Women have various reasons for not networking. One of the most common reasons is not knowing how to develop a strategy for their networking efforts. Without a clear strategy for networking your efforts will not be effective or efficient. Without a clear strategy for networking you will waste valuable time with no real results. And honestly, it’s quite exhausting to network without a strategy. Which is why women give up on it as a method by which to grow their business or themselves professionally.
I’ve developed four easy steps to creating a kick butt networking strategy that will keep you from wasting time and, instead, start building momentum with your efforts. These steps can be implemented for every event that you attend.
- Identify the networking event
To identify the proper networking event to attend, you must understand what you want to accomplish. This piece is critical because to be strategic in your approach you must understand what you want to do through networking.
There are a lot of things that can be accomplished. Here are just a few:
- A way to meet someone specific
- An opportunity to help a current or prospective client
- A way to connect with like-minded people
- An opportunity to meet and start building relationships with prospective customers
- A way to seek out speaking opportunities/opportunities to show expertise
- An opportunity to meet mentors
- An opportunity to meet “fire starters” to boost your social media campaigns
Whether you have one goal or many, knowing what you want to accomplish is an important first step to identifying which event(s) will support your efforts. And understanding that not every event will help you accomplish everything is important to remember as well.
When you identify which networking event(s) you will attend, start by selecting the event that most closely aligns with your top networking priority or one that addresses an immediate need for your business or career.
Being selective by attending only those that promote your objectives will keep you from wasting time at events that do nothing to advance your goals.
- Determine your desired outcome
Step 2 is to determine your desired outcome for this specific event, not for networking in general. As you take a look at this upcoming event what would be the best possible outcome or make you come away feeling it was a good use of your time? Then determine what an “okay” outcome would look like. Essentially, what would be an outcome, other than your best case scenario, that would make the event worthwhile and even encourage you to keep attending? And finally, what outcome would make you eliminate this activity from your list of networking opportunities?
Rarely do women put thought into an event this way. But time is a scarce commodity with all the roles we juggle. We can’t afford to waste time on events that don’t produce the desired outcome we want. Without knowing your desired outcomes there is no way to evaluate the effectiveness of the opportunity within your strategy.
- Conduct research
The third step is to conduct research on the event you have chosen to attend. It is so important to do some research up front. I know this is completely different than you have probably ever been taught before. Not because the general school of thought is anti-research but because most people do not put this much effort into a networking event. It’s much easier to just show up. But that’s what separates those who network just to network and those who network to build long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
Here are some areas to focus:
- Research who will be in attendance
See if you can determine who is going if at all possible. You can do this by asking the event organizer if they would be willing to share that information or ask them if a specific person that you’ve been looking to connect with has registered. Another way is to look at the list of people who have selected the “interested” or “attending” button if the event was posted on Facebook. You can also look through the comments on Facebook to see if anyone has said they are going.
- Learn a little about a few proposed attendees who interest you
Learn a little about some of the people in attendance – specifically ones you are interested in meeting if you aren’t familiar with their details. Find out where they work and a little about what their company does. This makes it much easier to strike up a conversation with them at the event.
- Research the event
Spend some time learning about the association or the group hosting the event. What is the history of the association or organization? If they have officers – who are they so that you can introduce yourself to them. Depending upon your goal for the event, these people can be helpful to you. They can also help point you in the right direction and make suggestions on attendees they think you should introduce yourself to.
And, finally, Step 4 is to prepare for the event. Start to prepare some questions and talking points for the people you have researched. Also craft some questions that help you reach your desired outcome as well as some icebreaker questions to get conversations started.
Following this 4 step process to creating a networking event strategy will make a big difference in how you approach networking opportunities and how much you get out of them. No one has time to just attend events. Developing a logical strategy that supports your goals for networking will give you the focus you need to kick butt with your networking efforts.