If you're serious about meeting more and better people, attending events, meetings, conferences, mixers, clubs, groups, meet-ups, and even online chats should be a part of your business networking campaign. Here are some networking meeting "musts" you must embrace to get the most out of your experience.
You Must Know Your "Specific" Purpose Why are you there? Are you looking to attract more business? Land a job? Learn about an industry or profession? This may seem obvious, but how about the specifics? As in your specific purpose? Knowing the specific purpose of your business networking efforts is the first step to determining where you need to go, what you need to say, and with whom. What industry, profession, market segment, niche, dynamic, demographic, and geography are you targeting? The devil is in the details!
You Must Communicate Powerfully Be prepared with conversation starters and great opening questions. Have your elevator speech prepared so you can speak intelligently about your work and specifically what you want. (There's the specifics thing again.) When meeting others, be genuinely interested in learning about other people with a willingness to help them achieve their purpose. When you listen to others, it's more likely they'll listen to you. That's communication! Be clear on next steps - if there are next steps. Remember, the next step is yours!
You Must Be Active Don't expect to just show up and have business simply fall into your lap. It doesn't work that way. This is the work aspect of net-work. Become a member. In fact, become an active member. Head up a committee, volunteer to take on tasks, make positive suggestions, solve problems, and become a go-to person. Being active drives activity and also attracts the right people to you. Shakers and movers like to hang out with shakers and movers.
You Must Develop Important Relationships Focus on helping others get what they want and they may help you get what you want. In the process, look to spend additional time with your favorite contacts within a group to learn more about one another. Have dinner, attend a ballgame, take in some golf, or grab a drink when you can. Relationships happen at the speed of trust so invest the time necessary to have fun and develop them.
You Must Follow Up "Follow up" simply means an attempt to continue a conversation after the event is over or to follow through on a promise. It could be a promise to make an introduction to an important contact, a promise to send important information, or a promise to coordinate a future meeting. Without follow up, nothing else happens. Make sure you're the one that makes the promise to follow up. Keep in mind that follow up starts at the meeting, not after the meeting. So make your promises before shaking hands and saying your good byes.
You Must Stay in Touch Out of sight is out of mind. Believe it! Staying in touch is the key to getting to know others better and ultimately developing important relationships. After meeting someone, make a promise to speak again in a week or a month. Mark your calendar and make it happen. Take it upon yourself to develop a connection but at the same time take it slow. There is no easy way to say this, but the development of a genuine relationship must "feel right" and takes time. Relationships don't just happen by themselves. Developing mutually beneficial professional (and yes, personal) relationships requires a lot of work so invest the time to stay in touch with the right people for the right reasons.