Networking for some comes easy. For others it is a challenge to walk into a room of strangers and start a conversation. Here are 6  easy steps to making the most of a networking event and walking away with quality contacts.

  1. Show up: Networking is all about relationships and relationships are built over time. By attending events regularly people will start to recognize you in a crowd. It also give you a chance to connect with contacts made at previous events. (See *take notes below.)
  1. Set a goal: Before you go to a networking event answer this question “What do I hope to get out of this event?” Setting goals for yourself will keep you focused. Your goal will likely not to be to wander aimlessly and eat too many meatballs.
  1. Everyone is here to network: Reminding yourself that each person in the room is there for the same reason is important to your success. Often times people assume that everyone in the room knows each other. While some do, most are there to make new connections and solidify existing ones. People came to the event just to meet you. Now go say hi.
  1. Be yourself: Networking events for the most part are in a relaxed setting. For some reason people forget who they are and instead show up as the networking robot version of themselves. All facts and data with no personality. Think about the you that you are with your closest friends at work. It is a good blend of professionalism and being real. The real you is the person your family and coworkers like the most. Why be anyone else? Dave Martin – EVP and Chief Development officer for FSI said it best “Make a friend. Make a customer.”
  1. Ask questions and Take notes: Listening is key to being a good networker. Remembering specific details will make you great. *Taking notes on their business card to use in your follow up will set you apart.
  1. Follow up: Most people the day after a networking event take the cards from the previous day and rubber band them with the other 200 on their desk. Others send out LinkedIn invites in bulk. But not you, they get a personal email from you. It thanks them for their time and highlights one of the notes you made after your conversation. After making the connection you note that a VCard is attached and to simply click save.

Networking is a powerful tool for job seekers, sales/service professionals, and community leaders. So is networking that easy? It is, but the best networking will not offset your value proposition. Before you venture out make sure that it is with the goal of making a positive difference in the lives of the people you will meet. You may only get one chance to make a connection that will propel your business. Products and services attract people, but who you are and what you do is what creates long lasting relationships.

 Bonus Tip: Give Back – Once you become a networking pro find a newcomer and mentor them. Not only will they be blessed, but so will you.

Danny DelarosaDanny DeLaRosa is Market VP of United Federal Credit Union, but sees himself as a servant Leader that enjoys making a difference in this company and community. He can be found at various community events from RTYPN to WIN to the Chamber. Boss, mentor and all around great guy, look for Danny at events and be sure to say ‘Hi!’.