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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.