Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How to Make Networking Work for You

Food For Thought: How to Make Networking Work for You

 

2013 Nashville Emerging Leader Award Finalist Reception 
(Photo Credit: Nashville Chamber of Commerce)

I love Networking! I frequently attend Networking events because it's awesome to walk into a room with other business-minded individuals and make mutually beneficial business connections. When I first moved to Nashville 3 years ago, I knew only 2 people - My sister, who was in Dental School at the time, and a college friend/sorority sister. That's it! So, when I took the leap of faith to start my own medical practice after living here for only 2 months, my lack of connections in Nashville was a HUGE obstacle for me. However, I networked the pure HECK out of Nashville and have made so many connections that, as I look back on it now, astonishes me!

I'm honored to be a 2013 Nashville Emerging Leader Award Finalist! Here I am networking with some of the attendees at the Finalist Reception in June 2013
(Photo Credit: Nashville Chamber of Commerce)

I believe that being able to effectively network is an art form. For me, networking did not come second nature. Even though I love to sit down and talk for hours with people that I know and am familiar with, walking up to random people and saying "Hi, I'm Carmen April. How are you? Tell me what you do for a living" was not always as easy for me as it is now. Just like anything that you want to become good at, it requires repetition and practice. Making meaningful business connections is essential to both my medical practice and my blog so being comfortable in large networking environments is a MUST!


I'm still Networking at The 2013 Nashville Emerging Leader Award Finalist Reception!
(Photo Credit: Nashville Chamber of Commerce)


Here are a couple of Tips to help you make the most out of Networking:

1.) Attend Events that are specifically structured for Networking. When you attend events that are designed specifically for networking, everyone shows up with the same intention. You are not left wondering if the people you meet have ulterior motives for chatting with you. Everyone is there, or should be there, to make meaningful business connections. I have taken my enthusiasm for networking to some laid-back social gatherings and, unfortunately, have had people look at me like I have 3 eyes on my forehead when I walk up and introduce myself the way I do at networking events. This is not to say that networking does not take place at social gatherings; in fact, it should!

2.) Dress Professionally. We form opinions about others in the first 7-9 seconds of meeting them. Don't you want the lasting impression someone makes of you to be a positive one, especially when business is involved?

3.) Have your Elevator Speech Prepared and Practiced. An Elevator Speech is your 30-45 second description of who you are, what you do and how you and your business can be of benefit to others. You should be able to clearly articulate this description in the time that it takes you to ride in an elevator with someone from the bottom to the top floor in 30-45 seconds or less. You risk loosing someones attention when you ramble. Because the most common question asked of you during networking will be, "So, tell me what you do for a living?", you should practice your response (Elevator Speech) because you know it will be asked. It should roll off your tongue like butter!

4.) Have Business Cards on Hand. Your business card should be clean with your name, business logo, phone number,  business email address and business website listed. I can not tell you how annoying it is to receive an old, crinkled business card that has probably been sitting in someones pocket or wallet for who knows how long. Your business card is a tangible piece of your professional brand and it can speak for you in your absence. I keep business cards that I receive during networking by scanning it into one of my favorite apps - Evernote, and also placing it in a business card holding folder that I keep in my office. Additionally, I write down where I met the person, the date and the year, directly on the card.

5.) Follow-up. What is the point of networking if you are not going to make use of the meaningful connections? Networking is for making the initial connections, but it should not stop there. If you meet someone at an event and identify that you can be of benefit to their business, they can be of benefit to your business, or vice versa, you should set up a time to grab coffee, lunch or a cocktail. Send an email to those connections after the event saying that you enjoyed meeting them and would like to meet them again for coffee, etc and discuss ideas. The follow-up is usually where the real connections come about.

 I hope these tips help you on your next Networking excursion!


--Dr. April

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