Networking 1-2-3, Plus 1

Updated 4/19

Everybody’s doing a brand new dance now – and I don’t mean The Locomotion. I mean Networking!

Networking has become such big business that it’s hard to keep up with all the possibilities. No matter where you live, you can attend many regularly scheduled networking events that we’re all familiar with such as Chambers of Commerce, Rotary, Lions Club – all about business but not structured too much — or BNI (Business Network International), which is very structured.

Then there are some really good local ones in southeastern Mass. and Rhode Island that just came to life a few years ago such as 4th Monday Networking (which I co-owned), Women’s Business Network Southeastern Mass. (WBN), South Shore Women’s Business Network (SSWBN), South Shore Professional Roundtable Meetup, Networking Group USA, and Mass. Professional Networking

Business pros flock to these events, confident in their ability to SCORE big by finding great clients and contacts. They cheerfully pack their jacket pockets and/or briefcases with business cards, handouts, toys – all to attract people to themselves and persuade those people to BUY!

Sad to say, many go home time after time without having made a sale and finally quit networking, convinced it doesn’t work.

But it does if we know how to work it.

Here are three tips that I know can help you make the most of networking events.

susan badge1. Put just your first name on your name badge – in BIG letters. Why? Well, as Scott Ginsberg (Hello! My Name is Scott) says, it makes you approachable. And isn’t that the reason you’re there? It’s easy for others say, “Hey, Susan! Great to see you!” Many people are uncomfortable at these events, so make it easy for everyone to address you. They will be ever so grateful.

I can hear you now: “But if I only put my first name on the badge, no one will know what I do!” Well, you could start a conversation, couldn’t you?

But the biggest reason for just your first name is that you do not want people leaning in THAT close to your body to read a business card on your chest. Talk about invading your personal space . . .

2. Leave your business cards at home. Seriously. Leave at least 95% them at home. Why? Well, as a very smart networker named Phil Gaeber told me – time and time again – if you take all those cards, you’ll be focused on getting rid of them, not making any meaningful conversations with anyone. And your card will likely end up where so many others go to die . . . in someone else’s wastebasket.

He suggested that we collect cards, talk to others about THEIR business, and focus on helping those people make great connections. It makes us stand out from most of the others at any event. And of course we make an even stronger impression when we follow up with an e-mail that has our contact info in our signature.

3. Be a connector.
Once you’ve talked with someone for a few minutes, figure out who else this person should meet. There may be someone at the event you know would be a great contact, or perhaps you know someone else you can contact on that person’s behalf later. No matter what – when you create a connection between two people, they remember.

And here’s the “Plus 1,” an idea that I learned from the master, Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, an organization I was a part of (as a member and director) for over 10 years:

Networking is about farming, not hunting. Plant seeds, nurture them, and you’ll reap the harvest.