I was so proud of myself. I was meeting a new networking contact at 10am and I actually arrived 10 minutes early. Yay, me!

And then I walked in to discover her already there and in the process of packing up. Apparently, we were supposed to meet at 9:30. How did I let that happen?

To put it simply, I skipped my system.

You see, I have a system for a lot of the things I do in networking. According to Michael Gerber, author of “The E-Myth”, systems are what allows even an average person to create extraordinary results consistently and without a system, even extraordinary people have a hard time creating average results consistently.

My system for one-to-one’s (coffees, lunches, breakfasts, etc) goes something like this:

  1. Follow Up. This is the variable part of the system. This might mean my Immediate Follow-Up technique, or it might be a phone call or email after the event. Either way, the end result should be an agreed-upon date, time, and location for our one-to-one meeting.
  2. Record. I then record that information in my Google Calendar. This makes sure that I have the information I need when I need it.
  3. Confirm. One day before the meeting, I send a confirmation message. In it I list the time, date, day of the week, and location. I also include my cell phone number in case they have any last-minute trouble.
  4. Attend. Show up on time and ready to connect.

This system has stood me in good stead…

…as long as I use it.

What happened this time was in step two, I incorrectly recorded the time. Ordinarily, this would become apparent in step three, when I sent the confirmation message. This time, though, I skipped the confirmation step. I did it because we had arranged the meeting only two days before, so I figured sending a confirmation only one day before was a bit of overkill.

Please notice the glaring assumption in that previous sentence.

Of course, if I’d sent that confirmation, I would have heard from my new connection and I could have avoided the embarrassment of being 25 minutes late. Lesson learned for next time: Never skip the system!

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m not perfect at this stuff. At times, I try to take short-cuts. Maybe I don’t set out my toolkit. Perhaps I neglect to do my Immediate Follow-Up. Sometimes I even (don’t tell anyone) slip into a “sales mindset”.

The measure of my success as a networker, though, is directly related to how well I follow my own systems. I almost always run into trouble when I don’t. Sometimes it’s immediate — showing up very late or not at all to a one-to-one — sometimes it takes longer — damaging a good potential relationship by trying to sell my services.

I hope as you develop your own networking systems — or adapt some of mine — that you learn from my object lesson. Refine the system. Understand why each piece of it is in there.

Then follow the system.

Greg Peters, president and founder of The Reluctant Networker, LLC, is a business networking specialist. He has worked with businesses and associations, entrepreneurs and job-seekers to create a world of better connections and greater opportunity. Find out more at www.TheReluctantNetworker.com or gpeters@thereluctantnetworker.com.

© Copyright 2012, The Reluctant Networker, LLC

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