Save time and get the most out of your networking hours.
Networking is an important part of building, maintaining and advancing your career, but sometimes it can be hard to find the time to do it right.
Here are six tips to help you do better networking while making the most of your precious time.
It seems counterintuitive, but networking takes time and effort, says Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of BNI. “The only thing more important than being efficient is being effective. Being effective means that you really have to focus on building the relationships.”
When attending a networking event, this means slowing down and really connecting with people, says Jennifer Kelly of New Initiatives Marketing. “You can’t drop into a networking event once, announce your business, leave and expect results,” she says. “Knowing that it’ll take time to build up trust with people and for them to get to know you is an important first step.”
Offer to help
Misner says many people mistake networking for asking for something, which doesn’t help you build a relationship. “A lot of people use networking as a face-to-face cold-calling opportunity” instead of a relationship-building exercise, he explains. Taking the wrong approach simply wastes time.
“Instead, try to give something to them,” Misner says. “It could be a referral, getting articles or links to people that address the challenges they have. Do something for them, particularly when networking up.”
Know where to go
Don’t just attend every event that comes up in an effort to meet as many people as possible. Pick those that connect to your goals, Kelly says. “Be very clear on why you’ll attend an event, what you want to get out of it (knowledge of a subject, meet people) and what you’ll give back.”
When you can, volunteer at events. “That way you get to learn and participate in the event, but also have something specific to do,” Kelly says.
“You could volunteer to be at the check-in desk. That way you get to meet everyone, and your job is to hand out name tags and check people in,” she suggests. “Inevitably you’ll have situations where you’ll need to have some small talk and this may help you get to feel more comfortable with starting conversations with people you don’t know.”
Try speed networking
Consider attending a speed networking event to get a lot of short introductions fast. These events may focus on a specific industry, age group or location, and can give business people a chance to make connections quickly.
“This allows you to maximize the number of people you meet over a given time frame,” says Michael Slater, President of SpeedNetworking.com. “It provides structure and a forum that ensure you are engaging with people.”
Any time you attend an event, Slater recommends setting a networking goal, such as “I want to meet five new people” or “I want to give my pitch 10 times.”
“It is relatively simple to craft a 30-second introduction/elevator pitch about who you are, what you do and how you can be a benefit to others,” Slater says. “Perfect your introduction and embrace the challenge of stepping out of your comfort zone to engage with new contacts.”