Ten Key Steps
Networking isn't merely talking to people and handing out business cards. Many people who think they're networking actually aren't.
- What: Networking is the interactive pursuit of others and the development of reciprocally beneficial relationships through interpersonal, electronic, and other activities.
- Why: One networks in order to reach new members and/or volunteers, and to create new collaborating opportunities.
- How: Effective networking involves offering others a valuable service so that they will be moved to reciprocate. Networking is becoming an object of interest to others so they will direct third parties to you. Direct networking means you are interacting with potential supporters or members, while indirect networking means you are interacting with people who can direct you to members/supporters.
- Learn who will attend the event. Obtain a participant list, or make an educated guess. Prepare yourself for the people you might encounter, creating a target list of the best prospects.
- Begin casual conversations during the gathering to both identify those targets you've chosen and to learn who else might be at the event.
- Introduce yourself to people without describing anything about your work, and simply listen to them. If you're in a group, which is likely to be the case, don't attempt personal networking; wait until you can find the person alone later and approach him or her at that point.
- When you're able to spend a few minutes one-on-one, offer something of value, based on what you've heard. For example, if a person at the event mentions they're having problems retaining membership, suggest a book or article and offer to e-mail it to them.
- In the event you're asked what you do, practice providing very succinct responses. Subprime response: "I'm a manager who focuses on the interaction of teams, especially cross-functionally; raises sensitivity to synergies possible in greater collaboration; and implements process to enhance team connectedness." Better response: "I assist GSUSA in improving individual and organizational performance."
- Exchange a card or somehow gather the other person's contact information so that you can send promised materials or information. Do not run and grab a brochure, materials, or any gimmicks; most people don't like to lug around extra material at events, and this stuff usually winds up in the trash, anyway.
- Immediately—the next morning at the latest—deliver what you promised.
- In a week or so, follow up to see if the material was helpful, the reference worked out, the prospect called, and so forth. Ask if there is anything further along those lines that might be helpful. Then, summarize or reaffirm your offer of further help with a letter accompanied by promotional material and literature. Suggest to the other person that you thought she or he might want to learn a little more about you/what you do.
- In a few weeks, send still more value in the form of a contact, potential customer, article of interest, and so on.
- If the other party replies with a thank-you for your latest offer of value, get back to them and suggest a brief meeting, breakfast, lunch, or other opportunity to get together at their convenience. Simply say you'd like to learn more about what they do and also get their advice about what you do. If they haven't responded with a thank-you of any kind, wait one more week, call to see if they received the correspondence, then suggest the meeting as described.
A Few Terms To Keep In Mind…
- Distance power: It's good to network with people who don't know you and thus aren't predisposed to assumptions about you and what you do.
- Nexus contact: There is often a person who may not be one of the "key people," but who can provide opportunity regardless.
- Unique multiplier: On occasion you will meet someone who knows everyone—a community leader, long-time employee, newspaper contact, etc.
- Adhesion: What will make you memorable? This is where the "give to get" principle comes in, so try to provide powerful value.
- Context: Don't forget that you and your contacts are there in support of a common belief or interest; use this to achieve commonality expediently.