As with so many aspects of life, networking requires action and effort if you’re going to reap its benefits. You can attend countless in-person and online events and register for every networking group under the sun, but you’ll get nowhere if you’re not actively taking the time to connect with the people you are meeting.
Networking is akin to someone opening a door just a bit. It’s your choice to push the door open to enter into the world of others. If you’re not putting your time in to follow up and form relationships, you’re merely peeking in the “networking” door and closing it in the face of potential opportunity.
Networking is truly a contact sport that requires you to be proactive if you’re going to win. Are you guilty of taking a defensive networking strategy; waiting for others to contact you? If so, the following tips are well worth reading and following if you want to achieve any level of success from your efforts.
Ask How They Want to Be Contacted
Much of the reason why so many of us don’t follow up after a networking event is that we simply don’t know the best way to take that next step. Do you email, write a hand-written note, or give them a call? It can certainly be confusing, but there is an easy solution to this. At your next networking event, ask the individuals that you’d like to connect with again what the best method is to reach them. If they are vague, they probably don’t want to pursue anything further. If they do tell you their preferred contact method, you can be confident about how to follow up, and most likely they’ll be anticipating it, too!
Ok, you now have a stack of business cards, and the thought of contacting everyone can be overwhelming. But, you have to do it, so develop a plan of action. Separate your contacts into two groups – the group of individuals that you want to contact for a specific purpose and those who you simply met but have no specific reason to call. Call back the first group as soon as possible. Then, send a note or email to the others saying how pleased you were to meet them and that you are looking forward to seeing them again soon. Don’t forget to add everyone’s contact information into your database for future reference.
Be a Sleuth
Thanks to the Internet many of your contacts will have an online presence. Google their name and see what comes up. Then, befriend them on LinkedIn or Facebook. If they have a blog, write a comment and let them know that you enjoyed meeting them.
Focus On Giving
Instead of hoping that someone will contact you with a potential opportunity, make a list of who you met and how you can help them. Do you have a recommendation or a contact for someone? Great! Follow up with the information. If not, consider sending an article of interest, an invitation to an industry event, or even just a note or email that you’ll keep your eyes open for possible opportunities.