Hello and welcome back to Business Skills 360. I’m Tim Simmons, and I’m glad you could join me for today’s show on networking.
Okay, back to networking. Now, I’m not going to tell you how to connect computers…this is about business networking, talking to people, making connections…and today, we’re going to discuss goal-setting in networking events. You need to go into these events with a clear objective so that you can make good use of the opportunity. We set goals for everything else, so why not networking?
First off, what do I mean by networking event? Perhaps it’s a mixer for all business people in your community, or maybe it’s a conference where you have the chance to meet people in your field. These are important opportunities, and it’s important that you use your time wisely. The fact is, at many networking events, 75% of the people stand around waiting for the other 25% to make something happen. It’s important for you to be in that 25% group. Be proactive. You can’t just stand in the corner and expect everyone to walk across the room to introduce themselves.
So, to be an active and successful networker, it’s a very good idea to set goals before the event. What kind of goals? We’ll talk about issue-based goals and human-based goals.
Let’s start with issues. Before the event, sit down and give some thought to your current situation. What issues are you currently dealing with in your business or work? Are you facing specific problems or obstacles that you need help with? Do you have certain needs? Write these things down, then rank them in order of importance. For example, your list might say: “Number 1: our project meetings lack focus. Number 2: our computer servers are unreliable. And number 3: my department is spending too much on office supplies.” Great. It’s good to have a top three. Too many and you’ll lose focus.
Now, keep your top three issues in mind as you head into the networking event. Remember, the goal of your networking is to solve these problems, get help solving them, or simply get some ideas about how to deal with them. You may not meet someone who can actually solve these, but you may meet someone who has encountered them before. Steer the conversation toward these issues. They may help you get over that awkward situation in which you’ve introduced yourselves and aren’t sure what more to talk about. You can say something like “So, you folks do a lot of project work, how do you find your meetings?” or “What kind of servers do you run in there?”
Now, let’s think about human-based goals. The purpose of networking is, of course, to build a human network. You talk to people, and your network grows. You talk to more people, and your network grows even more. That’s great, but if your purpose heading into a networking event is very general, like “talking to people,” then how do you know whether you’ve been successful? Setting specific goals will help you get more done and measure your success, especially if you feel you’re not very good at networking.
Put numbers to your goals. Set targets, just as you might for sales or other important business basics. For example, perhaps you decide that you will make three soft contacts and one excellent contact. Or maybe you decide to tell five people about your company’s new product. Or maybe you aim simply to pass out 10 business cards. Whatever the specific goal is, it will help you focus your efforts. Chatting for 30 minutes about baseball with a former co-worker may qualify as “talking to people,” but it’s not necessarily the best use of your networking time.
Right, that’s all for today. Happy networking. And don’t forget to tune in next week, when we’ll have a look at network maintenance. Fascinating stuff. Bye for now.