I won’t hold you in suspense. Do you want to know the number one rule of networking? The number one rule of networking is to know why you’re attending an event, why you’re there. Okay, so you get that. It’s obvious, and you’re a little disappointed in my answer, but before you click out of this post, I want to ask you a question. How many networking events have you attended where you had no idea why you were there? Yea, me too. I’ve been to more networking events when I didn’t have a plan other than catching up with friends or indiscriminately handing out cards than I want to admit.

Just Showing up to an Event Isn’t a Plan

Hey, I’m not throwing any stones here, over the years my number one plan for attending networking events was to show up and see what happened. And what’s interesting to me is that this non-plan seemed reasonable. Would I show up on a sales call without a presentation? How about giving a talk, would I open my mouth and see what came out? I even have a list for the grocery, don’t you? But tell the truth has your networking plan been like mine, no plan?

What Do You Want?

Before attending any networking event ask yourself why you’re going and what you want. Are you seeking customers, looking for a job, or hoping to connect with a vendor? Building a networking event plan begins with recognizing what you want or need.

Who Can Help?

Have you ever looked at the list of attendees with your reason for attending in mind? For example, if you’re looking for a job, who on the list could connect you with opportunities for employment? Or who is a potential customer that has a problem you can solve? Begin your networking event plan by focusing on who can help you with your needs and wants.

What Will You Say?

The key here is to begin a conversation, and you do that by getting others to talk. Yes, you should introduce yourself share your need and want and then take it one step further, “Ultimately, the goal of the elevator pitch is to continue the conversation. What would intrigue others to talk with you more? What do people want to talk about? I believe people usually want to talk about themselves and their organizations. What are the last five words of my elevator pitch?

“How may I help you?”

Our marketing team attended an event with a potential customer. We knew they’d just started using social media in their business. We explained our newest service, and its benefits. Then, we offered to share our experience with them on using social media in business. We spent the rest of our time discussing how to use social media, and how it could help them. A few days later, they contacted us about a national signage project.” — Do We Need One More How to Write an Elevator Pitch?

The Number One Rule of Networking, and number two, three, four …

There are other important aspects to consider such as, what events to attend, what to bring, and even what to wear, but it begins with knowing what you want, who can help you, and what to say to them, and that’s the first rule of networking.

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How Can I Help? 

I’d always considered myself an effective networker. I’m friendly, easy to talk to, and I’ve never met a stranger. However, none of that makes me a good networker – it makes me outgoing. If I wanted to be the most effective networker I could be, I needed a plan. That’s how my networking workbook, Help Networking started.

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a  management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.