Meeting people and building relationships can be extremely time consuming, especially when you have other responsibilities. Avoid having networking take up too much of your calendar. Below are 8 time management tips to help make you a more effective networker.
Identify the channels that provide the most high value contacts for you. Do you get most of your quality contacts from introductions through specific people? Through attending certain events?
Analyze past successes to determine which people and channels are best for you. If you’re just getting started, do some planning to determine the optimal channels for your industry and focus your efforts there.
2. Be intentional
Identify specific people you want to meet. Not just demographics, roles, or companies, but specific individuals. You can use LinkedIn to see if you have any shared connections and obtain an introduction from within your network, or cold e-mail directly. If one of your targeted individuals will be speaking at a conference, plan to attend. While there is value in attending random events, parties, and meetings, it can be extremely time consuming. By being intentional, you can reduce wasted time.
3. Schedule meetings consecutively
If you’re in a relationship-intensive business or role, you will inevitably have a lot of meetings. To make your schedule more conducive to productivity, schedule meetings consecutively. It’s hard to focus and actually get anything substantial done when you only have small blocks of time throughout the day. Having an obligation immediately following a meeting also gives you a reason to prevent the meeting from running too long. Just be sure not to schedule your next meeting too close to something that you may want to run long!
4. Fit meetings into your workflow
Think about the times in your day that you normally take a break or get a coffee. Do you normally get a coffee on the way to work? Or when you get groggy in the afternoon? If you’re going to get a coffee or bite to eat anyways, you might as well schedule it with someone else. Think about times in your regular schedule that you could invite people to join your for such as events or even activities outside of work.
5. Group meetings together
If there are multiple people that you’re going to be scheduling meetings with around the same time, schedule them all together, at the same time and place. As long as those attending do not have competing interests, most people will appreciate the opportunity for multiple connections. I wouldn’t schedule an important meeting with a group, but for general “catching up” or shorter conversations, a group meeting over drinks or a meal can be extremely friendly and beneficial to all.
6. Do remote meetings when appropriate
Physical presence and contact is invaluable in building rapport. I highly recommend in-person meetings, especially for anything important. However, if feasible, a remote meeting can be a huge timesaver. This type of meeting can often be easier to schedule, as it eliminates travel time and expenses. Phone or video meetings can be effective as a first meeting to get acquainted and to determine if there is common ground to pursue continued discussions. It can also be appropriate if your day or week gets too busy; you can change an in-person meeting to a call without disrupting the other person’s schedule.
7. Utilize more scalable networking techniques
Having a strong online presence, connecting with connectors, and public speaking engagements can help you reach a wider audience with equal or less time commitment than other methods. Blogging and social media allow you to display your value to readers and help your network get to know you. In-person communication is far more valuable for building relationships, but your online presence can provide a great supplement and allow you to get exposure to people that would otherwise not know about you. Connectors are people who meet a lot of people and do a good job of introducing the people they meet to each other. Connecting with connectors can lead to quality introductions without the time commitment of going to events or other channels. Public speaking allows you to reach an audience of people who have expressed interest in your content. Meeting the same amount of people one-on-one could take days, but by speaking publicly you can engage a large audience all at once.
8. Don’t be afraid to say no or postpone
Do your best to plan ahead so you schedule meetings that you know will fit into your schedule. However, if a conflict does arise, you can postpone a meeting. While doing this can risk future meetings, do your best to be courteous and give the person as much advance notice as possible. Alternatively, request to change a previously scheduled in-person meeting to a remote meeting to eliminate travel time. If someone asks you for a meeting that you don’t feel is necessary, kindly tell them that you’re swamped and that you’ll circle back with them when time permits.
Networking is important, and if you’re in a relationship business or role, you really should be spending a lot of time on it. Don’t try to take too many shortcuts. The above tips can help you manage your networking activities in an efficient and successful manner.