Networking has a bad rap, but we’re here to clear up the misconception. Business cannot survive on enthusiasm and guts alone; there truly is value in the adage, it’s all in who you know. You need to be in contact with people who have the right skills or connections to help you develop your business from all angles, including product and service development, marketing, technical support, finances, and customer service. The business community is stronger as a whole, and competition is healthy because it pushes us to focus on making advances in our field. It’s a relief to have connections you can call on when you’re in a jam, or just need to sit down over lunch and problem solve with a like-minded colleague. But we’ve all been caught in networking situations that were a huge waste of time.

How do we limit useless networking? By being picky.

If you have the choice to go or not to a networking event, a little recon is necessary. Think about the kind of people you need in your network, what they can do for you, and what you can do for them. Networking is a partnership, you’ve got to be as willing to help others as you expect them to help you. Are the right people going to the event? Maybe potential clients, influencers who could help propel your brand, or vendors? Cool, go! You might consider only going for an hour, though, rather than 4. If you can’t foresee an opportunity to help your business, don’t got. Be picky so that you don’t waste time.

Bail if the networking opportunity is futile. Just leave! Make your excuses, or simply say that you have to head out – you don’t owe anyone an explanation. This goes for the event itself, and individual conversations. If you’re talking to networking FBomeone and you know that it isn’t going anywhere, it’s okay to interrupt the conversation, apologize, hand them your card and politely say that you see someone you’ve been meaning to get in touch with and have to get a hold of them now. But invite your new contact to connect on Linkedin or at a future event. Don’t burn that bridge. Stuck at a dinner table with no networking opportunity in sight? Create one. Lead conversation to find out what you can all offer each other, even if it’s just about time management. You got this.

When you chat someone up, be honest about your intentions. No one needs the small talk, we’ve got an app to tell us about the weather, jump right in and get the person talking about themselves. Find out what they do, who they know, and how you can help each other to make most of your time for everyone involved. Let them know what kind of help you’re looking for if it’s specific. Be friendly though, business talk doesn’t have to be a snore, and while you’re out to support yourself, this is a joint venture. Live in the moment. And enjoy the free food!

Don’t forget to follow-up on your connections and continue to develop the relationship. Be wary of working for free, or losing time on a relationship that won’t pay off in the future: be picky.

Jelly Triangle loves silver linings and making new friends. Contact us with your marketing and website woes to find out how we can help you help your customers. Contact us to book a hassle-free consultation.

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