I regularly hear the above or similar questions being asked. It’s a bit like Advertising, “where we all know that roughly 50% of the investment is wasted, the problem is we never know which 50%”. With networking, it is genuinely difficult to know whether any investment in networking is worth the effort, however there a few common sense guidelines worth considering before embarking or continuing your networking investment.

Networking – Define your objectives

1. Define your objectives clearly. Drinking coffee and having lunch with friends / industry peers and even business speed dating with complete strangers can be interesting, but if you don’t have a clear view of why you are doing it, like most random exercises, it is likely to fail and unlikely to satisfy, even if successful.

Can’t Improve what is not Measured

2. If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. While targeting on the basis of numeric metrics may not be appropriate, and can even be misleading, you need to get more focused than “building my network” and “meeting 10 new people per month” to “making contact with X relevant people each month, with a view to creating either one off or longer term relationships, as appropriate”. “Relevant” will of course be different for different people: some may be looking for industry peers to spar with, whereas for others, it may be for direct business relationships.

Feedback and Adjust your Approach

3. Feedback and amend your approach. Again, strict numeric results can be misleading, but unless you have some formal / written review process, you won’t really identify if you are being successful. It is often useful to get feedback from many others on our activities as few of us have completed any formal courses in Networking.

The Art of Networking

Many pages have been written on the art of networking, and some of these are really worth reading, in particular the techniques for effectively meeting people at organised networking sessions. It works well when “building your profile”, in conjunction with LinkedIn and other business communications. Structured and useful follow-on helps carry the initial engagement (like sending on articles, intros, links, etc.) and gaining “trust” in the networking relationships. And finally, offering to listen and advise freely are key to ensuring long-term connection with people, even if the immediate outcome isn’t obvious.

Objective, Plan, Measuse, Feedback

But the basics are the same as for most other campaigns, i.e. Set Objectives, Plan your campaign, Measure and feedback.

There is one maxim with networking which is worth being aware of, which does not apply to other investment decisions which may be cold / factual / easily measured. Networking is about your engagement with other PEOPLE. It’s a lot about committing your time to understanding who they are / what they are about. It generally takes a lot of your time, before you can expect any measurable “benefits” for yourself.  But never forget that many of the people you meet along the way will benefit immediately from what you contribute (advice, contacts etc.) – which in turn normally yields results providing you are focussing on a suitable target audience with clear objectives in the first place

(This article was first published on LinkedIn)

Damian Kennedy is the Member Manager and a specialist team lead for CAIM, the Chartered Accountants Interim Mangers group.
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