5 tips for effective networking

When asked about the most effective strategies for gaining new opportunities, most people will (and should) tell you it’s networking. However, whilst networking has proven to be a great way for many of us to explore new opportunities or find new clients, there are an equal number of people who’ve failed to achieve the results they were looking for. How can this be? More importantly, how can you become more effective at networking.

Effective networking involves determining your networking purposes and goals. You should identify possible contacts and develop a plan to ensure building upon these contacts. Be involved with events and forums in which your best contacts, potential clients, and referral sources are involved, using a client development plan as a guide that includes a personal plan of action on networking with colleagues and/or potential clients. Use existing contacts to make more introductions at events. Determine one or two of the best organisations, business forums, or other gatherings of prospective referrals, and set a plan in motion to an active networking.

Effective networking really involves a commitment of time, energy, and resources to produce meaningful results. But it doesn’t end there; you must also care for the network you’ve established (or are establishing), which includes personal contact through e-mails, telephone calls, scheduled meetings, or even a business lunch. Your approach, personal investment, and attention to detail will determine your long-term success. Other means can even include useful things such as sending through an article of relevance that may be of interest to a potential contact. Or, drill down even further and remember birthdays, acknowledge important achievements, or determine a contact’s favourite hobby or sports team, and simply use this information to build the relationship. The fact that you’re thinking about a new contact can, and will, pay huge dividends.

So, when it comes to attending an event to establish a network, my top 5 personal tips include:

  1. Break away from your regular crowd and make at least one new connection at every networking event or function.
  2. Find something interesting to engage the person you’ve met and ensure it’s an open exchange of dialogue and not a one-sided conversation or sales pitch.
  3. Always carry business cards. But instead of the well-trodden ritual of simply asking for someone’s business card and offering your own, find a unique way to pass on your details and to obtain theirs. Subtle creativity can often be memorable.
  4. Always make a few notes either whilst at the event or later back at your office about the contact you’ve made to ensure you’ll always remember a few things about that person.
  5. Follow up the contact via email within 24-hours of meeting, ensuring there’s a purpose to the follow up and not to simply say it was great to make their acquaintance.

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