As the Founder of BNI, an international organization with hundreds of thousands of members globally, I am well aware of how we are sometimes overwhelmed by commitments and obligations. And I know firsthand how important it is to make the most of your time. Have you ever tried to get back an hour you spent on something that didn’t turn out well? It’s absolutely impossible. Since we all know we can’t retrieve an hour, much less a day, of our precious time, we obviously want to spend it as wisely and effectively as we can.
So, if you spent some of your time networking for your business, you would want to get a high return on your networking investment, right? Here are some tips to help you do just that.
1. Be “on” 24/7
Be on the top of your networking game all the time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Networking opportunities present themselves in the most unsuspected places and at various times of day. It helps to be prepared. Always have your business cards with you and have your response ready when someone asks you about what you do. Keep it succinct and memorable by giving a brief summary of your business.
2. Learn to play golf or something else
Challenge yourself to learn the game of golf or some other activity that aligns with your skills and interests. It’s true that a lot of business happens on the golf course. And it could just as easily happen on the badminton court, the soccer field or across a pool table. Even during these “fun” activities, always be prepared for networking opportunities.
3. Have purposeful meal meetings
Get more value out of your mealtime by having a meeting that includes a meal and a specific, meaningful purpose such as business networking. These meetings are strategic and results-oriented and can provide high value for your invested time. Remember:
- It’s not a break from work. It’s a way to build a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with each other.
- It’s not a time to have three martinis. It’s a time to teach three things about your business to a potential referral partner and learn about theirs.
- It’s not about trying out and critiquing new restaurants. It’s a way to help a colleague solve their problems.
4. First impressions count
Make sure you get off to a good start. Begin by taking a closer look at your appearance and your body language. Are they helping you start productive conversations? Or ending them before you can even say a word? Dress appropriately, smile when you meet someone, and maintain eye contact. Be relaxed and comfortable rather than rigid with your arms crossed. Always maintain a positive attitude.
5. Seek out a referral networking group and join a chamber of commerce
If you’re going to venture out and build a network, the first steps should be to seek out a referral networking group and a chamber of commerce to help network your business. These are strong interprofessional groups where participants typically get the majority of their business through referrals. Visit a few groups to get a feel for them and be selective when you make your commitments.
6. Sponsor and/or host select events
Find out how you can leverage sponsorship opportunities and specific events to position your business in front of key people. Of course, you need to take the initiative to do the research and make it happen. Hosting a successful business mixer can also be a powerful tool for fostering connections and expanding your professional network.
When you implement these strategies, you can strengthen your network and get more return on your business networking investment. You also increase your visibility within the community and, most importantly, you get the most value from the time you spend networking.
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