By: Roger Sittler
No one would argue against the benefits of networking, however how best to benefit from it is always not so clear cut. There is plenty of networking advice for various opinions on tips, so much so people even disagree with each other. Some of the specifics depend on the type of industry you work in and the types of company culture you are in, but there are still some overlying rules. Below, I have addressed the four basic steps for any networking event, regardless of the type of company you work, the industry you or in, or the type of event you are attending.
Step 1: Know your Purpose - What is your reason for attending the networking event? Are you there to promote the brand of your company in the community and gain some exposure in a new market/forum/etc.? Are you there to make connections with potential clients and make new business contacts? Are you there to meet potential employers or even prospective employees for your own organization? In most cases you will be there for multiple reasons, but whatever it is, know it ahead of time and remember it.
Step 2: Stay Focused - After you've thought of your purpose, don't let it leave as you walk in the door. Keep your cell phone in your pocket and stay focused on networking. This is not the time to take calls or fire off some emails. There will be some libations flowing, but keep your consumption to a minimum. Spend more time on the floor of the event than at the bar.
Step 3: Follow up - You spent the time to meet all these people, so make sure you don't let that time spent go to waste, follow up with them. If you have a CRM that you utilize to track contacts then get these people logged into it. Set up some reminders to reach back out and follow up with them.
Step 4: Have a Networking Approach - Try and keep your discussions and conversations with co-workers or friends to a minimum. Some people suggest 5 minutes each for 20 people, however, I'd suggest 20 minutes each with 5 people. Stay dialed into each conversation and don't move on until it's appropriate to end the discussion and seek out a new one. Take business cards with you and gather cards as well. And finally...make sure you give and don't just take from the event.