Seven Ways to Grow Your Network

A businessman growing his network at a professional event Custom Development Solutions

In order to grow your network, it’s important to create great relationships and expand the influence and reach of your organization. But this process doesn’t just happen; you have to make a consistent effort at it. You need to be with the people who can help to shift the power balance in favor of your organization, share information about your organization, and let them get to know you.

When it comes to effective networking, you should have a game plan in mind before you even accept an invitation to an event. That way, you can maximize your efforts.

Whether you’re targeting potential donors or clients or simply meeting new people, here are seven ways to grow your network that you can put into practice today.

1. Follow Event Etiquette

You should always arrive at a networking event early. This is when some of your best contacts will be made. Be one of the last to leave as well. Remember to dress appropriately to make a great first impression.

You can’t shake hands, give out your card, or write a note when your hands are full of crudités and a cocktail. That’s why you get there early, eat, grab a drink, then keep your hands free for the rest of the event.

2. Have a Clear Objective

Why are you at this event? Have you targeted potential donors or clients? Set some goals for yourself. During each networking event, try to meet a certain number of new people (aim for 5-10 to start). Set a target number of follow-up appointments (2-3 coffee/lunch meetings).

3. Promote Yourself and Your Organization

Wear a name tag with your name and organization in plain view. Remember, your name tag goes on your right lapel. Make sure you write your name legibly and large enough so no one has a hard time reading it.

Practice a 15, 30, and 60-second summary statement about what you do. You won’t get any more time than that to get your message across. Let people know what you have to offer through your elevator pitch. 

If two of you are representing the same organization, each of you should have a message. Don’t just say, “Oh, I’m with CDS, too.” If you have the opportunity to increase the frequency of your message, do it! Don’t be afraid. You have a message people want to hear! Go up to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself; start a conversation.

4. Listen

The best networkers are the best listeners. You impress contacts by showing you’re interested in them and in their organization. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, so stand back and listen. By listening you already know more about them than the person next to you.

Eye contact is extremely important. If your eyes are darting all over the room then they will feel like you don’t care about what they are saying and will interpret that as being rude. 

5. Use Business Cards

Hand out (and collect!) as many business cards as you can comfortably carry. Keep your card separate from those you have received. 

Have a pen with you. On the back of the business card you just collected, write down why you collected that person’s card, and what the follow-up should be. If you have a hard time remembering names, include a little fact about the person you just spoke with that will help you remember them in the future.

6. Work the Room

Concentrate on quality contacts, not on quantity. You won’t be able to meet everyone, but if you follow your plan, you’ll meet with the right people. Explore with another person how you can support each other’s ideas, missions, and goals. If a conversation gets tired, end it gracefully. 

Do not wait for someone to suggest what they can do for you; instead, propose how you might help your new contact. Don’t keep score! Avoid the “who did what for me” syndrome. Ask questions that will help you find out how you can develop a relationship with them. Make them realize that they need your services.

Talking to one person for a long time can be counterproductive. If the conversation is one that you feel should be continued, make an appointment for coffee or lunch and move on to another person. Don’t spend too much time with people you already know, except to introduce them to your new contacts.

And several key points to keep in mind:

  • Don’t gossip; this is a killer, and always gets back to you.
  • Don’t barge into conversations; wait to be introduced or welcomed into the group.
  • Watch your consumption of caffeine and alcohol; you’re on the clock, representing your organization.

7. It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You

Since you have done all of the hard work of meeting people, sharing information about what you can offer, and maybe even making some tentative appointments for another day, it’s important to keep your contacts up to date. Surprise your contacts by e-mailing them the next day and following that up with a hand-written note!

Following these tips will allow you to grow your professional network more effectively. Your job now is to discover how they can get to know you and your organization even better. Then get ready to go out and build even more relationships!


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