We’re going to talk about strategic networking. Not just any networking, but strategic networking! Here is a 3-phase approach to doing just that.
In a nutshell what are the three phases? There’s a pre-phase or a pre-event phase. This is what happens before you get to the event or what you should be doing before you get to the event. Then there’s the event itself. And then there is the post-event… what should happen afterwards.
Typically a lot of times we see a breakdown in networking effectiveness and networking strategically is the outside phases, the pre-event and the post-event. Now those that have been around me for a long time know that I’m a firm believer in that nothing happens in business without people. The more strategic you can be in developing and nurturing your relationship with people, the more successful and success you are going to experience.
Let’s talk about the pre-phase. What do we mean by the pre-phase? We’re talking about number one, figuring out what you want and setting goals. What do you want out of that networking event? It could be a one-on-one with one person, it could be something you are doing online on any social media site, it could be you attending any trade conference or seminar or something like that. Anywhere you are going to bump into people. It could be the grocery line. The idea is you need to be thinking through what you want from that experience.
If you know you are meeting someone particular, you should do a little bit of research on them. Google them! Just type their name in quotes in Google and find out a little bit about them. Or if they have a LinkedIn or Facebook page check them out there too. Learning a little about that person will help you communicate and connect with that person when you are actually in conversation with them.
Along with the research and setting your goals, rehearse a little. If you are uncomfortable and nervous it is good to rehearse. If you have to stand in front of a mirror or a video camera, do whatever it takes to get you to feel more comfortable in engaging with people. Now for some of you this is not a problem whatsoever, but for many of you it may make sense. The idea is to get some practice. Practice does help make you more perfect!
So now we are researching, we are rehearsing, and setting goals. We’re building a plan! We know what we want to accomplish as a result of networking at that event.
Then we’ve got the main phase. The event itself. This is where you need to execute. You need to pull from everything you planned through in the pre-phase. You need to execute with the intent of really connecting with this person and finding out if there is a bond. If you do have a bond with someone, see what is next. And if there is a next, what is it exactly? Lay that out with that person so that it’s not like “oh we had a great meeting today, we just met for an hour” and now you never call each other again. If you want to take it further, make a plan. Set some things in action. Do whatever it takes. Break out the calendars if that makes sense and put another appointment on the calendar.
Now we are going to the post-event phase. I’m a big fan of saying the power is in the follow up. Let’s face it, if you don’t follow up with the person after that chances are you really wasted your time networking with them. Unless of course they weren’t worth following up with and that does happen too. Nothing wrong with that. At least you know, but if there is any reason for following up or following through make sure that you are doing that in the post-event phase.