A “How To” Framework for Networking

This article is a framework for creating a meeting for networking.  It’s five points can be helpful to one’s planning of a meeting or in going to a networking event someone else is organizing.

The Power of a Network,
By Janet Roman as appeared August 18, 2004 on Women in Technology International (WITI) website, http://www.witi.com/careers/2004/networking.php. WITI’s mission is to empower women worldwide to achieve unimagined possibilities and transformations through technology, leadership and economic prosperity.

[There are some good thoughts here that all of us could apply to our networking efforts, including organizing meetings for your faith-community and EaRN ministry to promote networking. Ken Soper, EaRN]

Networking. That’s what we are all here to do, right? So, why is it that we frequently fail to take full advantage of resources at our disposal? Are we so busy that we cannot even think straight? (Probably!) Do we need to know what the benefits of networking are? (Maybe?) Do we know how to network? (Maybe not!) This article will hit on all of these points and offer you a “how to” guide for networking.

How do you network?

I believe that many of us do not tap our networks as often as we could because we don’t really know how to do so or when it is appropriate. Of course we all see the “I need a job” or “I need customers” postings. But, what if you simply have a business problem that you are struggling with and need to insight from others in your same boat? Reach out, offer a connection, and see who joins the party. The following is a framework you can use to get started.

1. Define Your Need

What do you need to accomplish from this connection? Do you need to reach a mass audience or just a few key people? Are you looking for a one-time meeting or an ongoing discussion of an issue? How likely is it that others are experiencing something similar?

2. Determine Meeting Structure

How can this meeting be structured to meet your need? Will email be most effective? What about a discussion board posting? Will a telephone call do the trick? Does the issue require face-to-face interaction? Think about the pros and cons of each forum as you structure your meeting.

3. Extend Invitations

Invite people to your meeting in a manner consistent with who you want to reach. If you want a small discussion group, extend a personal invitation and explain that the meeting will be small and interactive. Sometimes a discussion board thread does the trick, and the post itself is the invitation to join the discussion. You can personalize a discussion thread by sending the link directly to a few colleagues and inviting a reaction/follow-up post.

4. Conduct Meeting

Be prepared to be active and lead the meeting. If you are not comfortable with that, find a colleague who is skilled at meeting facilitation and ask for a favor. Whether you are meeting for a full day, a few hours, or a few minutes, the organizer needs to plan the meeting to meet the objectives and ensure that all invitees have an opportunity to participate. Don’t forget to start and close by thanking everyone for their participation.

5. Determine Follow-Up

Once the meeting completes, participants will want to know, “What now?” Will you circulate meeting notes? Do you want to get together again? If so, is there enough interest to start a formal group? Many times, people simply want to extend their network opportunities and a simple exchange of contact information is in order. As the meeting leader, you need to take the responsibility to get that information circulated.

Everyone is so busy these days that it seems we don’t stop to take full advantage of resources at our disposal. Perhaps if more of us explain a benefit that we have received from belonging to a network, others would see why participating matters. Better yet, if those of us with use good networking skills take the time to discuss how issues were resolved, others would see that spending a little time on a network can result in saved time dealing with issues.