Networking is not easy.  You must dedicate time and energy to meet potential clients and to gain information that will help you grow your business.  Here are some helpful tips to assist you in becoming a networking guru.

Pay Attention to the News.  The next time you hear a story in the news that a leader in your field has won an award, been appointed to a position or made a positive impact in the community; send him/her a note of congratulations. Acknowledging the accomplishment gives you a perfect opportunity to introduce yourself and ask for advice or an appointment.

Join Professional Organizations.  Do not just attend local meetings but participate as well?  If not, you will find that this is one of the best ways to network with either people  who can give you professional advice on how to improve your business and other types of assistance.  These organizations can also assist you in meeting other business people that can give you leads to potential clients who need your services.

Get involved with Seminars.  Many community colleges or professional organizations in your area provide free to low cost seminars in marketing, public speaking or other professional development topics.  These seminars will give you new and interesting ways to organize run or promote your business.  These types of activities also provide opportunities to meet and talk with other people like yourself and can keep you motivated.  Check local business papers for information.

Volunteer with a Purpose.  What is the point of sitting at home avoiding the phone because a bill collector might be on the line?  Staying in only serves to help you spiral into depression and isolates you from your network.  While you are waiting for that perfect call from a potential employer, why not get out and volunteer at your favorite charity or someplace you have always wanted to work.  Volunteering serves many purposes.  1.) You can maintain and/or develop skills that will help you in your next career opportunity.  2.) You will be providing a nonprofit much needed respected and appreciated talent that many organizations could not afford to pay for especially in touch times.  And 3.) you will stay connected to your network and build a stronger network as people are able to see your volunteer work and will think of you when they hear of an open position.

Prepare a Networking Goal:  Many make the mistake of just showing up at an event and passing out cards.  We take time to figure out what events are important for us to attend, find the proper business attire and practice our 30 second “elevator speech” but often forget to understand what we want to leave with from the event.  We need to make sure that our time there is impactful and we get to the right people for our needs.  Here are some helpful tricks to keep you focused:

  • Only take a small number of business cards – no more than 10. This will remind you as you go thru them that you need to be clear and focused on getting your information to the right few people
  • Keep them in one pocket – pick a side to take cards from and use the other side to add cards to.  You should leave with as many cards as you gave out.  If you started with 5 and end up with only 4 cards plus 1 of your own, you can adjust your networking accordingly.
  • Keep blank cards available with a pen – sometimes people forget their business cards.  Having blank cards in your pocket allows you to write down the person’s information plus it will help you remember that person to write his or her name down and why you have their information.
  • Have note cards ready to mail – this is a lost art and it is very appreciated by all.  You can always send and email and make a phone call, but having already addressed notecards available  in your car or home to write a quick “it was great meeting you” note goes a long way to help people remember you from the many others they met that day.