Networking for dummies, it's not rocket science

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All of us would like to add new people to our lives – either to expand our circle of friends or to increase our customer base. But most people don’t know how to go about this very well.

Here are some tips:

* Go where the type of people you want to meet are.

This seems simple, but too many people I know are “looking for love in all the wrong places.” There are more groups and associations out thee than you can imagine.

I recently found one for people like me who have no kids. Too many would-be networkers keep going to the same old meeting expecting to meet different people. If you’ve been attending the same meeting for the past 10 years, you’ve probably got it covered. Join some new groups!

Even if you have to travel to get to the meeting, it may be well worth it. I recently joined a group that meets an hour away, but it has been fantastic. I’ve met people I would never have access to otherwise – people that are very likely to use my services as a speaker. Look in nearby cities, research groups on the Web, but know what you’re looking for.

Just showing up where there’s a large group of people isn’t good enough. But if you want to try and sell insurance at a Dave Matthews concert – go ahead.

* Don’t try to meet everybody in the room.

I usually try to meet at least one new prospect. Let’s face it, you’ll meet people who don’t meet your criteria – it may take time to find a really good prospect. If you’re handing out business cards to everybody in the room, you’re not networking. You’re annoying.

Just try to meet a few people, get to know them, talk about something of interest to them. This is about relationship building – not closing the deal.

If you haven’t read (or haven’t read in a while) Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” read it. And have anyone in your organization who is in sales or customer service read it. Young people don’t know about this stuff, managers! You can help them a great deal by having them read this book.

* Some groups have cliques.

OK, let’s face it, lots of groups have cliques. So what? If you’re fun to be with, the cliques will want you in them.

I always pretend to be oblivious to any cliquage and it has served me well. Find someone you want to meet, wrap a hug smile around your face and introduce yourself. It’s as simple as that.

My recent opening lines have included: “Thank God they have diet Sprite!” to a woman pouring herself one. This sparked a conversation on the top of drink selection at meeting and eventually led to our professions, etc.

I’ve also dazzled people with the creative, “Hi! I’m Denise, what company are you guys with?” Throw in a huge smile and the conversation is on. Just get in there.

* If a person isn’t a prospect (for friendship, business, etc. – whatever you are networking for), move on.

Be nice, but use your time wisely.

* Don’t be a grouch.

Be fun to be around and glad to be there or stay home. I can’t emphasize this enough. People want to be around those who love life. They can’t wait to get away from those who are negative.

If you can’t say anything nice, at least don’t complain.

* Don’t expect anyone to approach you.

In all the years I’ve been attending functions, few people have warmly approached me. Most organizations are not very good at making newcomers feel welcome. That’s OK – realize it’s not you, smile big and plunge in. (They won’t hurt you.)

Denise Ryan, MBA, is a professional speaker and trainer who specializes in lighting fires under the complacent. Her Web site is www.firestarspeaking.com.