Whether you’re looking for new clients, job hunting, or seeking donor support for your organization – everyone will tell you that networking is vital. But is it? In theory, yes, but in practice, networking has lost a lot of its magic and has become formulaic:
1. Go to a networking event
2. Shake hands with random strangers
3. Collect a few business cards
4. A month later, find those cards in a pile in the corner of your desk 5. Carefully move them to a drawer
6. Find a business card pile several months later and have no idea what event you met them at or why you kept these cards
7. Toss cards in the recycling bin
8. Head out to yet another networking event that evening
If this sounds familiar to you, you need to stop wasting time networking and start focusing on relationship building. The difference is knowing your intention and purpose. Go into an event thinking about what you can “get,” and you’ll be spotted from a mile away, and people will avoid you. Relationship building is not a one-time transaction.
What’s the point of networking?
Unless you’ve created a plan in advance, you have likely had this scenario: Go to an event, circle the room a few times, have a few conversations, and then leave thinking it was a waste of your time. A planning moment is a critical step that many ignore.
Without a plan, you arrive at the event unfocused. You go through the motions of small talk and give rote replies to tired questions. You narrowly define yourself by what is on your business card and miss the opportunity to share more of your whole self. It all feels disingenuous and unfulfilling. Building relationships can be so much more than that!
Why this networking event?
Before the event, it’s essential to consider why you’ve selected that event out of all the other possibilities that week. That decision should be based on a sense of who you want to meet and the kinds of conversations you are hoping to have.
If you find the idea of mingling exhausting, you should be selective about where you spend your time. If you love meeting people, it’s still a good idea to be particular, or you’ll find yourself just collecting tons of business cards without any plan for building on those connections. Focus your energy on events that attract the people you’re most excited to meet. These people will, in turn, introduce you to new spaces that will expand your circle, building on existing relationships.
“Norm!” – the benefits of being a regular
Scattershot attendance at events hosted by many different groups with little attendee overlap will slow your efforts to build a strong network. The easiest way to build relationships is to keep showing up in the same spaces. Attend three events in a few weeks hosted by the same organization or within the same industry, and people will get to know you and what you’re about. This will dramatically enhance their ability to introduce you to the kinds of people you thought of when you were considering your purpose. They’ll also like you more simply because you’re more familiar due to the mere exposure effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mere-exposure_effect ).
Offer before you ask.
Before going to the event, get in the right mindset. Instead of thinking about what you need, get clear about what you can offer. Ask yourself the following:
• What skills, experience, or passion can I share?
• My favorite life hack that has helped me get motivated is…
• My productivity had increased when I started using…
• I love listening to ________ podcast (or reading ________ blog) because…
Having a few of these in mind will help you keep the conversation flowing. You’ll also be seen as a great resource and someone worth getting to know a bit more.
“Can I go home now?” – the importance of setting goals.
By this point, you should have a perfect sense of your purpose in going to events, and you’ve found a few events that attract the kind of people you want to meet. Perhaps you’re nervous about actually going to the event or due to your shy and introverted nature dreading the idea of spending 2+ hours schmoozing. Whether that’s the case or you’re an outgoing extrovert ready to jump into this opportunity, you still need to set some goals:
If you’ve become a regular, you’ll want to split your time at the event between meeting new people and reconnecting with those you’ve already met because building relationships requires more than one chance meeting. Set a goal to meet three new people and reconnect with three others.
If you are used to buzzing around the room, goals may help you focus on having more meaningful conversations rather than lots of small talk and air kisses. If you are more familiar with being a wallflower than a social butterfly, your goals may be different – anything above zero conversations would be a great start. When you’ve reached your plan, you can go home – really, you do not have to stay to the end. (Cue cheer from introverts!)
Life Hack: Write follow-up emails beforehand
Now that you’ve got some clarity about your purpose – write a draft of the follow-up email you would send if you met the perfect connection. Write two or three versions based on the different people you hope to meet. This will help you refine your purpose or “elevator pitch” further, and it will also make it more likely that you’ll follow
up since you have a draft to start from. (This is one of my favorite life hacks, so I was thrilled when LifeHacker wrote about my tip: http://lifehacker.com/prepare-for networking-events-by-writing-follow-up-emai-1702672894.)
Take the next step
You’ve done all the research, figured out who would be there, and set goals. Hopefully, taking these steps got you thinking about all the possibilities and positive outcomes that could result from attending. What if you wake up the morning of the event with that familiar feeling of dread? That’s an old script talking. You’ve got this! Read through your planning notes and then visualize your success. Picture yourself engaged in a great conversation. Imagine how everyone will be smiling and happy to see you. Feeling prepared will make it easier for you to make eye contact, smile, and be friendly to everyone you meet. Then look for someone who returns your smile.
Build excellent relationships and stop wasting time networking.
ABOUT ROBBIE: www.robbiesamuels.com/about
Business Growth Strategy Coach
Robbie coaches inspiring entrepreneurial women in their 50s and beyond (and a few awesome men) to grow their impact and income by building an audience before launching new revenue streams.
WHO YOU ARE:
You want to have a greater impact and increased income. The problem is that there are so many options for how to build your business that you can feel stuck, overwhelmed, and like you’re running out of time.
The reason options are overwhelming is that you’re looking at them as a series of disconnected steps when to make the most of your time, you need a strategy that connects only the most important and highest impact ones.
You know that if you try to do everything, you’ll accomplish nothing. This means, to achieve your goal, you have to invest in a strategy to put time on your side.
WAYS ROBBIE OFFERS SUPPORT:
As a relationship-based business growth strategist, Robbie will work with you one-on-one to design a year-long plan that consists of three 12-week sprints, each followed by 4 weeks of reflection/assessment, rejuvenation, learning, and strategic planning. This will allow you to sequence your goals, create momentum, and leverage your limited time.
Have a project that you want feedback on or need assistance with a specific strategy? He offers half-day strategy sessions.
Already selling but feeling stuck around how to increase your revenue? Sign up for a one-day mastermind with fellow entrepreneurs to break through to the next level.
Ready to dig into your network to validate a solution you’ve been working on to see if you can build an audience for it before launching? Sign up for 12 Weeks to Create Your Irresistible Offer program.
Want accountability, support, and guidance as you implement your strategic plan? Learn more about his year-long Wake Up Your Network mastermind program.
These are not right for everyone; they're personalized offerings and are priced accordingly.
WHAT MIGHT YOU WORK ON?
In his coaching work with entrepreneurs, his clients focus on the areas where they'd like to grow, which may include:
- Creating a strong sales conversation framework
- Building your referral network
- Lead generation through a relationships
- Growing your visibility in your industry
- Increasing your ability to attract the right kind of clients
- Identifying and launching a minimally viable offer
- Breaking through whatever bottleneck is holding you back from getting the results you want and deserve
- Becoming a published author and marketing your book successfully
- Improving your virtual presentation skills
LEARN MORE AND SCHEDULE A CHAT: www.robbiesamuels.com/coaching
Robbie is excited to support you in reaching or exceeding your goals.
Interested in booking Robbie to speak? At www.robbiesamuels.com/speaking you’ll find video clips and a description of his talks.
Watch his TEDx talk “Hate networking? Stop bageling and be the croissant!” at www.robbiesamuels.com/TEDx.
- Connect with Robbie on LinkedIn
- @RobbieSamuels on Twitter and Instagram
- New to his website? Start here
- On the Schmooze podcast archive – weekly since July 2016!
SIGN UP for his free weekly #NoMoreBadZoom Virtual Happy Hours – www.NoMoreBadZoom.com
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