Networking Involves Much More than Exchanging Business Cards

Posted by Joel pate in Uncategorized. Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Years ago when I attended what were termed as “Networking Events” we basically walked around smiling and exchanging business cards. When I got back to the office, I would look through my handful of cards, not remembering any of the faces that went with the names on the cards, and I would eventually throw most of them away. I don’t remember anyone ever calling me because of this time-wasting ritual.

Networking performed with a plan and with panache, on the other hand, can reap huge benefits, including lots of lucrative business. Let’s take a look at networking with a purpose that produces results.

Start with knowing why you are networking. Before attending any kind of event, trade show, and/or gathering, ask yourself why you are taking the time to do this and what you hope to gain from the networking. Just like having a business plan and setting goals give us direction, making a networking plan with goals will add value to the time you spend.

For example, if you are giving a presentation to a Chamber of Commerce meeting which follows some type of gathering — a meal, perhaps — it is a good idea to get there early and take part before you give your speech. When I was an unknown, aspiring speaker I found this method to be unbelievably helpful. By the time I got up on my feet to speak, I already had friends in the audience. The outcome was that they liked me before I started, which helped me relax and give better presentations.

I often attend gatherings to touch base with people I know, plus meet at least one new person and learn at least one new piece of information or find the solution to one problem — and there are always problems to solve now that I am doing so much computer work.

And rather than racing around trying to talk with as many people as possible, focus on one or two conversations. There was a time when I would set my networking goal to talk with as many people as possible. It was lively and fun, but from a follow-up business standpoint, not very fruitful. I now focus on having one or two in-depth conversations, take down some notes on a business card, and follow-up within a few days. This takes the superficial quality out of the meeting, and I have made some excellent on-going contacts using this approach.

If the person you are talking with asks about some information you have mentioned, make a note to get back to them, either through e-mail, on the phone, or by snail mail. Actually, by dropping a handwritten note or card to someone, along with a brief article about a topic you discussed, you will make a long-lasting impression. So few people take the time to write notes today; so, your gesture will be unforgettable.

Handle business cards with professionalism and thought. Remember, we are not in the business card give-and-take mode. Yes, I always hand my card to someone I am interviewing or have a designated appointment with. But, in a networking event situation, I always wait until the other person asks me for my card before foisting it on them. And just because someone pushes their card into my hand, I don’t automatically give them one of mine. This is just my belief, but this way I leave with the cards of people I really want to see again. However, of course, I am always ready. I wear a jacket or outfit with two pockets — one with my cards and one for the cards I am handed. This makes the transition of cards smooth and easy.

Also, I always have up-to-date cards with me. I feel that there is nothing more unprofessional than someone handing me a card with a phone number or other information crossed out or written in. Business cards are so reasonably priced that there is no reason for handing out a poor excuse for a card. You can even print up a few on your computer, although many of these are made with low-grade paper.

Be on the lookout for a variety of networking opportunities. When attending meetings, seminars, classes, trade shows and presentations by others, you will have a chance to meet and talk with people who are also attending because they have similar interests. Being active in associations and clubs in your field of endeavor is a great way to become known as a good and dependable worker. Now that I am a free agent, I find that much of the work I am doing — and I am extremely busy — has resulted from contacts I have made in the past through serving on committees or boards.

I am also on the lookout for networking opportunities that pop up during daily routines. For example, I often see people at the grocery store, the library, and coffee shops. Just today I saw a woman at the store with whom I had worked organizationally years ago, and after I asked what she was doing now, she, of course, asked me the same. When I told her “web design” her eyes lighted up because the person who had been maintaining her business’ site just moved out of town. We exchanged business cards, and there is a good chance we will at least discuss web design in the near future.

Remember, networking in today’s tough market is a real necessity. And with a bit of your imagination added, the opportunities to make it successful are all around you.

So, go to it, have fun, and make lots of excellent contacts!

By: Chris King,