Do have a strategy when you go to a networking event? is it a game to collect business cards or is it a struggle for you to talk with others and so perhaps you help the event coordinator or do you focus on just one or two people and try to make a connection?
There are so many different ways of approaching events like Chamber luncheons, Speed Networking, and business lunches. For example, if your main goal is to grow your email listing and you really do just want to see how many business cards you can collect – there is merit in that. However, if you are looking for referrals, you may need to spend more time talking to learn more about one individual to ascertain if they are a good fit for your services.
In an article called Why Networking Events are the Worst Way to Network, author Beth Collins shares her thoughts on the most effective way to network and what some of the pitfalls are of actual networking events.
At the end of the article, she shares a slide presentation which includes Q/A from other women in business seeking advice on how to networking. One particular question/answer really jumped out at me as being universally valuable:
“Share your goal and then ask two questions: What other ideas do you have for me? And who else do you know that I should talk to?”
Those are great questions. Of course, the only way you can get to a point in the conversation to ask those questions is by first spending time getting to know the other person. It is all about building relationships. As Beth suggestions, perhaps a networking event isn’t the best place for that kind of conversation.
Whether you are just starting out or looking to change careers or seeking a next level position, those two questions asked of the right people can really make a difference in your career development.
Your centers of influence are people who understand you, respect what you offer and are connected to others who might benefit from your experience, services or knowledge. They are the best people to connect with to help in your networking process.
Beth ends her article by reminding us that networking goes both ways:
Remember that strong networks are a two-way street. Yes, you can ask for favors, but be willing to give generously, too—that means listening to people, sharing contacts and information with them, and helping them whenever you can.
Just as you hope the people you meet with are listening carefully to your goals and your description of an ideal lead, you should be doing the same. Start thinking who you might offer as a referral, a resource or a potential center of influence.
Networking is an important part of your business growth. Make sure you have a strategy before you enter the next event so that you are making the most of your time and theirs.