“Aaah, summer – that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.”
~ Darell Hammond
Sunshine, blue sky, warm temperatures, swimming pools, picnics, summer camp, ice cream, backyard barbecue, watermelon, roller skates, bikes, concerts in the park — summertime offers so many unique opportunities to truly enjoy life. I know it feels like our family has been running non-stop since before the girls were officially out of school. I love it!
The downside of all this activity, at least from a business networking standpoint, is that many professional groups take the summer months off. Rightly or wrongly, they assume everyone is going on vacation and so there isn’t much point in having regular meetings. Hey, I’m the first person to say you should take a break now and then. The problem is, after three months of not attending regular networking opportunities, it’s hard to get started again.
Here are a few ideas on what you can do to maintain your networking skills over the summer months while still having fun in the meantime.
- Go to the events your groups do have. Some organizations still meet during the summer, or they might have special events like golf outings, picnics, or dancing under the stars. Whatever it might be, take advantage of the offerings. They are not only more fun than the run of the mill networking mixers, but the folks that attend during the summer are also the more serious networkers.
- Check out new programs. If your regular haunts aren’t available for the summer, take a stroll down Meetup.com lane and see if there are other groups that you might like to try out. You probably won’t join for the long term, but you never know what gems you will uncover. You’ll certainly meet a person or two whom you can add to your network.
- Attend social events. Are friends putting on a backyard barbecue, a trip to the beach, or maybe even a birthday party? Say yes, even if you don’t feel like it. You’ll have fun, if nothing else. When you are there, dust off those skills you’ve learned from going to the local Chamber of Commerce lunch. Strike up conversations with those you don’t know yet. Make some introductions. Make some new friends.
- Go to community gatherings. Ann Arbor has its annual summer festival for three weeks in June. Six nights a week it’s an opportunity to mix with our neighbors and dance to some great music. Our girls naturally strike up friendships with the other children there. What an easy opportunity to start a few connections with the parents.
- Tag along with your kids. In a similar vein, your kids will have social, educational, or recreational events that they may attend. Why not stick around (if that won’t cause them to die of embarrassment) and offer to help out the organizers? Almost anyone dealing with a large group of children won’t turn down an offer to help and you never know where that new connection might lead.
- Talk with your neighbors. At least in our section of the world, for almost six months out of the year, you don’t see your next door neighbors. Snow, ice and other inclement weather keep us inured in our homes. It’s not until mid-Spring that we all creep from our house-caves and stand blinking at the sun. Take a walk around your block and strike up a conversation with the folks you see. Ask them about their garden, their travel plans, or their grandchildren.
- Plan something yourself. Invite friends over for dinner. Get together for a picnic in the park with another family. Travel with family to Youngstown, Ohio to attend the Cirque du Soleil show Crystal to celebrate your mom’s 70th birthday — just as a completely hypothetical example. In all cases take the time to chat with the people you are with. Celebrate their victories and thrill to their adventures.
Summertime doesn’t have to be a barren wasteland of networking efforts. Sometimes it just takes recognizing that your network extends beyond your professional connections. Keep that in mind and you can find opportunities to practice your networking techniques all season long. Stronger friendships, more fun, and, who knows?
Maybe even more business.
Photo from Max Pixel