the Power of Meaningful Networking to Create Client Contacts
by Chris King
ago when I attended what were termed as "Networking Events"
we basically walked around smiling and exchanging business cards. When
I got back to the office, I would look through my handful of cards, not
remembering any of the faces that went with the names on the cards, and
eventually threw most of them away. I don't remember anyone ever calling
me because of this time-wasting ritual. Networking when performed with
a plan and with panache, on the other hand, can reap huge benefits including
client leads, helpful referrals, needed information, or business. Let's
take a look at networking with a purpose that produces results.
with knowing why you are networking. Before
attending any kind of event, trade show, and/or gathering, ask yourself
why you are taking the time to do this and what you hope to gain from
the networking. Just like having a business plan and setting goals give
us direction, making a networking plan with goals will add value to the
time you spend. I often attend gatherings to touch base with people I
know, plus meet at least one new person, and learn at least one new piece
of information or find the solution to one problem - and there are always
problems to solve now that I am doing so much computer work. I even suggest
jotting down your goals and the questions you are planning to ask the
people you meet. When we ask someone for advice or a solution, they are
not only flattered by the attention, we also get the answers to a nagging
question with which we've been grappling.
than racing around trying to talk with as many people as possible, focus
on one or two conversations. There was a time when I would set my
networking goal to talk with as many people as possible. It was lively
and fun, but from a follow up business standpoint, not very fruitful.
I now focus on having one or two in-depth conversations, take down some
notes on a business card, and follow-up within a few days. This takes
the superficial quality out of the meeting and I have made some excellent
on-going contacts. If the person you are talking with asks about some
information you have mentioned, make a note to get back to them, either
through e-mail, on the phone, or by snail mail. Actually, dropping a handwritten
note or card to someone, along with a brief article about a topic you
discussed, you will make a long-lasting impression. So few people take
the time to write notes today, your gesture will be unforgettable.
Handle business cards with professionalism and thought. Remember,
we are not in the business card give-and-take mode. Yes, I always hand
my card to someone I am interviewing or have a designated appointment
with. But, in a networking event situation, I always wait until the other
person asks me for my card before foisting it on them. And just because
someone pushes their card into my hand, I don't automatically give them
one of mine. This is just my belief, but this way I leave with the cards
of people I want to see again. However, I am always ready. I wear a jacket
or outfit with two pockets - one with my cards and one for the cards I
am handed. This makes the transition of cards smooth and easy. Also, I
always have up-to-date cards with me. I feel that there is nothing more
unprofessional than someone handing me a card with a phone number or other
information crossed out or written in. Business cards are so reasonably
priced, there is no excuse for handing out a poor excuse for a card. You
can even print up a few on your computer, although many of these are made
with low-grade paper.
on the lookout for a variety of networking opportunities. When attending
meetings, seminars, classes, and presentations by others, you will have
a chance to meet and talk with people who are also attending because they
have similar interests. Being active in associations and clubs in your
field of endeavor is a great way to become known as a good and dependable
worker. Now that I am a free agent, I find that all of the work I am doing
- and I am extremely busy - has resulted from contacts I have made in
the past through serving on committees or boards. I am also on the lookout
for networking opportunities that pop up during my daily routines. For
example, I often see people at the grocery store, the library, and coffee
shops. Just today I saw a woman at the store with whom I had worked organizationally
years ago, and after I asked what she was doing now, she, of course, asked
me the same. When I told her "web design" her eyes lighted up
because the person who had been maintaining her business site just moved
out of town. We exchanged business cards, and there is a good chance we
will at least discuss web design in the near future.
Remember, networking in today's tough market is a necessity. And with
a bit of imagination, the opportunities to make it successful are all
around us. Go to it, have fun, and make lots of excellent contacts!
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