10 Ways to Take the Work Out of Networking

At a recent conference hosted by the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA), Diane Danielson, president of DWC Service Inc., Boston, and co-author of Table Talk: The Savvy Girl’s Alternative to Networking, taught the audience a few networking tricks. Among her suggestions:

  1. Develop a networking strategy that works for you. Find a networking forum where you’re comfortable and try to incorporate other activities that you enjoy: “Maybe it’s an afternoon walk around Central Park,” says Danielson. “Find what works best for you.”

  2. Never come to the table empty-handed. Even if you have no specific information or contacts to offer others on a given day, use the occasion to prepare yourself to help in the future. “Come [to the table] as a good listener, because you might not be able to help them today, but six months later you might figure out a way to help them,” advises Danielson.

  3. Treat contacts with the same courtesy and respect you would a client. Always say, “Thank you,” reminds Danielson. “You never know who someone could be or end up being.”

  4. Put limits on what you can do. Danielson recalled times when she negotiated the amount of involvement she had with groups so that she could effectively balance family life and work life.

  5. Accomplish a couple of things by the end of each meeting or networking session. Be certain you’ve met one new person you’d like to have coffee or lunch with, and be sure you’ve used that event to catch up with someone you met at a previous event.

  6. At the beginning of each year, pick the organizations and events with which you’d like to get involved. Danielson says two a year is plenty. “Start out with seminars, because they’re intimate,” she suggests.

  7. If you can’t brag about yourself at a function, brag about your company. “Find something you’re enthusiastic about and talk about that,” she says.

  8. Bring a buddy. If you don’t want to go to an event alone, bring a co-worker or friend.

  9. Move along. If one person is dominating too much of your time and you want to mingle, you can tactfully keep moving. Danielson suggests telling the person: “It was so nice to talk to you, but I have to meet a few more people before I go home tonight.”

  10. If all else fails …bail. “Find the best use of your time,” says Danielson. “It all goes back to the fun factor. Do something that you enjoy.”