Diane Roundy, growth and business development director for Schenck, SC is a networking expert and speaks to organizations throughout Wisconsin on how to make the most of business events. She sat down with Insight Associate Editor Nikki Kallio to talk about networking best practices and how to build your connections in the new year.
If you are not meeting others, building relationships and learning from others, you’re not going to be as effective in your professional or personal life. Sometimes, as we get more seasoned, we get lackadaisical about making the commitment to go to events. If you don’t get out of the office and into those networking environments, you’re not going to have as big of an opportunity for learning, changing careers or getting additional business.
I’ve been very community involved — I serve on the board of directors for the Green Bay Packers, the board of the Denmark State Bank, and Live54218 in Green Bay. I’m on the Green Bay Press-Gazette Editorial Board and I’m on the board of directors for the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes. I attribute many of those positions to networking and building relationships.
I work with about 250 CPAs, and networking does not come naturally to a good portion of them. So, we talk about different ways to feel comfortable. If you’re having a party at your house, and you have 25 people there — if someone’s standing in the corner all by himself, what would you do? You’d go over and introduce yourself and ask how they’re doing. The same concept works at any kind of networking event.
Have some ideas in your back pocket as far as what you’re going to talk about: weather, something happening on the news, or some new construction — things like that to get the conversation going.
For the new year, my suggestion is to develop a plan. It may be “I will attend one type of networking event a month.” Set simple goals to try to get you in the direction of what you’re trying to accomplish: “I’m going to try to meet three new people tonight.” Ask a friend to go along, and say, “Our goal is to meet three new people, so let’s do it together.” Keep it simple.
Any time you go to a social event, plan ahead. Who’s going to be in the room, what would we have in common? It’s not about business discussions — it’s small talk to get the conversations going. If I’m talking 20 percent of the time, and the people around me are talking 80 percent of the time, it’s working well.
It takes seven “touches” to do business with someone, or enhance the relationship. What I mean is different avenues of getting to know one another. The first touch could be the first introduction when you exchange business cards. The next touch could be running into them somewhere. It’s all those different touches that start building that relationship. Wherever you are, you can be networking. You don’t have to add more activities to your daily schedule — you tie it in to what you’re already doing.
One of the downfalls I see with some people, if someone is in the room they want to get to know for business purposes, they pounce on them, keep them in the corner and ask for that meeting right away. Never do that at a social event. Never do that at a first-time meeting. Use the statement, “It was very nice to meet you, may I follow up with you sometime?” If they say “Sure,” that is your invitation to follow up. There’s a reason you met this person, and it may not always be for business purposes. In the end, hopefully that person will benefit because I met them.