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I got nervous when I read the Entrepreneur piece about networking at events. It told me to “be organized and methodical with networking.”

“The right connections,” the magazine says, “will accelerate your company’s growth and encourage others to seek you out for business opportunities.

Organized and methodical is not my strong suit. But making connections is. And having conversations. That’s really what networking is about, isn’t it?

Who wants to go to an event and listen to a pitch, no matter how organized and methodical the pitch-person is?

So I was glad that Entrepreneur recommends against “writing yourself a monotonous script.” Because, they say, “You are there to discover a mutually beneficial relationship, not force one.”

When you go to a conference like Marquee or your basic local networking group, how do you discover those mutually beneficial relationships?

I find it helps to listen more than I talk. And to be pithy when I do speak. You’ve probably been trapped in one of those Me-me-me-I-I-I conversations where someone you just met is telling you chapter and verse of their business story. You start looking for an escape pretty quickly, don’t you?

If two people are already talking, it can be tough to break into their tête-a-tête. Much easier to find someone who’s alone and strike up a conversation. Chances are the person will be grateful. And receptive. You’ll also find it easier to join a group of three or more than a twosome.

Some people walk around an event thrusting their business card into every hand they can find. I’m much more selective.

Not that I’m hoarding my cards – they don’t do me much good sitting in that Moo box in my purse. But I like to wait until someone’s actually interested in me and a possible follow-up conversation and then exchange cards.

Entrepreneur suggests that you jot down notes on the backs of the cards you get to help you remember who you talked to … and about what. It’s a good idea and I almost never do it. I think I’m going to start.

I might ask people who sound like they want to know more about my work if I can send them my No-Buts Action Guide to Getting Up and Getting Your Message Out and my newsletter. It’s a good way to stay in touch and perhaps develop a relationship.

And I’m receptive to people who ask to stay in touch with me. I’m infuriated, though, by the louts who go back to the office and add me to their mailing list without permission.

It’s such bad form to gather up cards at a networking event and start spamming people. And it’s surprising how many business owners and professionals don’t know any better. Or don’t care.

Apart from an email campaign, of course, it’s good to follow up with the people we meet at networking events. This is where that “organized and methodical” thing really comes into play.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought a business card back to the office intending to follow up. But then it winds up in the pile of business cards. Under the pile of other stuff. And … well, you can guess what happens then. Not much.

A better strategy: make the effort shortly after you meet someone to further the relationship.

Social media’s one way to do that – use LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter to reconnect after an old-fashioned in-person introduction.

Sometimes I shoot off a quick email saying it was good to meet, maybe adding a link to an article I think the other person will find interesting or useful.

Whether you’re an accomplished schmoozer or a networking novice, post a comment about how you plan to make the most of the Marquee.


Catherine Johns is a catalyst and coach for business owners who use speaking and networking to attract clients and referrals. At her Marquee session, you’ll discover how to talk about your work more magnetically.     Read by Any Event Productions.