How to Maximize Your Networking Time in Four Easy Steps!

I’ve met dozens upon dozens of interesting people over coffee. The list has included everyone from high-level executives to folks who are just beginning to blossom in their chosen career. For me, networking has been an overwhelmingly positive experience with positive outcomes. Sometimes, though, you think it’s going to go well in person only to find out that your expectations were not only not met, but they were far below what you expected. At least the coffee was good, so it’s not a total loss!

These experiences have led me to give extensive thought to how to maximize my time spent networking.

First, have a plan. If you do an internet search about maximizing your networking time, you’ll find lots of great resources on to formulate your plans for networking meetings. The common thread of most of what’s out there is that a networking meeting is short, it involves asking someone for help or expertise, and most importantly, it involves you offering your help to others. The final point bears repeating: when networking, you need to help others! If you put your best foot forward by thinking about how you can be helpful to others first, good things will happen for you. This is especially effective if you’re genuine in your desire to help.

Secondly, you need to follow up. I talked about how when you’re genuinely helpful, good things will happen for you. You may be asking, “How do people know that I’m genuine?” One of the key ways that I spot someone’s genuine desire to help me is that they follow up. I believe that many of us have lost our ability to follow up. Emails, tweets, statuses, and phone calls can bombard us at an alarming rate in our “always on” society. It can be overwhelming to follow up, but you must do it. You must do it. If you want to stand out from the crowd professionally you must always follow up. In the networking space, this means being quick to write thank you notes and return phone calls. Here’s a tip: flag the email you need to respond to or set an appointment on your calendar to do likewise. I’ve found this helps me a great deal when remembering to follow up with my networking contacts.

Thirdly, always have a great photo as part of your LinkedIn profile! This is not optional, folks! It’s very uncomfortable to agree to a networking meeting with that blank grey face that shows up in your profile if you have no photo. Make sure it’s a photo of you looking very professional, too! You wouldn’t show up for a networking meeting looking like you’re going to go out and mow the lawn, so why would you do it on your profile? People are more comfortable with the idea of networking with you if they see a warm approachable you smiling at them from your LinkedIn profile.

Finally, consider putting a short video on your web site or LinkedIn profile to introduce yourself to your potential network. Remember what I said at the beginning of this post about the networking meetings that didn’t go so well? I believe that the more opportunities we give people to know who we are and what makes us tick, the greater the chances are that who they meet in person will be someone they like. Furthermore, I believe that if you don’t like someone in their video, that you probably won’t like them in person either! That may sound harsh, but wouldn’t you rather figure that out ahead of time and save your coffee budget for a more productive meeting? I sure would!

At Vintegreo we offer the expertise to create just such a video for you, but it may not be in your budget at the moment. For that reason, in a future blog post, I’ll address how you can shoot your own video, even with your smart phone, and get great results, too! It’s one small way I can practice what I preach about being genuine in my desire to help you and help others.