(Excerpt from an article in The Monthly Magazine for Canadian Entrepreneurs Canadian Entrepreneurs PROFIT, By Laura Pratt, November 2001)
No one has the time, knowledge or resources to deal with every opportunity that arises, every crisis that rears its head. So – who can you call in your time of need? The answer should come easily if you’ve been building your personal network. Networking is one of the CEO’s most important exercises today, says Toronto-based corporate trainer Colleen Clarke. “If you want to be a success in business, you need resources – you need contacts,” says Clarke, who in 1990 founded the Executive Advancement Resource Network (EARN), a successful networking group for unemployed business people. “The more people you know who do different things, or who have different talents or skills, the better they make you look and the easier they make your life.”
How to Make the Most of Your Networking Opportunities:
Today’s conference or cocktail reception will bear more fruit if you set a specific networking goal, says Colleen Clarke, a networking expert in Toronto. Aim to leave the function with the name, for instance, of someone who can run your next marketing campaign, give you a discount on office supplies or introduce you to their favorite banker.
Drinks on the Left
Keep your right hand free for quick and easy handshakes. If possible, eat before the crowds arrive.
Have a Pickup Line
Think of a standard icebreaker that you can count on when nothing else springs to mind. Keep your foot out of your mouth by staying positive, with personal observations such as “Wasn’t that a great speech?”
Prepare your pitch
Develop a succinct and compelling 30-second introduction that tells people what you do and offers clues about what you’re looking for and what you have to offer. Follow up with an open-ended question designed to engage your new friend (“So, what seminars have you attended today?”).
Move In, Move On
Limit each networking experience to five to seven minutes. “Find out if they’ve got what you need, and move on,” says Clarke. If you can help one another, exchange contact info and try to arrange a follow-up call or meeting. Make a few notes on the back of their business card (“Needs a new sales manager. Is a big hockey fan”) for future reference.