Start by thinking strategically about your networking. Transform a typically random activity to a strategic one to make your networking more efficient, effective, productive, and even enjoyable. Start your strategic networking by answering three questions: Why? Who? What?
Setting goals will help you build your strategy and focus your resources. Why do you want to network? Some networking goals might be business development, building personal brand, social engagement, ego, connecting with high level executives… I could give you at least 20 different goals from my clients. You need to identify the right ones for you and what you want to achieve.
Most people think of networking as a random activity; go to an event, stand in a crowded room, hope you meet someone interesting. While random connections will always happen, create your target list. Who do you want to meet that will help you achieve the goals you set. Go to events and other activities where you know or expect you will have an opportunity to connect with your target(s) or people like your target(s).
When you meet a target, what will you say? You often have less than ten seconds to gain someone’s attention, engage them. So, think about what you will say ahead of time, without the pressure of the moment.
Craft something to say of interest to each of your specific targets, perhaps something positive you read/know about them, about their company, or someone who works for their company. You need to think about their interest, not yours. Keep in mind, you are starting a relationship that will take time to build trust.
You will also continue to meet many people randomly. After exchanging names, the conversation usually goes, “How do you do? What do you do?” Figure out a way, ahead of time again, to say what you do that engages people to ask you to tell them more. Try to avoid saying, “I am a ____.” Remember you only have about 5-10 seconds to engage the person so your introduction should entice them to learn more about you One of my responses, “I open doors for people, an opportunity locksmith.” That works better than, “I am a marketing consultant.”
Let me offer you an example that answers all three questions:
Here are a few additional tips for working your next room:
Stand near the main door, not exactly at it. You will get to see many of the people attending the event, helping you to find your targets.
Stand near the bar, again not exactly at it. You want to place yourself at high traffic locations.
Figure out in advance different ways to end a conversation, even a good one. A few examples: I would like to continue our conversation and will contact you. I promised someone I would find them to say hello, excuse me. Don’t use: “I need to get another drink,” or “I have to use the washroom.” You risk the other person saying, “Me too, I’ll go with you.”