Ah, July. We’re all sitting on a beach, enjoying the summer. But soon the fall will be here and with it the mad dash to accomplish our 2012 goals. Make it easier on yourself by having your network poised to help you as the weather starts to cool. Here are three ways you can make your networking more effective:
1. Create a plan – Many people fail at building a strong professional network because they don’t develop a strategy first, they just blindly flail about. Networking is much more effective when you create clarity around your objectives first. Think about the questions that journalists ask: Who, When, What, Where, Why, and How? Who are you looking to meet? What networking events will you go to? Why should people want to build a business relationship with you? Finding the answers to these questions first will save you from spending (wasting) time with activities that won’t lead to the contacts and relationships that you want.
2. Add one new person a week – It’s like the old Nike ads – Just Do It! Once you have your strategy in place, it’s time to execute. Get out into the world and start shaking some hands at events, gatherings, meetings, forum, etc. But then, make it a point to have a more in-depth conversation with at least one new networking partner every week. It could be a cup of coffee, a business lunch, or even a 20–minute phone call. Take the time to get to know the person and their business needs, and they’ll get a chance to find out about yours. At the end of the year, you’ll have 50 close business contacts you didn’t start the year with!
3. Embrace online tools (but not too much) – Networking is based on relationships, and relationships come from communication, trust, and shared interests. So the internet doesn’t change networking; rather, it allows you to engage in basic networking activities easier and more efficiently. Online social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter give you the ability to touch the people in your network, which could number in the hundreds, in a few minutes. Tools like blogs and e-newsletters make staying in touch and staying on others’ radars super-easy. Sites such as Meet-Up let you find networking events with a click. Just don’t get sucked into sitting in front of your computer all the time – humans need face-to-face interaction!