In February, you may be thinking of the important relationships in your life – and planning to give them some extra attention. By all means, treat your sweetie right on February 14. During the other 27 days of the month, we suggest you dedicate yourself to strengthening your professional relationships. Whether you are looking for new clients, increased exposure, a fruitful partnership, or additional hands at your firm, proactive and strategic networking can get you there.
How do you create valuable new connections and maximize the potential of your existing relationships? Professional organizations are a great place to start. Here are our top five suggestions to get you off on the right foot:
1. Check out your options.
Start by doing your research on a variety of relevant organizations. Consider which will benefit you most. Look for opportunities to be in front of potential clients, or to meet those who can provide referrals. Be realistic, and take into account the location and expense of the organization’s events, as well as the size of its local chapter.
We suggest that you attend events at a handful of organizations to get a feel for which are the best fit with you, your goals, and your personality. Once you determine that, you can focus your energy on one or two.
2. Gather your motivation.
After working all day, you may not feel motivated to attend an event. Let’s face it: showing up is half the battle. Just remember, if you don’t show up, you’ll never know what you missed!
3. Start talking.
When you arrive at the event, approach one person or a small group and strike up a conversation. If you feel nervous, remember that everyone else in the room shares your purpose – to meet new people. Need some conversation-starters? Here are a few tips from Fast Company.
As you mingle, be sure to keep your conversation light and positive. Don’t dive straight into business topics – even when you’re networking, your conversation should be about life (90%) and business (only 10%). Beware of sharing any details that are too personal. Overall, be memorable! If you came to the event with a friend or coworker, be sure to break apart and mingle separately for part of the evening – you’re more likely to create a meaningful connection and make new acquaintances if you’re on your own.
4. Follow up.
After the event, stay in touch with your new contacts. Send an e-mail to follow up on something you discussed, connect with them on LinkedIn, or share an article you think will be useful. Remember, it takes three to five touch points, on average, to form a relationship.
5. Take it to the next level!
In order to get the most out of your participation in any professional organization, we suggest you join a committee. This gives you the opportunity to truly engage with others in the organization. If you can, try to participate in a panel or speaking event, as well.
Invest now in your business relationships, and you’ll see the benefits bloom with the spring flowers!
Posted by Beth Connolly