“Networking” is building up a circle of contacts who can possibly help you in your personal and business growth.  The goal of networking is essentially the same : reach as many people as possible and make every connection count.

It is not about quantity; it is about quality.  We all have been to countless networking events where people dash from person to person, exchanging name cards and not getting to know each other enough. If you go out thinking about “What can I get out of this” attitude, you are doomed even before you begin.  If you are willing to take the chance and invest your time, you may be amazed at the outcome.

Joining different networking circles may benefit you differently.  For example, if you join a peer group, this group promotes the sharing of knowledge and referrals with others in your field.  If you join another group related to your business, this group allows you to meet people, exchange ideas and possibly expand your client base.  So it is important to think about how you are going to meet the people you need to meet, connect them with others and build a strong network to support your success in business.

Everyone counts in networking.  You can discover new contacts and ideas from the person you sit next to at the dentist’s office; someone waiting in line at a queue at the bank, etc.  What matters is being interested and sharing your ideas.  This is not the time to sell yourself.  If you are genuinely interested, leads will emerge.  Be surprised because networking generates the unpredictable.

Here are the benefits of effective networking :

  1. Just the simple notion of having friends.
  2. Broadening your contacts and increasing your brand profile.
  3. Meeting people and building mutual opportunities like joint ventures, co-broking, partnerships, co-authoring articles, speaking and writing gigs, etc.
  4. Once you have like-minded friends with common goals and values in these circles, you can get advice and answers you cannot get from Google.

To be effective in your networking efforts, these are the general rules :

  • Do not network aimlessly – Think about with whom you need to connect and where those people gather. Then sign up your attendance.
  • Dress the part – respect the dress code for the event and increase your visual effectiveness to increase your confidence.
  • Do not be afraid to smile, extend your hand and introduce yourself.
  • Wear your name tag on your right shoulder. When someone shakes your hand, his or her line of sight is at your right shoulder.  Make sure your name is visibly printed in big letters on your name tag.  You want to be remembered.
  • If you attend a business meeting with a friend or associate, split up. It is a waste of time to talk or sit together.
  • Watch your manners and mind your language.
  • Carry business cards with you all the time but exchange them only when appropriate. If you don’t have a business card, design and print your own.
  • Be outgoing and conversational. Find common interests or experiences to talk about.  Be interested to be interesting.  Listen 80% and talk 20%.  Pace yourself, do not talk too much or too little.
  • Do not take advantage of the person’s profession to get information.
  • Be enthusiastic and positive. Do not grumble or whine about your tough day.
  • Stay at the event until the end. The longer you stay, the more contacts you will make.
  • Do not be dishonest about your motives or intentions.
  • Do not drop names and imply connections you do not have.
  • Do not go personal and pry into someone’s business.
  • Do not be a “know-it-all”.
  • Never make promises you cannot keep. If you casually mention “let’s meet for lunch next week’, be sure you keep that promise.
  • Follow up with an invitation to lunch or coffee or send “thank-you” or “nice meeting you notes” to someone who has been very helpful to you or someone who gave you a lead or referral (whether it worked out or not).
  • Find a reason to get in touch again. If you have taken the two minutes to listen to an individual, chances are you will discover at least one good reason to contact that person again.