The time you can spend on networking is limited, and you need to be smart about how you allocate it. In this video, Dorie shares strategies for how to evaluate whether an opportunity is the right fit, including who will be attending, how much chance you’ll actually have to connect with them, and whether the activity and timing plays to your strengths.
- There are a lot of networking events out there. Just open up a copy of your local business journal, and you'll see dozens, if not hundreds. But your time is limited. Which should you bother going to? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help determine what will be a good use of your time and energy. You can also download the exercise file to guide you through this process. First, determine who will be attending. This is the most important element when it comes to which networking events to attend. And yet, most people give it surprisingly short shrift when planning their time.
If you're looking to connect with small business owners, local chamber of commerce events may be a great way to meet them. But if your target audience is international Fortune 500 leaders, it may be a total waste of time. Before committing to any event, get a clear sense of who usually attends and participates. You can visit the sponsoring organization's Web site and look at their membership roster and news coverage or photos of past events to get a sense. You should also consider asking your friends who may have attended in the past what their experience was like and who typically goes there.
You want to focus on events where you can meet potential clients or at least people who can refer you to potential clients. Next, consider how likely it is that you'll actually connect with people. Some types of events are optimized for making connections, but others aren't. If you're gathering for a cocktail reception in a very loud bar, for instance, even if you meet with a great prospect, you probably won't be able to have much of a conversation with him as you're shouting above the din. Similarly, I've been to entire conferences I thought were really poorly organized because they didn't require people to wear name tags or provide a logical way for people to meet one another.
So everything was somewhat haphazard. I won't be returning there. Instead, look for situations where you know you'll have the opportunity for quiet, or at least reasonably quiet, conversations, and where you can get to know someone well enough to decide if you'd like to pursue the connection further. Another thing to consider is if it's the type of event you would enjoy. You're only gonna be successful at networking if you're enjoying yourself and having a good time. That's very hard to do if you're forcing yourself to participate in activities you hate, because if you're miserable, it shows through.
Just because large, cattle-call networking events are often the norm, doesn't mean you need to participate in them. For instance, as an introvert, I have a hard time with huge events where I don't know anyone. Instead, I've chosen to focus my energy on attending smaller, more intimate events that feel manageable, and my success rate for connecting with people is much higher. You could also consider networking events focused on activities such as a wine tasting or a group outing to a ball game. That can sometimes provide a much needed ice breaker.
Last, ask yourself, is the timing optimal for you? I've learned from experience not to push myself when it comes to networking and my circadian rhythms. I used to force myself to attend breakfast gatherings that began at 7:00 in the morning. I'd have to wake up around 5:30 to get into the city and was exhausted, not just during the event, but for the rest of the day, killing my productivity. You don't have to go to every event. Pick and choose which fit your interests and your lifestyle best. For me, that meant swearing off early morning gatherings, and instead, meeting people later in the day, which is when I was at my peak.
When it comes to networking events, quality matters much more than quantity. Using these strategies, you can make a good decision about how to allocate your time.
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- Prioritizing contacts
- Building meaningful connections
- Managing your time
- Hosting networking events
- Networking on social media