I think lately the whole craze has been about "networking" in the business world. Or maybe it was always like that and I've been camping out on Mars. Personally I've tried it a couple times and it seems to not really be my "thing". Maybe that's why I'm not doing the sales calls for my company right now :) [thank you Julien]
But I think when someone calls a meeting a networking event it instinctively tells me that it's rare to develop a real business relationship at the event. The thing about networking is you get a ton of follow up calls from people who don't really know what they want from you and what you can give them.
I've had meetings where I sat through most of them with my pen poised ready to write down whatever "synergies" were proposed by the person sitting across from me in the initial email to set up the meeting. Of course, most of the time the piece of paper remained blank.
It's partly my bad for not having clarified with the other party once I visited their website and realized there were probably minimal (read: ZERO) synergies to be realized. But who knows? I had attended those meetings with fingers-crossed hoping they saw something that I totally missed.
So...what are some effective tips that you use to make sure networking works?
I know that following-up with the right people at the right time is key. Julien and I probably got 500 phone calls from companies that saw us at a conference last month, when we told them it might be better to connect again in half a year. Maybe they interpreted that as..."let's keep calling them at 6am in the morning until the half year point". Oh great.
Another thing is to know what you want. How can they help you? How can you help them? If you have REAL answers to both of these questions (ie. the answers are tied with some money-making ideas/actions) THEN you can go ahead and set up a phone meeting first. Don't waste time meeting in person. I can't tell you how much time is wasted on commuting to and from meetings (plus all that caffeine intake from cafe meetings can't be healthy right? I once had 6 mochas in a day and I usually don't drink caffeine at all - I was wired).
If you have other tips you can share with our readers, do post it in our comments! :)