Monday, January 30, 2017

How to Grow Your Network Without Going to Events

There are many people who dislike conventional face-to-face networking events, partly because they take up so much time but mainly because they are rarely enjoyable. Luckily there are also many ways to build a healthy professional network without ever attending any event that the organizers might describe as being primarily for networking. You may find that you get more and better connections elsewhere. Here are just a few ideas:
Conferences: Attend selected professional conferences related to your field, a field you would like to work in one day and, occasionally, some business that you have no connection with today. Plan ahead and make good use of the opportunities and you will come away with some healthy new connections. For the conferences not in your field choose a short, free event close to your home base. It will feel strange at first to be with people in a different business but you will be surprised what useful things you can discover.
Courses: Sign up for an MBA or some other course and if you participate actively you will bond with your classmates and make connections that will last a lifetime. Choose the school and course carefully to maximize the networking opportunities. Check how strong their alumni network is. Some schools have a very strong global network, some are weaker -- and if you manage a business school better make sure that your school passes this test.
Non Profits: Volunteer to work for or lead some sort of non profit like the local TEDx group, a professional organization, your school’s alumni group or whatever. This gets you visibility and many opportunities to make connections. The value of this kind of contact is that you work alongside someone but without the pressures of a corporate environment. 
Lunch Dates: Try organizing some lunch dates with people you don’t know. There are some apps that make this very simple, like Lunchback, where you can choose from a selection of people to lunch with. They also have an interesting AI tool called Lunchback Magic that connects people who have opted into the program for a weekly lunch.
Public Speaking: Learn how to be a popular speaker and find opportunities to speak at events. If you don’t ask for money this is quite easy. The advantage of speaking is that people come to you, so you meet people automatically. Everyone notices the speakers and they get all the company in the mingle afterwards.
Writing: Write articles and books and people will start to contact you for all sorts of reasons. These contacts are sometimes the start of fruitful connections. One of the pleasant side effects of writing my own book Payforward Networking is the number of people who get in touch with questions, requests for new chapters in the next edition, networking war stories to share and so on. Writing is hard work but the rewards are excellent.

Activity-Based Networking: Just meeting someone and exchanging elevator pitches is a terrible way to make connections anyway. Better to do something with other people so that they can see how you work, your attitude, your dependability and so on. Spend 54 hours with people at a Startup Weekend event and you will make some really solid connections with people who have seen how you work. And it’s fun. There are many other ways to get involved with other people through activities — perhaps helping to restore an antique airliner, building a replica of a mechanical computer and so on.
Classic networking events can be useful from time to time, but with so many other ways to connect with people it should be only part of your networking plan.


2017 Edition of Payforward Networking.  There's more about this and other networking techniques in the 2017 edition of Payforward Networking, available in both paperback and Kindle editions. You can get it from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Payforward-Networking-Andrew-Hennigan/dp/1542919770

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

If you would like lectures, interactive workshops, one-to-one coaching or writing about professional networking or related topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan at speaker@andrewhennigan.com or 0046 730 894 475.

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