Are you networking right?

Sure, you attend an event every now and then, mingle with the crowd, swap a few business cards and go home. How much does this help you, though?

If you are one to seek out networking advice on the internet, you wouldn’t be surprised to see “Networking Events” right at the top of every single list.

And for some people, it is the best way to connect and establish relationships with prospective partners or clients. But you always seem to end up with a bunch of business cards full of faceless names.

Why is that?

The problem lies with the concept itself – networking mixers are full of people pursuing their own agendas, trying to build their contact lists instead of building actual, meaningful professional relationships.

In other words, these events emphasize quantity over quality. And that’s where you screw up.

It’s not about the number of people you connect with,

  • It’s about establishing personal connections with people you can learn from, and providing value to them.
  • It’s about that one right connection that could help your business or brand effectively.
  • It’s about nurturing existing professional relationships and taking them to the next level.

And these objectives cannot be accomplished at networking events. Instead, here are 4 networking approaches that will help you so much more:

  1. Cold Emailing

According to Alex Turnbull at Groove, “If there’s a ‘shortcut’ to building relationships with busy, successful people, this is it.”

Cold emailing has to be the one of the most understated and effective networking methods out there, and here’s how you can harness its limitless potential:

  • Research: Look for influencers and industry experts that seem like good fits for your business/brand.
  • Create value: How can you help them? Find out ways you can provide value to your prospective connections. Maybe you know SEO, website design or something else that can help their business. Mention it in your email.
  • Keep it short: These guys are busy. Keep your emails concise and to the point. Show how you can provide value-added services, and then deliver them.
  • Ask for help: Once you’ve delivered value to these connections more than once, it’s more than likely they remember you well. Use that fact to ask for help with your business, and chances are you’ll get more than you ask for.
  1. Re-establish Forgotten Professional Relationships

As life goes on, you tend to move from position to position, job to job or even career to career. You meet new people along the way, establish relationships, work with them and move on.

This leaves a trail of dormant, forgotten ties behind.

And while you keep working within your network, these connections go on to gain experiences and observations very unique to your own.

And sometimes, re-establishing and strengthening dormant professional relationships becomes more valuable than strengthening your existing ones.

  • Wade through your emails: Sift through older email exchanges and list the people you would like to reconnect with.
  • Research: Using LinkedIn and Facebook, look up the connections from your list. Cross out any names that are in current situations irrelevant to yours.
  • Reach out: This is not like cold emailing, since you’ve already had a working relationship with this person. Shoot a brief email to them, mentioning something you both once had in common. If you get a positive response, take it further.

20 or more years ago, reconnecting with dormant ties happened only in fortuitous circumstances. Now, with the internet, all you need is a few clicks and you’re set.

With the internet, you have no excuse.

  1. Mastermind Events

What else is better than attending networking events hosted by someone else?

The answer is simple: host your own mastermind event.

Mastermind events are effective for bringing like-minded individuals together to work towards mutually beneficial goals. This also helps deepen existing relationships within your network.

Here’s how you can go about it:

  • Identify your needs: What are your interests? What are your goals, both long-term and short-term? What do you hope to achieve by hosting a mastermind event? What kind of people would help you achieve that?
  • Identify your guests: Scour your network and shortlist people who you believe to have similar goals, experiences, and interests as you. Make a group of 6-20 professionals that have something in common between them.
  • Invite your guests: Send emails to your prospects explaining the purposes of the event, and what they could gain from it. Be precise, concise and clear.
  • Host the event: Make sure the event venue is conveniently reachable for all participants. Create a structure for the proceedings, and lead discussions by setting agendas and asking questions. Take care of food and drinks for the invitees, or if it’s a very small affair, host the event over dinner and drinks.
  1. Client Appreciation Events

Hosting your own events doesn’t have to be solely for your professional connections; if you’re a business owner with a dedicated client base, hosting a client-only event is a great way to solidify your ties and maybe gain a few more clients.

  • Choose an activity: What interests do your best clients share? Theatre? Golf? Sports? Plan an event accordingly. It’s important to know your clients well for this to work, but if you’re ever in a fix to decide, a simple wine-tasting event would work just as well.
  • Who do you invite? Tell your clients to bring someone they’d like you to meet, while you bring someone you’d like them to meet. At the very least, you end up knowing your client more, and at best, you land another important client and connection.

Instead of floundering around another networking mixer trying to catch a lucky break, try to follow these strategies. They require a substantial amount of time and effort, yes, but the results will be far more meaningful and important than you could get at any run-of-the-mill networking event.