One of the basic rules of networking at an event is to have a goal when you walk in. Having one helps focus your efforts. It tell you what you will accomplish so that showing up isn’t wasting your time. It also tells you when you are done networking and can go home (or head over to the buffet line to fill your plate). Having plans and goals isn’t just for events. Almost every aspect of your networking practice can benefit from applying these techniques.

Let’s take a look at a few:
Daily goals. How much networking are you going to do each day? Are you going to call three people whom you know and like for a chat? Are you sending four email messages to people in you network? Are you having two one-to-one meetings with new contacts from the last event? Just as with your goals at the event, having daily goals will tell you when you are done. After all, despite how much fun it is, we can’t spend all our time networking.
Scorecard goals. Did you have a good week of networking? How do you know? Keeping a networking scorecard and tracking the points over the course of the week will tell you exactly what you did. You can also use the points to give yourself something to target. Maybe your goal is to make fifty points per week. If Thursday rolls around and you only have twenty-five, you’d better step it up a notch in order to make your goal.
Technique/Behavior goals. Maybe you’d like to practice using the INFER questions in your one-to-one meetings. Perhaps you want to get into the “Gratitude Note” habit. Maybe you just want to get into the practice of leaving your telephone number at the beginning and end of a voicemail message. Whatever it is, track set a measurable goal to help you track how well you are doing at that particular behavior.
One-to-one meetings. So you’re meeting with a new person. Probably your goal is to find out more about them. Could you be more specific? What about them would you like to learn? Maybe you want to learn about their hobbies or where they are planning on traveling next. Maybe you just want to learn more about their business and how they got into it. Try to pick a few areas to learn more about so you don’t spend the entire conversation talking about the weather. If the person has been in your network for a while, maybe your goal is to ask them for some help on an area in your life. Whatever it is, you need to have it in mind so you don’t look back with regret at having wasted any opportunities.
Group goals. You are probably the member of a number of networking groups. So what would you have to achieve as a result of being a member in order to make it worthwhile for you to remain a part of the organization? Is it the number of one-to-one meetings that result from the events? Is it the number of referrals? If you are shooting for a goal, what are you going to have to do differently as a member of the group that will change the results you are getting?
The more you can set measurable targets for each aspect of your networking practice, the more likely you will be to achieve success in those areas. The challenge is that it’s easy just to float along and hope that things will turn out the way you want. The best networkers, though, make it a point be as systematic and goal-oriented as possible.
That’s why they succeed for themselves and the network that looks to them.
Photo credit: Flickr user jayneandd