J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing. Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.
Why network? For many people who fail at effective networking skills, the honest level of interest in others is the main opportunity killer. Simply going through the motions of meeting new people and aggregating contact information does not convert networking into a high payoff activity. Networking events are opportunities to make real personal connections with people you would consider as friends while you compare ideas about business.
We gain in the short term. Soon after we first meet a new business contact we can take the first step of storing their contact information in a database. Being certain to take some notes on the back of a business card, use your reminders to remember something about the person you met. After meeting you might send a short e-mail with an attached note about you or the services you provide. It is a good idea, when first exchanging contact information through e-mail, to ask or acknowledge who may be a good referral or what business opportunities you might spot later and be in touch.
We gain in the long term. After time we notice that some contacts’ names appear before us with greater frequency. Some, on social networks, and others in e-mail marketing newsletters. Often times we haven’t seen the contact in person since we started receiving all their electronic correspondence. Why not pick up the phone from time to time? By calling a contact when you are reminded of them while busy in another activity, you show them you remember something about them that jogged your memory. At that point you may casually chat about “How is business?”
Don’t be a card collector. Nobody likes the 30 second introduction, card exchange (hand-off), and run approach to making new business relationships. When you sit down and transfer the data from the cards you collected, try to look at each card and picture the person who gave it to you. If you can’t, are you sure you should really keep their contact information? Take the time at networking events to make lasting impressions. Don’t give your card out to everyone you meet, see if they appear interested in staying in touch, and if so, then give out a business card.
Entering conversations is a learned skill. If two people are already talking, you can tell if they look interested in their conversation to the point you don’t want to bother them, and if so, don’t. Seasoned networkers will notice other people nearby who may want to say hello. Often being mindful, savvy networkers will keep one on one conversations short so they can meet new people. Don’t worry, you’ll likely get the chance to meet everyone you want if you’re patient.