Strategy, strategy, strategy. To reach our goals we need to have one or several. Unfortunately, planning is a lesson we don’t learn early. The young have little sense of time. They live in the moment like the hedonistic cricket in Aesop’s fable. The ant’s wisdom usually comes later. Still, whenever the awakening, we eventually realize we need a strategy to secure our future.
Having a network of friends and professionals is vital, of course. Building that network beyond our normal reach is hard. Everyone is shy. Really. I suspect President Obama has hesitant moments. When we approach strangers, we risk rejection. No one likes that feeling. But failing to take risks is a greater danger if only because it maintains the status quo. We need to build networks beyond our comfort zone and to do that, writer Daniel Bortz has some practical advice. (“Hate Networking? Try this,” Daniel Bortz, Money, May 2015, pg. 28.)
He begins with the obvious. To network, you have to see and be seen. Sign up for events pertinent to your interests, he suggests. Then don’t hide in a corner. Instead, “Go backstage.” If people have a role at an event, they feel more comfortable mingling. Volunteer for the sign-in table, pass out programs or work a booth. Better yet, offer to pick up the guest speaker from the airport. Being the driver will get you face time with some important people.
Work the crowd. Exchange business cards at events freely. The purpose isn’t to get your card into strangers’ hands. What you want is contact information that allows for later follow-ups. One politician I know has used this strategy for years. As a result, he’s never in a town where he doesn’t know someone and as an added bonus, his campaign contributor’s list is formidable. The key, once you get the business card, is to do the follow up. Send emails to people you wish to cultivate. Suggest meeting for lunch or coffee at a future date.
A strategy Bortz thinks works well is to contact the speaker of an upcoming event before it happens. Drop him or her a line with a comment or question. “I read your latest book and enjoyed it but wonder if your advice would work in my business. Could we talk for a few moments at the convention?” An open question begs for a response. If you get one, be prepared to listen. According to Bortz, your I.Q. goes up 10 points just by being smart enough to give someone your attention.