By Phil Stella
With most businesses, failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s the same simple paradigm that can be applied to 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(s). As a result of accomplishing them, what outcome(s) will result? A good objective is SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Better to have three different very focused objectives than one all-purpose, vague or generic one.
The “what” determines the “who?” Who do you need to meet and learn from to achieve each specific outcome? If you don’t know their names, what kinds of people, by function, position or industry, do you need to meet?
The “who” determines the “where?” For those people you already know, begin the information-gathering process by phone, e-mail or in person. For those you don’t know, where can you find them? What platforms for networking exist where large numbers of these people are in the same place for a short amount of time where networking is encouraged and supported?
Pick your platforms wisely. You only have so much time to invest in networking, so make every event and every hour count. Professional association and chamber meetings, events or seminars can be time-efficient platforms for networking. Also consider the excellent CBC magazine Amplify series of seminars. But don’t choose such an event based on your interest in the topic. Choose it based on your interest in the people who are interested in the topic.
Maximize your ROI and networking potential. Get there early and stay late. Most networking happens before or after the program anyway. Make it the most important thing you’ll 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 networking outcomes. The choice is up to you. That’s how the networking pros do it.
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication Inc., where he empowers business leaders who want to communicate – and network – confidently. He is a regular contributor to Cleveland Business Connects magazine, the COSE MindSpring Networking Expert, and a popular speaker on the topic. He can be reached at 440.449.0356 and email@example.com