You may recognize this line: “My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.” It’s one of Hedley Lamarr’s lines in the very ridiculous, very politically-incorrect movie “Blazing Saddles.” I currently have this line posted on my bulletin board because it expresses how I often feel: so much to do, so many ideas, so many places to go and people to see, and so little time to fit it all in. What to do about it?
Well, today I’m inspired to share a few ideas about how you can get creative and make the most of your networking time, even when you’re very busy.
Consider one of these ideas extracted from my book The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business:
1. Reserve certain days and times for relationship-building. One of my very organized colleagues reserves Mondays and Tuesdays for focusing on big projects and Fridays for admin tasks. That leaves Wednesday and Thursday for everything else. Not a bad plan. You may prefer to plan your week another way. As you do, choose what days you can fit in some networking and relationship-building. Maybe set Wednesdays and Thursdays as Go-Out-for-Lunch days. Or make Tuesdays Coffee-with-a-Colleague Day. Plan in advance when, how, how often, and with whom you will choose to spend your networking time. Do what works for you. Set some policies, limits, and boundaries. Tweak and refine. Then stick to it. It’s easier said than done, but worth it.
2. Mix in some smaller gatherings among the large ones. Large networking functions and professional events do serve a purpose. They put you in touch with a lot of people at one time. And, of course, there is often the benefit of an inspiring or enlightening program. Don’t cast these aside entirely. They are part of a good networking strategy, but they should not be the only part of your plan. Make time to attend (or create your own) smaller gatherings of 12 or fewer people. (These can be so worthwhile!) Or once or twice a month set up a lunch or happy hour with three of your best contacts to create a fascinating foursome. (My friend SueAnn Wade-Crouse who writes the blog Gals. Very Smart Gals. does this – and quite successfully.) Maybe your goal is doing two one-on-one lunches a week. Mix it up. Do it your way. But have some kind of plan.
3. Establish regular calling hours. A very gentile practice from centuries gone by, this is the art of setting aside a regular pocket of time to receive visitors. You could establish yours as 2 to 4 on Thursdays. At this time every week you will be at a given location (e.g. a coffee shop in your neighborhood or at your office), ready to spontaneously receive visitors who happen by. This is an excellent way to appease all the people who are chomping at the bit to have coffee with you. Plan on having a book from your reading list or some work with you in case no one shows up (always a possibility until your colleagues become hip to your new habit). What you’re doing here is making yourself available reguarly, but on your terms. Maybe several people all show up at once. Cool! Instant networking party where several of your peeps can meet each other. I love this because it’s a strategy, yet it also allows for spontaneity and possibilities.
4. Try the “how about now?” technique. Say you’re at a networking function. You meet someone interesting and they ask if you can have coffee or lunch on another day so you can visit further. Instead of trying to get on each other’s calendars, which can be next-to-impossible, suggest you continue the conversation for another 15 minutes right there, on the spot. Many of the venues where networking events take place have comfortable foyers where you can visit for just a few more minutes after the event is over. Just be sure to allow this extra time on your schedule.
5. The walk-and-talk. I love this one and have several friends and colleagues who do as well. We schedule time together early in the day, choose a mutually convenient location to walk or hike, and get in both a heart-pumping workout as well as a productive catchup conversation. An hour does it. Perhaps you’d prefer to jog, run, or take the dogs out. Mixing in some healthy outdoor activity builds bonds like nothing else can.
What are some of your tricks and tips for networking creatively? How do you mix in your relationship-building time with a very busy schedule? I’d love to hear about it.
Would you or your team benefit from customized Intentional Networker(tm) coaching or training? Contact me and let’s discuss it. I offer a number of options, plans, and price points that can empower you to attract more powerful relationships, referrals and results in business. patti[at]intentionalnetworker[dot]com.
I knew by “raging torrent” that you were quoting from “Blazing Saddles,” indeed a non-pc movie, but we must laugh at ourselves.
Thanks for the Gals – Very Smart Gals mention Patti. For all you gals out there who say, “Oh, I can’t do that” (network) let me confess that I am a closet recluse, and my Very Smart Gals get-togethers are my therapy. I dread them, but love them, and the benefits have been, solid, gratifying (and therapeutic)!
If you want to have friends, you have to be a friend. If you want business, you have to be business, and nobody does it better than Patti DeNucci
Thank you, SueAnn. You do this very, very well — and so generously.
Anyone who begins anything with a Blazing Saddles reference has my complete attention! Get info, Patti. Keep it coming.
Mike, glad you liked the Blazing Saddles reference! That line always makes me laugh.
Very insightful. I would love some guidance on how to do #4 well. I often meet folks at events and we plan to get together soon. Many times it’s those folks that I know but haven’t gotten to know well. We play calendar tag and it just dies out. I’d like to do the “how about now” without looking like I’m taking them away from valuable networking time (ie. time for them to “work the room”).
I am intrigued by #3, reminds me of “office hours” from college. How do you let folks know about this without looking too self involved? My worry is that no one would show up!
I feel that there is a long list of folks I’d like to reconnect with, and yet, each week passes by so quickly. I think some mindfulness is in order. Your comments, as always, would be so helpful. I know I’m not alone!
Janki, thanks for your comment. Happy to work with you personally on this challenges; everyone has something that they want to do better, more confidently or more skillfully as they meet people, and build business relationships.
These are great ideas. I also “stack” appointments. Pick one afternoon and a place and make appointments back to back. Saves all the travel time – plus blocks appointments all together.
Joyce, I love that idea. Very efficient. Just don’t stack too many in one day or by the time you get to the third or fourth one, you may not be at your best.