We have all been there. It’s a Thursday afternoon and you registered for a networking event in the city three months ago that looked very appealing at the time, but now you’re wavering. You’re facing an hour commute, garage parking and navigating a room full of strangers noshing on caprese salad on a stick. You keep trying to talk yourself into it by telling yourself “If something is worth doing it will be hard, if it’s not hard, then it’s probably not worth doing”.
What you should be telling yourself is that every networking event can present potential, unforeseen opportunities.
My favorite personal story demonstrates that if you take this approach, the rewards can be exponential. While attending a local networking program, although familiar with many of the attendees, I opted to introduce myself to a perfect stranger. Our conversation led us to the realization we had many goals in common. It didn’t happen overnight, but we eventually hired her as a consultant for a very successful project that has continued for years. Her long-term relationship with us led her to many expanded opportunities for her business as well.
It’s not the first time I’ve made these types of connections, I encourage you to take the leap, but I wouldn’t suggest replacing the traditional methods, either.
The first step to successful conventional networking is choosing the right event. Identify your reason for attending. Some networking events are designed purely around social platforms. Pickleball, Cornhole and Karaoke can be great fun, (and there is nothing wrong with having the occasional good time!) but may not be the best venue to share referrals, ideas, and information.
Other events typically offer an educational session that will most likely draw likeminded business associates, leaving less to chance on making meaningful connections. And by the way, a meaningful connection does not only mean receiving valuable business insight, but also sharing insight and making introductions for others. The adage “the more you give, the more you get” goes a long way in Business Development best practices.
If possible, find out who is attending before-hand. If the list is not on the event site, reach out to the organizer and politely request it. (Some event organizations may charge an additional fee) Announcing on Social Media that you are excited to be attending (be sure to tag the event hosts) will not only gain you favor by helping to create a buzz but will also provide opportunities through the comments generated. Follow up on those comments with a personal message letting them know you are looking forward to connecting.
Your networking success rides on how you come across in your first encounter, so hone up on your conversational skills! Have some clear and authentic conversation starters ready (besides the traffic and the weather), make eye contact, smile, give compliments, ask for advice (never pontificate) and listen actively. Move on gracefully after five to ten minutes. The best indicator that another attendee is open for conversation is by their body language. Look for 2 or 3 people who are standing in a manner that is open and welcoming, introduce yourself and ask if you can join in on the conversation.
Finally, learn to love networking. Building relationships through shared interests can make your efforts less self-promotional and lead to unexpected resources that may open opportunities to meet prospective mentors, partners and clients which, in turn, will foster your career and business development.
About the Author
LISA FRISBIE is the Vice President of Member Services at AGC MA.
As AGC MA Vice President of Member Services, Lisa directs and oversees membership activities for the association including the development of programs, initiatives, and communications policies designed to retain and increase membership. The V.P. of membership creates, updates, and distributes information to current members as well as prospective members.
Lisa is responsible for designing and implementing membership growth and retention strategy that aligns with AGC’s strategic objectives. She is also responsible for leading the development, implementation and evaluation of membership growth strategies, as well as day-to-day management of the AGC member engagement.
Through-out her 8 plus years with AGC MA, Lisa has contributed to the advancement of the industry through her work as the President of the Society of Marketing Professional Services, Advisory Committee member for the Policy Group on Tradeswomen Issues, the AGC of America Business Development Steering committee and the Wentworth Institute of Technology Industry Advisory Board. Lisa is the staff liaison for the AGC Building Women in Construction committee, the AGC Sustainability and Communications Advisory committee and the AGC Program committee