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The Four P's of Great Networking
By Rob Brown

In developing your career and your business, it is no good being the best kept secret in the world. Unfortunately, many people see networking as a prime way to increase their visibility and embark on a networking frenzy without giving too much thought to a proper strategy. As a result, they attend many events only to find progress is slow, results are haphazard and tracking a return on their investment is difficult.

 

Despite these good intentions, many people fail to capitalise on the real benefits of networking because of lack of planning and strategy means they network in the wrong way at the wrong events with the wrong people.

Your time is precious, and every breakfast, lunch or evening event takes a good two hours out of your existing clients and customers, your loved ones, your marketing and your inbox. This is why you have to make it count. To help you, here are the four Ps - four steps to making sure you get the most from your networking:

PREPARATION. This means having the right attitude, setting the right networking goals and doing the right research to ensure you mean the right people. These are all part of preparing yourself to network productively and confidently.

PLACES. Networking doesn’t have to be just confined to organised, regular networking clubs and events that you know about. Think about the conferences, trade shows, exhibitions and seminars that only take place once a year. Think about the company awards, evenings and celebrations that only happen every so often.

Think about all the informal situations you find yourself in, like gyms, clubs, school events, hotel foyers and parties. Networking opportunities can be found anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Think trains, planes, automobiles! Think sports events, social gatherings and queues of any kind.

Networking can be done anywhere where two or more people come together. So look to create opportunities to start conversations in all kinds of situations. Solicit invitations to the kind of events you want to go to. Get on databases and guest lists. Ask the opinion of the most networked people you know about where they go, how they do it and what they get from each event or situation.
For now, here are those precious 4P's of great networking...

PROFILE. What makes a good event for you? What is the profile of a perfect networking situation? What are you going to say when you get there? Do you want more business, more contacts, more alliances and partners, better suppliers, more referrals or more personal development? What kind of fish would you like to catch or swim with? Whatever they are, you’d better go where these fish are swimming!

PRIORITIES. Make the time to network with good time management, strong delegating, intelligent outsourcing and disciplined attendance. Very often, networking is a long term game, so attendance over time or a strong follow-up programme and conscientious diary management is usually required to bring you the results you desire.

Networking may not be the elixir for some people and some businesses. There is a certain peer pressure in the business community which says that ignoring networking is a danger because ‘everyone else is doing it’. If it is going to work, it must be done as part of a well-thought-out strategy. Even then, there is an element of ‘try before you buy’ or ‘suck it and see’. As a wise man once taught me, ‘If you don’t go, you’ll never know!’

Added: 6th December 2010

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