Networking 101: Standing Out from the Crowd

Most of you know I don’t like the word ‘networking.’ I much prefer referring to meeting and making connections with others as relationship building. Recently, while giving a presentation to a group of professionals, this topic came up over and over. “How do we build an effective network? There are so many networking events and so little time; furthermore, everyone is wanting to meet the same people! How do we stand out?”

This is a rich topic, which we will only touch upon today. I spend alot of time coaching my clients on how to build a support system which is not only relevant to them; it is  one built on solid footing, not opportunistic shifting sands. A few basics to remember:

  1. When heading to a networking event, of any type, think proactively. What do you hope to accomplish when you are there? Secret tip: collecting as many cards as possible is ridiculous. Think about the type of interaction you hope to build with 1-2 individuals when you are there. Go deep. Ultimately, they may not be your ‘dream connection;’ yet, you never know who they know! The opportunity to build a sincere connection goes up significantly when you spend quality time with 1-2 individuals versus doing ‘drive bys’ with 10-15 individuals.
  2. Begin building your network before you need it. I met several executives at a forum recently who were trying to meet individuals who could help them in their current job search. This is not impossible; yet, it is significantly harder and less effective to try to build a network ‘just in time.’ I equate this with going on a crash diet to fit into a bikini 2-3 weeks before your trip to the beach. It may be accomplished; yet not without trade-offs. Nurture relationships before you need anything from them. Treat them the way you would want to be treated; be of value to them.
  3. Be relevant. This is your ‘so what’ factor. Whenever you interact with an individual, think about what will be relevant to them. Connections are made between people. The connections which stick are those that are relevant to one another. So, think with that mindset. What do I do, what do I offer, what can I provide  – which will be of relevance to the other person or that person’s organization.

Then, when a connection is made, the final step is to follow-through. Do so quickly. Do not wait even a week to follow-through with someone you have met. We are are all busy and the world is spinning fast. So, make is easy on the other person to remember you! Plus, you get points for being organized enough to get a note out so promptly. That is all good!

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