Three Ways to Retool Your Networking Mojo

Okay, you know the drill. You’re at a cocktail party and strike up a conversation with someone standing next to you at the cheese and veggies table. You exchange cards, follow up via email to grab a cup of coffee and bam! It goes nowhere.

It may be time to rethink your networking prowess into a one-two punch. Here’s how to do it…

1. Be strategic and figure out who to stalk (um, we meant meet). Go into an event — whether it’s a panel with industry leaders or a cocktail party for the media, for instance — with a plan. Who do you want to meet? Looking to connect with fellow graphic designers? Or maybe you need to connect with editors? Book agents? Sometimes you may not even know who you want to meet and therein lies the quandary.

Sit down ahead of time and outline who you need to meet. If you’ve already done that, great! Now get to work.

For instance, if it’s a panel and you really need to speak with the head honcho of the company, stick around after politely linger to speak to him or her. For instance, last night we attended a Reality TV panel and after it concluded, the exec from a major cable network spoke individually with participants to answer specific questions.

One of them asked if she may schedule an informational interview, asked if she may send her resume and to whom she may send it, and expressed that she’s eager to get her foot in the door. She also had a succinct elevator pitch prepared in mentioning she works at a small production company and there’s nowhere to grow.

“Are you willing to start at the bottom?” he asked.

Okay, not the most glam of questions now, is it? Regardless, she enthusiastically proclaimed, “Yes!” And just like that they’re in the process of scheduling an office meeting. Nicely done!

2. Identify what you’re seeking. As per the example above, the woman went to the event with the intention of knowing who to speak with but also knowing what to ask. She also asked tactfully. She didn’t come right out and say, “Hire me, please!” She expressed a can do attitude but was clearly on a mission.

You should be, too. If you’re going to an event and want to meet agents to strike up a new relationship to pitch a book, go for it. Keep in mind the beauty of networking sometimes falls into the category of who you know, the quintessential friend-of-a-friend situation.

You can always meet people and strike up a conversation, build the relationship, and ask who they know in the book world or whatever world you’re looking to pounce upon.

3. Cultivate the relationship and give more than you get. Okay, this is really like two steps in one but when people make new contacts sometimes it’s all for naught because the follow up is lacking.

Follow up within a few days, ask to meet over a cup of coffee, lunch or phone call. But don’t let it end there and dwindle. Connect on LinkedIn and stay in touch over the next few months, and consequently years. Instead of pouncing on your new contact by inundating him or her, simply keep the relationship going.

Part of that entails giving more than you get. Sure, by this point you know the types of people or specific people you need to meet and connect with but the other person has a vested interest in this relationship, too. Ask how you may help him or her, who you may connect him or her to. It’s good business sense and hey, it’s good karma, too.