You can hardly open your browser or a business publication without seeing something about networking. Why? Studies show regular networkers are more successful in business and in life. True for introverts and extroverts incidentally.
Tip 1. Plan your networking
Yes, really. Think about what you want to get from your networking efforts and how they relate to growing your business. Look at what you have done. What has been most effective? Less so? What else do you need to do? Where and how?
Here is your ‘cheat sheet’ of categories – fill each part in with your personal list:
* Professional groups’ meetings
* Individual meetings – specific people in your field and outside it
* Developmental events – seminars, conferences
* Special events
* Potentially valuable groups – research/try new options
* Reconnect – with people you value
* Online activities – LinkedIn, MeetUp, etc.
Tip 2. Define your goals
Don’t just go to events or have coffee with friends and call it networking. Define what you need, what you offer, and what you will do in fairly specific terms. Numbers alone are not worth much.
* What do you want to share with others? What do you want to learn?
* Who do you know you might introduce to others?
* Who will you ask for introductions and to whom?
Tip 3. Make it Easy
Never go to an event without a plan. It could be to meet specific people or to learn something valuable talking with many people there. I find it easier to go to events with a ‘wingman’ – introducing him to others helps me meet people too. What works well for you?
Have a goal when you meet with an individual or small group too. What do you want out of the meeting? What are you offering in return?
Keep going! Networking builds on itself. You need to find ways to maintain your network consistently over time. Pick a process, make a plan and execute it for your success in 2014.