One of the challenges of networking is just the amount of time it takes. Also, since you can’t hire someone to build your network for you, it’s your time that it takes. So it behooves us to be as efficient as possible in our networking efforts. Let’s take a look at a couple of behaviors that will help us get the most out of saying “Hello”.
Follow up. If you took the time to attend the event, take a little more time to follow up with the people you met. If you don’t, if you just drop their card on your desk and never contact them again, then you have just successfully wasted whatever time you spent at the event.
Set a goal. On those occasions when you do go to an event, have a plan walking in. This goes double for events which have no other purpose but networking. Finish your goal and then you have the choice of leaving. Without a goal we tend to just hang around without actually achieving anything — more wasted time.
Schedule. If possible, I recommend that you pick one or two days a week for your one-to-one networking and stick to it. You still have other things to accomplish and interrupting them in the middle of the day for a coffee forces you to spend a lot of time switching between tasks.
Schedule, part 2. On those days when you are meeting people for coffees and such, try to select a single location and stay there for the entire time. This way you avoid the time traveling between locations (usually at least thirty minutes per meeting). You can probably increase the number of people you can meet by fifty percent by scheduling them back-to-back.
Double up. If you know a couple of people in your network would benefit from getting to know each other, schedule a coffee forth all three of you. You not only get to speak with two people during the time when you would only have spoken to one, but you get credit with both of them for having expanded their network.
Pick a target market. Focusing your attention on a very specific category of prospects will help to narrow your networking and will make it easier for people to help you. You’ll also be able to reduce the number of groups you participate in. At the same time you will be able to deepen that participation which makes it much more likely that you will benefit from the group.
I’m sure there are many more areas where just following good networking practice will help you become more efficient with reaching your networking goals. So go out and make those connections and develop the relationships. Just make use of the systems you learn and develop so you can enjoy more in the long run.
Photo credit: Pedro Simao