If networking is viewed as a chance to catch up with friends, networking is a waste of time. Throw a party instead.
If networking is viewed as 90 minutes of sheer terror, then networking is a waste of your time. Go see a movie instead.
If networking is viewed as a way to improve your chances of landing a new customer or a new job, then networking is time well spent. Oops, I forgot to qualify that last statement. Networking is time well spent if you prepare.
Winston Churchill said “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” Dwight D. Eisenhower offered the same advice when he said “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” With planning being so important, let me offer some prerequisites and a plan for a networking event.
• Begin to consider everything you do as an opportunity to network. People have gotten business because of a conversation in line to buy groceries.
• Create at least one 30-second “elevator pitch.” You may consider creating 3. One 10-second speech with your name and company tag line. A second 30 second speech that summarizes who you are and what you’d like to do professionally. Finally, if you get an entire minute, make sure you can cover the benefit of doing business with you and how you differentiate yourself. More on how to use these later.
• Always have plenty of business cards with you. If you are in job transition, considering carrying a current résumé you can send upon request. Business folks can also carry a tri-fold brochure from your marketing kit.
• Have access to your calendar and a note pad. Make sure you are ready to make an appointment and can follow up.
Now here is the program. Remember G A P. It stands for Goals, Actions and Proof. At the end of the page I have a sample plan you may use as a model.
Make sure you know why you are attending the event. It may be that you are new to the job market and you want to see how things work. You may also have a small business and are looking for customers or referrals.
Also, understand the event. A political campaign stop or a hotel opening offer different opportunities than a Chamber of Commerce meeting or a career transition session. Understand the people that will attend the meeting and how you can connect with them.
Think through the actions you will take to satisfy your goals. If your goal is to talk to ten people you didn’t know before, the corresponding action may be to look for new faces. If your goal is to say “Thanks” to 5 of your clients from the past year, your strategy…well you get the picture.
Be as specific as you can. Make sure the actions you take will support your goals.
Make sure you understand how you will know if you met your goals. Meeting 10 new people may be a great goal. You could measure that by collecting 10 new business cards. That is the proof. If your goal was instead to generate 10 new business leads, you may need more than a business card. Your proof could be that you have set up 10 follow up appointments.
I encourage you to set goals that make real progress. I mentioned earlier that you may want to have 3 elevator pitches. If you make aggressive goals to meet and do business with people, than you will definitely have the chance to use all three. Use the 10 second speech when you first meet somebody. If when you introduce yourselves and your tag line doesn’t make a connection, don’t feel bad about exchanging business cards and moving on. Remember, they probably have goals for the meeting also.
If there is a possible link, say more about yourself and let your new friend know what you do and a little about your strengths. If you both see ways that you can help each other grow professionally, make sure you are crystal clear about how you can help. You may not have a chance to quote it word for word, but knowing it well will help you apply your skills to their business needs.
Take a look at the example below and let me know if you think it would help you prepare for your next networking event. In fact, let me know if you think it is rubbish, also.
I am always here to help and I look forward to hearing from you.
PS: Don’t forget to celebrate when you hit your goal! More on that later.
Goal: (Networking Event – Technology Club Meeting)
1. Introduce myself to 15 new people.
2. Create 3 new prospects.
1. Look for 20 people I have not met before.
Introduce myself with my 10 second elevator pitch.
Exchange business cards with all 20 people.
2. I will introduce 5 new acquaintances to somebody I already know.
3. Use my 30 second speech with at least 10 people.
4. Set up at least 5 follow up meetings.
1. I have 20 new business cards.
2. I have entered all business card information into my Contact Manager.
3. I introduced 5 people without spending more than 5 minutes in any conversation.
4. I have booked 5 follow up meetings.