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Seven Approaches to Help You with Outside Networking this Summer

golfers-960917_1920Spring and summer is in the air and like most Canadians I can’t wait to spend time outdoors. I suspect you feel the same way. After living indoors all winter you are dreaming of those warm balmy summer days with the ever slight breeze, big blue open skies, the smell of food sizzling on the BBQ, your favorite ice cream and refreshments on your favorite patio. You may want to walk, run, hike, play a game of golf, or head out to your cottage. It is time to get outdoors and enjoy your world.

But wait, you and I (we) work for a living. You have a routine that includes going from your home-space to your workplace. It is the experience of going from indoors to indoors. You go to work and you see the same people, talk about the same things. You know what your life is like. It’s a work life of the same people network. Sometimes you have to just break up your workday, especially in spring and summer, and get outside. Blow off the office, the cobwebs and get out and meet new people. What better way to do that than attend an outdoor event that includes fun, people and networking opportunities.

Block It Out Now. This came from a business associate of mine over 14 years ago. She noticed in my planning and scheduling I never booked myself out – as in not available. My schedule would always be around work and little pleasures. She literally sat me down and had me pull out my schedule for the year and block out all the time I would not be available to work in my office. It included vacations, long weekends and special events. Like going golfing with friends. That was the start of changing my perspective on getting out of the office and meeting new people. We all have time we can block off for events, what time can you block for getting out there in the world?

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Have a Purpose for Being There:  I hate going to places for no reason. From my perspective there is no point. When I was a young professional I would have to attend networking events for the company I represented. I hated it. Why, because I had no purpose for being at the event except meet people. That never worked for me. Now when I attend an event I set some goals before I go. I create a purpose. My purpose is more outward focused seeking to answer the question, how can I help someone else. I have discovered that this works for me. What purpose could you have for going to networking events?

Go it Alone:  This one I really mean. I think it is far more powerful to go to an event alone than to go with your office friends. When you go with the people you see every day to events you will most likely only hang out with them. Don’t be afraid to go it alone. But include a purpose with going it alone. For example, maybe you want to meet new decision makers from other companies. Find out who they are ahead of time and make it a point of getting an introduction. Even if you go it alone you can still ask people in your network for an introduction to someone. The key here is to set yourself up so you are not always hanging out with the same people.

Join a New Team or New Table:  This one depends on the event that you are attending. I know a lot of people who love golf events like the ones hosted by your local professional association. These are great opportunities to meet people, join a team or sit at another table. I always find it interesting when diverse players come together to have fun, compete and most importantly create relationships. This is one you need to be comfortable with. I know for me, when I join a new team I like to get invited. Just saying.

Do Your Research and be Informed:  I touched on this thought briefly above but I think it deserves a bit more detail. If you are going to use ‘getting outdoors’ to events as an networking opportunity then you have limited time to make an impact. Do these few things before you go; check out the host’s background, the sponsors and people you are interested in meeting. This is especially important if you don’t know them. Social media is great for that purpose – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. For example, I am a Motorcycle buff. Turns out a CEO I wanted to meet posted on Facebook about a motorcycle trip he took that I would love to do. I knew I wanted to meet him. My purpose was to talk to him about the bike trip which in turn created a relationship. When you do your research it doesn’t always have to be about business. You can look for commonalities and personal interests. Sometimes that is the best way to network.

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Being Dressed for the Part:  This is one I think people struggle with because clothing is very personal as it is often about a statement of ourselves. Every personality has its unique style. I recall reading somewhere a long time ago you should always dress up for your next job, your next opportunity. I guess that could be true but I also think you need to dress for you so you are comfortable. There are some events where formal is right and there are other events where you can let your hair down and be as stylish or artsy as you want. One thing that you can do is find a conversation piece. This could include a unique glove, hat, shirt or whatever is appropriate. I know for me I am a man of many hats from baseball caps to fedoras with different styles for different seasons. The reason for originally was simple, protection from the sun. But as things progressed I started to wear different styles. Interestingly enough they have become conversation starters.

Cards for Business:  Even if you are getting out for a fun event bring some business cards that is what the traditional business networking list says. I have several thoughts on that topic. First, if you are going to bring business cards to give to people then do so with respect and receive cards with respect. Take a lesson from the Japanese on how to give and receive a business card – present and receive. Second, if you don’t carry cards chances are you have your smart phone. Don’t be afraid to get someone’s email or cell number and text them your coordinates. Third, bring something unique. It can be small. For example, I am an author so I carry bookmarks with me with a list on the back of the 10 steps of Strategic Planning. You could easily have something like that for your business, a small keepsake to hand out when needing to provide your coordinates to someone. I am not convinced that business cards in today’s world are always necessary. But you do need a way of sharing your coordinates, so make sure you have that prepared ahead of time.

The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity. Keith Ferrazzi Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts:  Networking for the sake of networking is one of those things I think a lot of business leaders and professionals dread. You hear it often in the phrase, not another networking event. The event itself can be a necessary evil as you have to go do it. Maybe it’s the other way around. You feel you can’t go because you have too much work to do – indoors. Really, during the spring and summer, it is important to get and meet new people. It really just comes down to blocking time, figuring out purpose and then layering on the other components of networking. The truth is most people want a few things from an event; enjoyment, meaningful conversations and to create relationships. All you have to do is pick your events to attend, add in some preparation and get outside and be yourself. Good luck.

Remember, do your best, invest in the success of others and make your journey count. Richard.

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