After almost two years of sitting behind screens, many in-person events have resumed. If you’re ready to perfect your networking skills, start by making a strategic plan with these expert tips.
By Phil Stella
Business organizations have returned to holding many in-person meetings and networking events again. Be ready for that change by committing to a thorough networking plan.
Network on purpose and for a purpose—every time.
With businesses, failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s the same simple paradigm for networking like a pro instead of an amateur. And it all starts with the reason(s) why you’re networking. Whether you want to learn things to help you do your job better, look for a better job or grow your business, network with a strategic plan. Here’s how:
Define your specific networking objective. Ask yourself, After I accomplish these objectives, what will be the result? A good objective is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. It’s better to have three different very focused objectives than one all-purpose, vague, or generic one.
Determine the “who.” In order to figure out who to network with, you have to refer back to the objectives. Who do you need to meet with and learn from so that you can achieve each specific outcome? If you don’t know their names specifically, figure out what kinds of people you need to meet—in terms of function, position, and industry.
Determine the “where.” It’s pretty obvious that where you meet depends on who you’re meeting. For those people you already know, begin the information-gathering process by phone, email, or in person. For those individuals you don’t know, figure out where you can find them. What platforms for networking exist where large numbers of these kinds of people are in the same place for a short period of time? This should be a place or platform where networking is both encouraged and supported.
Pick your platforms wisely. You only have so much time to invest in networking, so make every moment, every event, and every interaction count. Professional association and chamber meetings, events, or seminars can be time-efficient platforms for networking.
Don’t limit yourself. Refrain from only choosing events based on your interest in the topic or organization. Choose it based on your interest in the people who will be in attendance. If it’s the right kinds of people AND an interesting topic—even better! This will give you an obvious lead-in while networking at that event. But you shouldn’t let topics that you’re uninterested in or unfamiliar with prevent you from connecting with those event attendees.
Don’t eliminate phone calls as options for networking. If you already know some of the people you want to talk to, networking by phone can be very successful. It’s easier, faster, and less fattening.
Maximize your ROI and networking potential. Get to events early and stay late. Most networking happens before or after the program anyway. Make it the most important thing you do that day. You can make up the lost work time the day before or day after.
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? That’s probably why they call it ‘net-WORK’. But, a strategic plan will significantly increase your chances of accomplishing your desired networking outcomes. The choice is up to you.
So, best wishes for managing your 2022 Strategic Networking Plan. If you have a specific question regarding networking or effective communications, feel free to reach out via email and perhaps we can cover it in an upcoming blog post.
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 804-4785, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.