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Posted: December 04, 2008

Making networking fun

It's not just about working the room

Cindy Rold

I hate going to events where I don’t know anyone and standing around making small talk with strangers. That’s not fun for me. My friend Mike loves going to events and talking to as many people as possible. He does consider it fun. Neither of us is right or wrong; we just have different definitions of fun.

Unfortunately, some people think that networking is only about attending events, and if they don’t like events, they think they can’t be effective networkers. I disagree.

Networking is simply about creating and sustaining relationships with other people. You can find countless ways to do that and to have fun at the same time. The more fun you have, the more effective you will be, and the more likely you will be to continue your efforts.

Here’s a simple recipe for networking fun.

Recipe for networking fun
(1) enjoyable activity
(1-1000) interesting people
Combine the ingredients and enjoy. Repeat often.

If you think networking events aren’t fun, ask what would make an event fun for you. Here are several suggestions to get you started.

Expect to have fun. Your attitude when you prepare and attend a networking event makes more difference than almost anything else. If you go expecting to have fun, you are more likely to have it.

Invite a friend to go with you. You can walk around talking to people together and each can say something about the other. It’s more fun and more effective.

Focus on others, not on yourself. When you’re focused on others, the time seems to fly and you have more fun.

Introduce people to each other. Most people like to be a connector.

Make yourself the unofficial host. Hosts usually enjoy their own parties.
Check out the type of event before you go to make sure it matches what you’re looking for — an event with 20 people has very different energy than an event with 200 people. Where is the event being held? Will there be music? How loud will it be? What kinds of people will be there?

Set a time to leave before you arrive. Then you won’t feel as if you have to stay until the end.

Here’s a list of other enjoyable networking activities to use in your recipe for fun. As with any recipe, feel free to change the ingredients to suit your taste. The holidays provide an excellent opportunity to tweak some of these ingredients to suit the season. Be creative.

Pick up the phone. Call former clients to say hi and ask how they’re doing. Last night I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with a former client I hadn’t talked to in six months. We were both delighted to reconnect. The holidays provide a perfect reason to be in touch.

Call current clients for a non-work reason. You can tell clients how grateful you are for their business or you can ask them about their holiday plans.

Invite a current or former client or prospect to a sporting event, symphony, play, lecture or other activity you enjoy. During the holidays there are many additional opportunities for social activities.

Find a cause that you care about and serve on the organization’s board of directors. Then make it a point to get to know your fellow board members.

If you don’t want to serve on a board, volunteer in other ways. Pick volunteer activities that will put you in contact with other people, not activities that you do by yourself. Countless organizations look for additional volunteers during the holidays.

If you’re giving holiday presents, deliver them in person so you have a chance to talk to the person as well as give the gift.

Send a card. Hand-write a letter. Compose an e-mail. To get more attention in the midst of all the holiday cards, send a New Year’s card.

Host a party. One of my clients hosts two large parties every year — one for Christmas and one in the summer. She invites all of her friends, relatives, and current and past clients. She takes a picture of each individual or couple at the party and then mails them the picture, yet another way to be in touch.

Join a group that does activities you find fun — hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, running, stamp collecting, knitting, to name just a few. There’s a group for every activity you can imagine.

Visit a client’s work site. One of my clients stops by his clients’ offices in the morning on his way to work and brings them doughnuts and talks business. It’s more personal than a phone call.

I challenge you to create your own recipe for networking fun this holiday season and see how much more you enjoy the process.

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Cindy Rold, JD, is a success coach, professional speaker, and co-author of 99 Networking Nuggets and The Networking Gurus News, a comprehensive monthly list of business networking events in the Denver metro area. She can be reached at 303-734-9776 or cindy@cindyrold.com. Visit her website at http://www.thenetworkinggurus.com.

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