Whether you are a business owner or a job seeker you have probably been told to network. Networking is often an important part of a marketing plan. Frequently people resist networking because it seems overwhelming and they are not sure how to do it. Others try it once with little success and decide that it is not worth the effort. Networking is one way to start to build relationships with people who can help you. Building relationships takes time. Going to a networking meeting is just the first step. Here are some tips to make going to a networking event easier and more productive.

1. Decide on the networking groups that make sense for you. Does the group attract your potential customers? Does it put you in contact with your strategic partners? Does it help you stay current in your field? Could you learn new skills that will help you find work or business? Meetings that involve potential customers or strategic partners get you in touch with your target market. Meetings that teach you new skills or keep you up to date can get you in touch with mentors and peers.

2. Once you decide on a group to join, become an active member so others will get to know you. Meeting someone once is just the beginning. You want to cultivate deeper relationships.

3. Arrive early to each meeting and leave time to talk to people after the meeting has concluded. Networking occurs before and after the meeting.

4. Be prepared to help others if you want help from others. Your openness is felt and will be appreciated.

5. Listen more and talk less. Ask people questions and get them talking about themselves and their business. Find out what they are struggling with or what they are celebrating.

6. If you exchange business cards with someone, write down the date of the meeting and what the event was on the back of the card. Jot down a couple of notes about what you talked about so you can refer to your conversation when you contact that person again.

7. Write a personal note to those you meet and add them to your mailing list or contact management system or spreadsheet. To keep the connection mail them an update, tip, or article once in a while.

8. Set some goals for the networking event. Who do you want to meet? How many contacts would you like to make? What did you want to learn?

9. Identify the movers and the shakers in the group. These are the people who know everyone else and can introduce you to others.

10. People are not really part of your network until you have a relationship with them. Some of those you meet you will want to stay connected with through email or regular mail. Others you will want to make an appointment with and talk to them via phone or in person.

Author's Bio: 

Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor (The Attorneys’ Coach) and a Career Changers’ Coach as well as publisher of "Parker’s Points", an email tip list and "Road to Success", an ezine. Subscribe now to these free monthly publications at her website http://www.asparker.com/samples.html and receive a values assessment as a gift. This assessment will identify your top 4 values. Working from your values makes the work more meaningful and fulfilling.