5 tips to be more timely and time-efficient with your networking
TIME!

It’s the main excuse we use for reducing or removing networking events from our diaries.

For not pursuing quality follow up steps with people we meet.

And for reducing opportunity moment when we attend events.

I’d like to share 5 top tips regarding time and networking in a quick fire Q&A style format based on some of the questions I’m asked the most.

1. How often should we network?

The simple answer is, as much as you have the capacity for (inclusive of follow up steps) and provided it aligns with your Networking Why.

I’m not advocating that we should all turn into networking tarts, zipping around events morning, noon and night, and scatter-gunning business cards everywhere. Consistent visibility is key to building your networking identity. But attending a lot of events doesn’t make you better at it. And not following up doesn’t do much for reputation and relationship building. You need enough time for both the event and the follow up. I know when I’m not networking effectively because I have too many follow ups on my list. That’s when I adjust the frequency and volume of activity.

So, if networking – in-person or of the social / online variety – is the relationship-marketing and engagement technique you’ve identified as best for your business to build quality connections, obtain business support and knowledge, and generating business leads, then build enough time into your diary to fulfil your networking goals.

PS. Once a month is not enough IMHO!

2. How quickly should we follow up after meeting someone?

It’s nice to follow up quickly whilst conversations and names are fresh in mind. But, let’s be realistic here, we are all busy people and work and personal deadlines can arise from nowhere sometimes.

Often we worry that too much time has passed since a particular event or meeting or connection with someone. We meet someone, ideas spark, we plan to follow up, and then we all get busy and we don’t follow up. The statistics I’ve kept on follow-up behaviour are POOR.

But, we’re all busy and we all get it.

PLEASE don’t NOT follow up, just because time has passed. Broker it with humour and honesty – “I’m sure like me you’ve been crazy busy this last few days/weeks/months, but I enjoyed meeting you / I was keen for our conversation about xyz to continue”.

However long it takes you though, do it the right way. A strong follow up strategy usually includes several steps (I won’t go down that rabbit-hole just now) and you need to offer relevance and perceived value to the recipient, besides of course identifying yourself properly if your encounter was fleeting.

Few people like an unsolicited sales pitch, unless they’re shopping (you need to know that already ideally). Fewer like automated messages. And even fewer like being added to your database without permission. Think through what you wish to say and offer before you begin. The magic happens afterwards so follow up

The magic of networking is NOT just what happens AT an event or IN the room. It is what happens AFTER an event and OUTSIDE of the room.

So give that your time too!

3. Should we still post about an event or networking experience if time has elapsed?

I am often late to the after-networking-party with my comments. Sometimes it’s because I’m organising or hosting, more often it’s because I’ve had time out of the business and now need to catch up.

As an example, I recently ran IWD2024 event. I posted about it a week afterwards as I was thick in the middle of delivering the event – and follow up steps. I posted when everyone else had finished talking about it. Was I late to the party though or too late to comment. I don’t believe so. You see, some people post quickly, caught up in the energy of the moment. They may have mentioned you too. But it can sometimes get lost in the flurry of posts. Time for a little space and reflection isn’t always a bad thing. And time to connect with the people you might wish to mention too. Plus, I’d argue that engaging with other people’s posts and comments is perhaps much more valuable use of time as a follow up action that can expose you to the contacts of other networks, not just those in your own post’s reach.

So, yes, post late if need be (albeit with some adjustment). If you have something to say that you think/hope might be valuable to your connections (or that you just need to get off your chest), then say it! It’s your material / social account / wall / thread;

Oh, and when you do post about that networking experience, involve those you met. They were with you, they might like to know what you thought or felt. And the event organiser will definitely be glad of your feedback too, however long after the day it is.

4. How do we fit in more networking?

One of the best ways to maximise your networking time, meet more people and ensure follow up 1-to-1s, is to arrange to meet people before or after the next meet-up of a particular network’s event.

If you’ve both attended and enjoyed an event, chances are you’ll be returning. So, get time-efficient with your networking diary and arrange to tag on a coffee or cuppa before or after.

Of, if you’ve got new connections on your list for possible follow up and you know they’re based near to events or locations you visit, they plan your diary to factor them in then. Maybe even invite them along to an event with you if you think the content might appeal.

Failing all else, or if geography and time really are an issue, then plenty of online meeting tools exists. A Zoom or Teams 1-to-1 or even a phone call is better than doing nothing at all.

Networking cuppa’s as I call them are invaluable. But you need to arrange a lot of cuppa’s, virtual or otherwise, and also realise that not everyone will be your cup of tea, nor you, theirs.

5. How do we build in more small-talk time?

This is a really simple and obvious tip but one I see being missed all the time.

Opportunities for small talk exist before, during and after events. Those moments in the cloakroom, at the drinks station, or in the car park or lift are golden opportunities to chat. And by chat, I don’t mean elevator pitches but simply H2H, human-to-human, small-talk.

The main reasons people skip the before and after “open networking” parts of an event are usually two-fold.

a). People are busy so they arrive late or leave early.

We all do it. I do too. But I try not to do both at the same event. It’s flitty, it’s uncommitted, and you’ll not get the benefit of some of the magic that happens when folk relax and chat as themselves; and

b). People feel uncomfortable with small talk

Maybe we need a little reminder here that there’s a lot about business that can be uncomfortable but also that everyone is in the same boat. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is a cliché but a useful one here.

Regardless of name badges or apparent stations or job titles, we are all on the same level as people with something potentially interesting or valuable to share. Keeping an open mind to what might happen can go a long way to helping with any nerves during the small chat stage. No one is looking a for best friend or expecting a hot lead to land in their lap in entry to the room. We’re simply scratching the surface of a new relationship. There are multiple layers and many stages ahead.

The magic of networking is NOT just what happens AT an event or IN the room. It is what happens AFTER an event and OUTSIDE of the room.

So let’s give ourselves a little more time! Before, during and after the event or connection moment to embrace and nurture more networking opportunities.

Don’t let time be your networking enemy – or your networking excuse!

MORE INFO

Kirsty James is a networking, relationship-marketing and connections expert with a track record in supporting people to ‘Connect with Purpose’. Kirsty specialises in effective business communication and relationship-marketing using the power of networking to enable personal and business growth and community engagement. Offering networking skills training, workshop facilitation, event hosting and speaking, and marketing project management.

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