting.
5. Share valuable referrals. When others are introducing themselves, think of possible referrals or contacts you can share with them. Give other people great information, and at some point, they will do the same for you.
6. Don't rush out the door. After the meeting is over, stick around and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Give them your card and be sure to collect theirs. Make eye contact, ask them questions about their business, and show interest. Be positive and memorable.
7. Follow up. Make a phone or e-mail follow-up connection with as many people as possible. Refer them to your website or blog. If someone referred business to you, do something extra for that person and really nurture that referral connection. Follow up with them to keep them apprised of how the referral worked out.
8. Know when to cut bait. Some networking groups will turn out to be a poor match for you. You'll figure this out in the first few meetings. If you don't see potential, try another group. Many groups are free. Some have a membership but allow you to attend for free a few times before joining. If you have to pay, be sure it's the right match for you.
9. Start your own group. If you can't find the right group for you, start a networking group of your own. There are structured network groups like Meetup where you can create the group, but the on-line networking program is already in place. You will need to arrange the meetings and manage the meet-up link.
If you would like to read more about the power of networking, visit Ivan Misner's blog called Networking Now.