When you decide to start networking, the first thing you need to do is to make a networking plan with goals. The first goal should be centered on how many events you plan on attending in a month; a minimum should be two, but more is definitely acceptable.
Once you know how many events you’re going to attend, you need to find a calendar of events and find the specific ones you want to attend. Look at the events with an eye to what you want to accomplish and how the event is planned. If it’s an after-hours event, it might be more social than networking related. Choose only those events where you think you can accomplish your goals.
Doing some research before the event will help you figure out who you want to target and why. Sometimes, you’ll want to target companies that you can work with in a synergistic fashion.
At the event, you want to start building the relationships. It’s okay to tell someone that you have nothing in common with, or who won’t help you meet your goals, that you need to move on to talk to someone else. If you’re listening, you’ve heard what this person’s problem is and you know you can’t help him or her. There’s no benefit for either of you. It doesn’t mean you can’t be friends or resources for each other; it just means that the conversation is best continued after you’ve met your networking goals.
After the event, you need to make sure that you follow up with those whom you want to continue a relationship. You should be able to follow up with at least two people from a networking event.
Your networking goals can be the number of new people met. It can be the number of business cards received, but remember you’re not there to collect business cards. You’re there to listen and form relationships. The business cards should be a by-product not an end result. You can also use the number of follow up cards you send, the calls you make to set up appointments and the number of people you continue the relationship building with.
Building a relationship, even in business, isn’t easy, and it’s not a short-term process. You need to be in it for the long haul.
Adapted from “Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days (affiliate link).”