Building a network is a long-term approach to business and profile development — it won’t happen overnight and you don’t need to meet everyone in your city in a week. Consistent, persistent effort is the most effective approach.
Here are some tips that can help you manage your calendar and get results:
Pacing is important:
Set manageable expectations for your lifestyle and your work responsibilities. Three one-on-one get-connected meetings per week along with one public event or association meeting for 45 weeks a year is very doable and a bare minimum if you are in public relations, sales, an executive position or working from home.
Alternatively, cramming 10 events into one week and expecting to manage the contacts made during those events is not as doable — unless you have no other responsibilities.
Look at your calendar as a whole month, rather than day-by-day:
You may be out two or three nights in a row, but that can be balanced by several nights in a row at home. When your schedule is meeting heavy, be sure to plan a meeting-free power day in the office with no interruptions. This will help you catch up on lagging e-mails and tasks on your to-do list.
Consider last year’s calendar:
What events did you attend? Which were worthwhile? Which ones would you like to attend again?
Ask your networking mentors where they will be. Returning will give you an advantage as you’ll likely know people in the room already.
Review the top events in your area:
No matter where you live, there will be 10 to 20 must-attend events each year. Know which ones these are and plug them into your calendar first.
Be strategic about where you’re investing your time:
Where are the people in your target market spending their time? Who are the contacts you would like to meet? What causes/events are your top clients supporting?
Manage the contacts you make by following up and scheduling one-on-one time with them so can you genuinely connect.
Meeting a person in passing and not taking the relationship to the next level will rob you of opportunities to succeed with your networking.
Q: Now that I’m involved in the community, everyone wants a piece of me. My business is growing because I’m meeting so many new potential clients, but as much as I feel obligated I can’t keep up. What do I do?
— CINDY, Woodstock, Ont.
Dear Cindy: Getting involved and making genuine connections means that more people will know who you are and that you are someone who can deliver. That means more people will ask you to participate.
It’s important to set your boundaries. How many hours a week are you willing to commit to the community, to networking, to your business and to your family?
First thing is to decide how you want to split your 24 hours each day. Once that’s determined, you’ll know your capacity to say yes and when to say no.
It’s difficult to say no, but it’s better to under commit and give 100% than to spread yourself too thin. If appropriate, defer to another year or recommend an associate who would be a good fit.