For entrepreneurs, networking should be a constant process. But how can you find time to cultivate new relationships — and retain existing ones — when you’re busy running a business, taking care of family matters and fulfilling other commitments? Here are some ideas to consider:
1) Meet first thing in the morning. Early morning get-togethers tend to end on time since people usually have to get to the office, or move on to other meetings. Bonus suggestion: Stick to coffee only, so you aren’t waiting for a slow breakfast order to arrive.
2) Be selective. Sometimes people accept invitations to business or social events out of habit or because “everyone else is going.” Unless you absolutely have to endure them, avoid events that you know are a waste of time. Learn to say no.
3) Do some homework. Review the program and obtain an attendance list before the event. By the time you arrive, you’ll already know the expected timetable, which sessions you want to attend, and who you’d most like to meet.
4) Join a LinkedIn group (or two). These virtual forums provide a way to meet like-minded professionals without leaving your office. Limit your participation to groups that are well-managed, active and relevant to your business.
5) Use video conferencing. Why not follow up with a prospective client or someone else you’ve just met by scheduling a conversation on Skype or Zoom? You can meet face-to-face without having to spend time sitting in traffic.
6) Sit next to someone new. Whenever you attend events that are part of your regular routine – such as a meeting of your homeowners association or back-to-school night at your child’s school – don’t sit with people you already know. Step out of your comfort zone and choose a seat next to an unfamiliar face. You might make a new contact by the end of the meeting.
7) Eat with others. Maybe you’re already planning to grab a takeout lunch at your favorite deli. If that’s the case, invite a supplier or an employee you don’t know well to come along. Even if you’re eating that sandwich in the office, the time spent walking to and from the deli, and standing in line, provides an opportunity to chat and get know someone better.
8) Stay in the present. Get the most out of every single networking event you do attend by paying attention during one-on-one conversations. That means putting away your phone, which is sometimes easier said than done.
Know of any other time-efficient networking tips to add to this list? Please feel free to mention them below.