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Motivation Strategies Meetings Update Edition - March 2006 (excerpt)

Career Strategist: How to Network Effectively

Career Strategist: How to Network Effectively

Meeting planners are often responsible for organizing networking events, yet when it comes to their own industry associations or local chamber of commerce events, many aren’t as effective as they could be when it comes to networking. “I suggest people establish some goals for the effort,” says Barry Zweibel, executive coach and president of GottaGettaCoach. “[Pledge to] meet five or six new people, for example. Another goal might be to reconnect with people you’ve already met,” he suggests.

Many would-be networkers get stuck because they can’t think of what to say. Zweibel points out, “In your job, there’s always a to-do list, [and] anything on that list becomes grist for the networking mill.” Just accomplish something major? Interested in learning about something with which you’re unfamiliar? Bring it up, Zweibel says. Maybe the person you’re talking to could use your insight, or maybe they’re an expert in the topic you’re looking to learn more about. Another mistake many professionals make is not thinking about networking until they need something. Good networkers know that connections go both ways, Zweibel says, so be on the lookout for people you can help out now.

Now, what about staying in touch? This can be tricky; planners’ often-hectic travel schedules can make it tough to stay on top of the deluge of work-related e-mail. Deciding how much of a priority networking contacts should be is a delicate balance. “It’s an unrealistic expectation that you’ll be able to stay in touch with everyone,” Zweibel says. “To work properly, networking needs to be in balance.” Try to arrange an initial follow-up phone chat, coffee or even lunch to find out how much you have in common with each contact, personally and professionally. Have a lot in common? Drop them an e-mail on a monthly basis. For a more tenuous connection, quarterly is fine, Zweibel says. “It’s always helpful if you can find more things you have in common. Once you know a little bit about the person, you can start looking for ways to help them,” he advises, which will make them more likely to lend you a hand if the need arises. For instance, if they’re just setting up a home-based business and you run across an article in a business magazine about how to do just that, send it to them with a quick note. For more information about networking, go to www.ggci.com.