by Ed Gandia
I have a confession to make: I'm not a fan of networking
functions. In fact, although I spent a great part of my career
in sales and consider myself a fairly social person, I prefer
more intimate settings and more one-on-one interaction rather
than large meet-and-greet events.
If you're a master networker and can work a room like a pro, by
all means, do your thing. But if you're not a natural at this, I
have a few ideas that will make networking a very valuable
Focus Your Efforts
First off, it's essential to focus your efforts. Going to every
networking breakfast and joining every leads club in town is
counterproductive -- and completely insane! You'll be spreading
yourself too thin.
Instead, stick to a couple organizations and get involved as
much as possible in each one. Begin your search by selecting no
more than six organizations. Attend a few of their events and
meetings, and see which ones you truly like.
Focus on organizations loaded with potential prospects in your
chosen specialty or target market. At a minimum, concentrate on
organizations whose members would understand the value of your
services and could potentially hire you.
When you have a really good feel for each of these organizations
and the type of people who attend its meetings and events,
narrow your list to no more than two or three (sometimes just
one organization is all you need) and become a member.
For me, the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) has been a
wonderful group to get involved in. Because my target market is
software and technology companies, this is a prospect-rich
audience. Plus, TAG gives me exposure in my local market.
In addition to focusing your networking efforts on only a couple
organizations, I've also learned that it pays to go deep within
By "deep" I mean getting truly involved. Don't just attend the
meetings. Join the board. Get involved in some of the
committees. Volunteer and help out in any way possible.
Frankly, you can't expect to get to know prospects over coffee
and doughnuts at the occasional meet-and-greet. If you truly
want to develop meaningful relationships -- and if you want
prospects to get to know you -- you need to serve on a committee
or a board with them. Giving generously of your time is the best
way to do that.
For instance, for years I was a member of the TAG Marketing
Society's board. For a number of years I also served as the
chairman for, and adviser to, the annual "TAMY Awards" --
Georgia's technology marketing awards.
This volunteer position enabled me to get to know potential
clients and partners. It also gave me name recognition. And it
helped me, both directly and indirectly, land a significant
amount of work.
Truthfully, the work I've landed as a result of my involvement
with TAG has come from a genuine desire to help out and make a
difference first -- from putting together great meetings for the
members and memorable awards ceremonies for the local technology
I've discovered that when your efforts are motivated by sheer
joy, people recognize that you're not just doing this to promote
your business. You're doing it because you want to make a
Think Long Term
Finally, think of networking as a long-term investment in your
business. Most of the benefits won't come overnight. They'll
take time and often come when you least expect them.
And surprisingly, when you need them most!
So don't expect a miracle from attending one meeting. Focus, go
deep, put in the time and effort, and you'll see results in due