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Ask Cathy
Needs Networking Advice

Q. I attend many of the local networking functions but I never get anything out of them.

It is very difficult for me to approach a stranger, especially in a group, and start talking. I either pretend I am on my cell or find some old familiar faces and stay with them for the duration.

Do you have any tips that might help me?

Dear Networker,

I do have (I hope!) some useful tips. They are as follows.

1. Introduce yourself to the network organizers and tell them what your job is and your interests in the event. Ask them if they could please identify 5 key people for you to meet. Write down their names and what they do.

2. Promise yourself that you will not leave the function until you have had a meaningful conversation with each of the 5 key people identified by the organizers.

3. As you meet each of the 5 key people, be certain to explain that the organizers gave you their names to discuss their work and your interests. Give them a chance to talk first about what they do.

Try and dovetail your business offering into their needs as you assess them. If you are not good on your feet, take their card and promise to follow-up soon. Try and obtain from each of them 3 additional people who might be resources for you given your interests. After you finish with each person, jot down notes of the conversation on their business cards.

4. After the event, compile a list of all the people you met with their emails while at the event. Make a note next to their names of the points of interest you jotted down on their business cards.

Be certain to write follow-on emails to the 5 key people and the organizers thanking them for their time and telling them why you sought them out. Sell your business offering and ask if you can take them to lunch for a further discussion. Be sure to compliment their achievements so they understand you are a respectful seller of wares!

5. Follow up by email with all 15 (or less if there are, perhaps, duplicates) individuals identified by your 5 key people. Do Google searches and research who these people are and how you can connect with them in an email conversation.

Let them know who recommended them. Take them each to lunch over the next 6 weeks and be ready to network, seek or otherwise advance your interests at the lunch table. Persist by going through their secretaries if the email goes unanswered.

6. Be certain to follow up every 2-3 weeks with all individuals. Often, sending an article of shared interest or a new offering/idea is a great way to continue the dialogue.

7. It is important that you treat this networking like both a science and an art. Be deeply analytical about leveraging the attendees to place yourself in front of the key people.

When talking, be a good and creative listener. Follow up diligently and be smart by doing background research that enables you to make quick connections in conversation and by email.

Good luck!


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