5 Key Ingredients to Maximize Your Networking Skills

To improve your networking skills, you must first understand why you're networking

Networking

We’ve all been there once before—we arrive at an event, ready to make connections and find our next job or newest client, only to discover we have no plan with which to do this.

Sometimes, if you are skilled at being able to scan the room and identifying who would rank among the top three people you would desire to network with works. But, having a systematic approach to doing so is the best option.

I spoke with my long-time friend, David Wilson on the subject. A business owner and entrepreneur, Wilson, who is managing principal of Spendown Finance, a small and mid-size business funding company in Richmond, VA, is the author of I Hate Networking Events. With almost 20 years of networking experience under his belt, Wilson has leveraged his networking skills to find new business, make new connections, and build new relationships. He uses a combination of practical advice, real-life personal stories, and laugh-out-loud humor to teach, coach, and help his readers, clients, and mentees.

To prepare for our conversation, I took a peek at his book and quickly realized it was actually a concise and humorous guide to help people custom-design their own networking event plan, to prepare them for the next networking opportunity.

Wilson and I agreed that it is important to understand and know your “WHY.” Why you are networking? Are you looking for new prospects? Are you seeking strategic partners, or perhaps, do you desire a new job?

He also shared five key components that should be considered, when trying to become more strategic about your networking approach. Check them out below, and be on your way to becoming one of the best networkers at any event:

  1. On how to set networking goals: “Think about how many events you can attend in a week, month, or quarter. How many new connections do you want to make?
  2. On choosing which events to attend: “There’s the Chamber of Commerce, BNI, and local membership organizations. Know where the opportunities to network are for your industry.”
  3. On how to make a plan BEFORE your networking event: “If you know the people you’re looking to meet ahead of time, you’ll make better use of your time when you arrive.”
  4. On what to do DURING the networking event: “Learn how to maximize your efforts, be efficient, meet the people you reached out to prior to the event, and prepare to follow through.”
  5. On how to follow through AFTER the event: “Schedule your time to do what you said you would do, and set your EPSM, [which stands for ‘exploring possible synergies meetings’], to build your new relationships.