Steps to Networking – Step 64: The Selection Process

Written By Rick Frishman Published April 12th, 2010

STEP 64: The selection process

Most people select networking groups and events by identifying a few contenders and trying each out. If they like a group and it seems productive, they stick with it and if not, they don’t join. However, as we have said, groups constantly change and you must participate for a time before the maximum benefits kick in.

A better approach is researching each prospective networking group or event before you join or attend. Identify, and in the space below, list the reasons why each group or event is attractive to you. Then list your objectives and be specific. Ask yourself who do you want to meet? Name the precise people or categories of people. Do you want to meet others in your field, business people from other industries or do you want to join groups that provide services and help in the community? What do you expect get from each event?

Consider whether the groups and events that interest you will be convenient or whether they will disrupt other important parts of you life. Are they held at places you can easily reach and at times that you can make? Will you have to rearrange your life in order to attend and if so, is it worth it to you? Are there more convenient alternatives? Convenience is important. Don’t obligate yourself to attend a meeting or event that could end up being more trouble than its worth because, in time, you’ll probably stop attending.

In making your selections, also don’t discount the enjoyment factor. People who have fun network better. Spending time enjoyably adds to the quality of your life, it makes you anticipate, feel enthusiastic about and look forward to upcoming meetings and events. People who are happy tend to be more relaxed, approachable and attractive to others. They also prefer to be around happy people as opposed to grumps, don’t you? If you enjoy the groups and events you attend, you will probably be more enthusiastic, which will enable you to communicate your desires with more passion.

Usually, the first consideration in the selection process is identifying whom you can meet. Select your targets. If you want to meet people in your industry, think about trade and industry associations. For example, if you’re a lawyer, it makes sense to join the bar association; if you’re a female entrepreneur, consider the National Association of Women Business Owners and if you’re a graphic designer, try the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

At meetings and events sponsored by trade and industry associations, you can meet your peers; discuss common problems such as recent changes in the industry and even develop working or referral arrangements. You can serve on committees that can increase your visibility within your business, industry and community. With greater visibility, you can meet and work with the policy and decision makers and extend your network to the higher echelons of your field.

If you want to meet people who are in different businesses, try business-oriented groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, eWomenNetwork, IBI Global or AmSpirit Business Connections. These organizations cater to people from a wide mix of businesses. If you have a product or service that would fit well with another industry, think about joining organizations or attending events directed at that industry where you can cross-market. For example, an ambitious flower arranger should consider attending meetings of associations for wedding planners, funeral directors and event organizers. If you want to establish a strong community base, think about joining service groups, community, civic or religious groups.

After you’ve identified the networking groups or events that might work for you, ask the members of your network for their opinions before you sign up. Learn if they have attended the group’s meetings or events and if not, do they know others who have. When you connect with others who have attended groups and events, ask them for a descriptive overview. Pay close attention to what they describe first and the level of their enthusiasm. Then zero in on the details: how many people attend, where the group met, how it was organized, how long meetings ran, did they follow a formal agenda, what items were on the agenda and what was the tone of the meeting? Was it lighthearted, all business, formal, casual or competitive? Did many people participate or did a few hog the floor? Was there a mixer of social component and if so, when did it take place and were the members or attendees accessible, warm and friendly?

As we previously stressed, the objectives those you question may differ from your interests. So factor their objectives in before making your decision.

(Excerpted from NETWORKING MAGIC: Making Connections That Will Change Your Life By Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin With Mark Steisel)

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