9 ways to improve your offline network

Two things are given. 1 – nothing beats personal face-to-face interaction and 2 – the world revolves around personal relationships.  No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, it take people in your corner to succeed.  I’ve been fortunate to develop a network of people I can count on and that can count on me.  Here’s to growing yours, cheers.

1. Get out

Look at your calendar in the coming week. How many social, networking or other events are you going to? How often are you ‘out and about’ with those you want to meet or feel you can offer services to?  Many of us hide behind email, blogs or Twitter and think it’s a replacement. It’s not.  Get out, shake hands, buy drinks and engage in quality human interaction. Go to charity events, art galleries, join a running group – the avenues are abundant, use them.

2. Have an agenda

Is this not the cheesiest ‘PC’ handshake clip art you’ve ever seen?

Ok, that sounds bad.  What I mean is, have a ‘goal’ at every function you attend.  If it’s time with friends or family, maybe that goal is simply to ‘relax’. But entering other events with a goal of ‘I need two contacts that can help me with my CRM’ or ‘I’m going to find three people that I can provide free services to’ will guide your interactions and give you something other than the drink special to discuss with strangers.  Now, don’t be the guy or gal who’s seeking business development at every turn – that gets old.  However, be purposeful. Know why you’re growing your networking. Know what you need or what you can offer.

3. Be direct

Quick game – what are the 3 things most people talk about in introductions? Answer – where they work, how work is going and maybe where they’re from.  Learn to answers those briefly and transition into something more personal.  You’ll have more meaningful and memorable conversations and you’ll get further into how you each might be able to assist the other.

4. Carry two cards

You should always have business cards on you but if you do anything on the side (blogging, speaking, consulting, writing, trapeze artist) or if you want to get started, carry cards for the side-gig in case that comes up in conversation.  You can get them for free from Vistaprint or MOO is a Klout perk every once in a while.

5. Follow up

When you get home from an event or conference, drop an email to those you met to recap.  If you need help from each other, start that process, or just say ‘thanks’ so starting it later will be easier.  If you mentioned an article or made a commitment, send it to them and do what you said you’d do. If it was a great conversation and you’d find it valuable, follow them on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, etc.

6. Update

Consider sending ‘Life Updates’ once in a while. In a recent job transition, I sent an email sharing the move to my friends and family, much of which included my professional network.  I wanted them to hear it from me rather than a colleague or on Facebook or LinkedIn.  It makes them feel as special as they really are.

7. Offer to help

Whether it’s with strangers or your oldest friends, people know when you’re ‘working them’. So…don’t.  Instead, offer to assist them. Be ready to lend advice, a helping hand or simply listen.   Listen for cues like ‘I need’, ‘I wish’ or ‘I want’ and offer that assistance.  Your network grows stronger the more you help each other. If you need help, ask for it.

8. Connect others

#10 – Don’t wear a hawaiian shirt to a networking event like this guy.

Many times you’ll meet complete strangers and have no way to help each other. That doesn’t mean your new relationship is worthless. Keep a running list of those in your network that are job seeking, developing busine

ss or have other needs.  Using your relationships to help others is exactly why you’re building it.  Make referrals and follow up afterwards to see if it worked out.

9. Keep up – in person

Grab coffee, breakfast, a beer, etc. Reach out to those in your network that you haven’t literally seen in a while and go see them.  If for no other reason than to say hello and remind them you’re there for them if they need you. It goes a long way when that time comes…for either of you.

What did I miss? How valuable is your offline network? Who’s really good at it and what do they do?

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