Life is A Networking Opportunity

Often professionals talk about “going to a networking event”, as a destination to meet people for business purposes.  There are certainly formal events designated for this purpose.  You can find them promoted through your local chambers of commerce, LBN’s, BNI’s, women’s groups, professional organizations, Motor City Connect, twitter, LinkedIn, etc.  However, there are also “non-staged” events in ordinary life that can become “networking events”.  Perhaps it’s your swim club, health club, place of worship, your kid’s soccer game, a celebration at school, your volunteer organizations, etc. 

When you start to view any opportunity to meet other people as a networking opportunity, it expands your possibilities. In reality, “Life” is a networking opportunity.  Rather than focusing on the event, perhaps the focus should be on your goals.  Ask yourself these questions before going to any event or gathering:

What do you hope to gain from attending the event? 

Without a plan, the event can be a huge time and/or money waster for you.  I’m not talking about going to a ballgame or symphony.  Those events have a purpose beyond meeting other people.  But for the events you attend where the purpose is to meet other people, give it some thought before you show up. 

I’m always stunned at how many people come to a networking event without business cards.  While it is true that it is better to get someone’s card who you find interesting, than it is to force your cards upon everyone you meet, it is still good to be prepared with cards and a strategy for who you want to meet.

Perhaps your goal might be to meet three potential referral partners in your target market while you are at that event. If you are an estate planning attorney, perhaps you’ll want to meet a financial advisor, a CPA, and a home care professional while you are there.    If you sell software (or another product or service), ask yourself what type of people in other industries typically come across your ideal client and look for people in those professions at the event.  If you don’t find any, ask the people you do meet if they know those types of professionals.

The details of the plan aren’t critical at this moment.  It depends on your industry, target market, the type of event you are attending, etc.  The idea is that you should have some type of plan and an objective you’d like to achieve, so that you feel it was worth the time and money to attend the event.  You aren’t trying to make a sale at the event.  Your objective will be to meet someone or a few people with whom you can start to build a relationship.

What do you plan to give while at the event?

It’s not all about you.  What are you prepared to contribute while you are there or after the event?  This could be in the form of ideas, resources, time, money, contacts, etc.  You should be prepared to invest something of value, in order to continue the relationship with those few interesting people you met and want to follow up with.  If you are planning to collect cards and wait for the phone to ring, 9 out of 10 times it’s not going to happen.  Even if you meet someone you find utterly fascinating, if you have nothing to offer them and you don’t follow up with them, you and the other person will soon forget one another. 

I like to ask people questions about topics of interest to them or about their business.  I will give myself some type of “homework assignment” to follow up with a few people from the event with more details or information about something we talked about.  If we discussed a website that would be of interest to them, or an article I read,  I will jot down a note on the back of their card or a notebook I carry with me to remind myself to send them the web address or article link.  If I don’t write it down, I won’t remember to follow through on my promise, and that won’t give them a good impression of me.    

How will you prepare for the event?

In some instances you can see the guest list before the event and make a note of the key people you’d like to meet while you are there.  That way you can ask the host/hostess if they can point out that person to you if you don’t personally know them or haven’t yet run into them.  Other times, when you check into the event you might ask whoever is working registration if they can direct you to some people you have predetermined (from your networking plan) you’d like to meet.

Do you have business cards to share, and some paper to jot down a note or two?  Often you can write reminders on the back of a business card, but for those times you want to be more detailed, a small notepad is handy.   

Have you allowed time to arrive early so you can see who is there as guests filter in?  If the event is formal and there will be a presentation, you’ll want to arrive early for networking before the presentation starts.  If the whole event is networking, it can be intimidating to walk into a room full of 75 or more strangers.  Coming early can let you get acclimated as the other guests arrive.

What will you do to follow-up after the event?

Are you prepared to call a few of the contacts you met and see if they’d be interested in meeting for coffee or lunch to get to know one another better and see if you have some business synergy?

Will you remember to provide them with the additional info you discussed at the event?

Do you have some way to stay in touch with them after that initial meeting?  I find if I don’t add them to my LinkedIn contacts and my enewsletter list (with their permission), then there’s little opportunity for us to stay in touch since we may not see one another again.   

A great conversation opener would be how you visited their website or did a bit more research about that person’s company, prior to your follow up call. 

Focus on the journey, not the destination

I often hear professionals complain that they didn’t get anything out of the networking event they attended.  When I ask them the four questions above, they generally don’t have any response.  Simply showing up and handing out your card, or even worse forgetting your card, isn’t going to yield much in the way of meaningful results.  I remind people that when they got married, they probably went on more than one date.  Any good relationship takes time to build. 

A meeting or event is simply the opportunity for like minded people to gather.  It isn’t the destination, but it could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.  Your results will depend on your goals, intentions, and actions before, during, and after the “event”.    Remember, life is a networking opportunity.  The results you get, depend on how you navigate life.  Will you wait for things to happen, or will you make good things happen?

Points for you to ponder and share:

  • What are some of your best experiences meeting people (online or at an event), that turned into a good friend, referral partner, or client over time?
  • Do you find events designated as “networking events” to be the best place for you to find business contacts, referral partners or clients?
  • Do you have better results just building relationships naturally, wherever you meet people in ordinary life?
  • Share

Lori T. Williams is an attorney based in Birmingham, MI, licensed in 1989.  As owner of a legal referral business called Your Legal Resource, PLLC, Lori personally assists individuals and small businesses in need of legal advice or representation in Metro Detroit by connecting them with the right legal specialist to meet their needs. Click here for a pdf of legal referral services. 

Through group training and events, Lori also focuses on referral marketing strategies for attorneys and other professionals. For more information about Lori or Your Legal Resource, visit  For networking events, training programs, and workshop information, visit:


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