Unfortunately, I had to miss the Women in Consulting San Francisco meeting the other night. The program topic was one that’s near and dear to my heart. Why? I was one of thousands of marketers laid off in Silicon Valley in 2001. I had worked with many people over the years, but I had contact with only a small number of them. I had not participated in industry organizations, so my connections were limited.
And now I needed a job. As it turned out I ended up starting my own consulting business. But it took me a long time to establish a network, because consulting work is almost always referral-based.
The Women in Consulting topic the other night was “Develop Your Network BEFORE You Need It.” The speaker, Kristy Rogers, was named “The Royal Schmoozer 2006” by the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. I’m sure she knows plenty about networking.
Here are a few thoughts of my own on the topic:
- Hone a 25-word description of what you do for customers [not just "what you do”] and why you’re different from other similar businesses. Practice saying it out loud!
- Find and attend networking events where people with simiilar or complementary interests to yours meet. Take plenty of business cards.
- At an event, approach groups of three people who are talking. It’s much easier to join a group of three because there’s at least one person who isn’t talking and who will notice your presence.
- Exchange business cards with anyone who appears interested in what you do, and follow up with a “Glad to meet you” email after the fact.
- Work at remembering names. Use whatever mnemonic trick works for you. People are always knocked out when you meet them later and remember their names.
If you don’t have a strong business network and you’re starting (or planning to start) a business, get busy now — establish that network before you need it!