As I continue to expand my own networking practice, I meet with more and more expert networkers each day. I thought it might be useful to ask them what tools and tips they use in the process of making connections. For the first article in this series, I chatted with Kelly Parkinson of Allegra Printing.

Kelly and I met a couple of years ago through a Sandler Sales training class we were both taking from Joe Marr. I was immediately struck by what an excellent networker she was when she actually contacted me to get together for coffee (usually I’m the one who has to initiate).

From that first meeting, Kelly has been a lot of fun to chat with. Not only is she a receptive audience to talk about topics both business and personal, she is also always looking for ways to make connections. In fact, she put me in touch with some great clients who have continued to bring me on to new projects.

Kelly and I sat down over lunch today and had our usual lively discussion. At one point I asked her about her networking process — what systems, tactics and tools she used to make her a successful networker.

Systems: She actually admitted that she was not much of a systems person. Mainly she made sure that she followed up on any first meetings that she might have at one of the several groups with which she participates.

Tools: Her calendar. She said that this is the number one tool for her. She uses it not only to schedule one-to-one meetings, but also to track all of the potential events which she might attend.  She also uses it to determine whether she will be able to participate in a group in a substantive way.  For example, she uses it as a first line of qualification as to whether she will participate in a new group. If the group’s regular meetings happen to conflict with her current schedule, she politely and gracefully declines the invitation.

Techniques: Kelly doesn’t just join groups, she participates. In particular, she’s found that she has a knack and preference for working on committees, especially those pertaining to events. While she has been invited on several occasions to server on Boards of Directors, she’s not found that to be as satisfying or productive as actually being in the trenches.

If you see Kelly around, be sure to ask to see the pictures of her “babies” — two miniature Spaniels who look like they are just ready to run off and find some trouble. You might also ask her about what’s going on down at Allegra. She was the one who helped me get my business cards printed. Thanks, Kelly!