Struggling to see any kind of ROI from all the networking events you attend? Chances are there are a few tweaks to your regular pattern that can mix things up and bring you more business. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your networking events so your time pays off. Schedule In Events Before you attend a single networking event, check your schedule. Do you have time for each one? Probably not. There’s rarely a shortage of networking events in any given area. You could consume your entire workday by trying to attend them all. The goal is to find the ones that are most relevant to your business and the ones that will yield the greatest results. Limit how cluttered your schedule becomes with networking events and you’ll maximize your time making new connections. Here’s why. When you schedule your networking events, you make a conscious effort to show up, be present in the moment and make the most of the experience. Without scheduling them, you’re acting on a whim. You might not know what the event is about, who you’ll meet while there, or the benefits of showing up at all. Some events might seem worthwhile, but they’re not a good fit for your industry. Narrow down the list and schedule in the ones that make the most sense for your business goals. Set Goals; Not Short Term Quotas Old school networking advice would suggest that the more business cards you hand out at any given event, the better you did. This isn’t the case. Handing out business cards is a false vanity metric. It doesn’t signal how many quality connections you made. Instead, it signals how many times you purposely put your card in someone else’s hands. Instead of focusing on quantity of business cards, focus on quality of connections. If you only make one really solid connection that brings you a flood of new business, you can consider that networking event a win. If your only focus was to distribute business cards, you might have missed forming that connection and walked away feeling like you won but not having any business to show for it. Set your goals for the networking event and go after those. Leave the short-term quotas at home or in your business card holder. Focus on Long-Term Relationships Has this ever happened to you? You walk into a breakfast mixer and make a beeline to the coffee maker. Before you’re able to add your creamer, you’re met with someone shoving his extended arm in your face and talking about what he does for a living. It’s unpleasant to say the least. Instead of listening and absorbing, you tune him out looking for a way to make an escape. After all, you need a few sips of coffee before you can manage that kind of conversation. Too many people treat networking events like speed dating. They feel like they only have your attention for a limited period of time so they have to make their elevator speech fast before they lose your interest. Little do they know, they already lost your interest. Don’t be one of those people. Networking is about forming relationships with people. Then, as the person is out in the community asking about what you have to offer, they’ll answer with your name. Trying to make sure everyone hears your elevator pitch won’t form a relationship – it will alienate a potential business partner. Ask Questions One of the best ways to receive is to give. And one of the best ways to give is to understand what the person wants from you. Ask questions to the person in front of you. Get to know what his goal is. Understand what kind of clientele he’s trying to attract. Talk about what he does in his spare time. Remember, it’s all about forming a relationship. Without understanding the person you’re talking to, you can’t ever give him what he’s looking for. And in turn, he won’t be able to give you what you need either. The more questions you ask the better you can get to know his business and needs so that you’re in a better position to offer your support. Practice, Practice, Practice Practice makes perfect! If you’re one of the many people who get uncomfortable walking into a room of strangers and striking up a conversation, know you’re not alone. The best way to overcome this discomfort is to practice. Start by talking to people away from networking events. Chat with the person in line after you. Or, start a conversation with someone at the dog park. Not only could this help you form impromptu connections but it’ll show you that talking to people isn’t as scary as it might seem. The more you practice opening up to strangers the easier it becomes. Need a helpful introductory line? Offer up a compliment. Everyone loves to feel flattered and noticed. This is a surefire way to make someone’s day, if nothing else. Ask for an Introduction Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you’re just not feeling the networking scene. Still, you know it’s important to attend. When this happens, reach out to someone familiar and ask for an introduction. Warm introductions are a lot easier to manage. First of all, the person making them could take some of the burden of conversing off your shoulders. Second, it makes the person you’re meeting less guarded against a sales pitch and more open to getting to know you. In the future, you can return the favor by making another introduction. Write Something Helpful on Your Business Card While talking to someone, if you shared a piece of wisdom, write it down and hand it to the other person with your business card. For example, if you shared a tip about a specific project management tool you just found, write it down and give it along with your contact information. The purpose of this is to associate your business and you with help. This person will already know you have something valuable to provide. The next time he needs your help, he’ll be more likely to pick up the phone and call you instead of searching online or going to Google. Something as small as a general tip could win you business. Takeaways The more you focus on building your relationships at networking events, the better off you’ll be. Stop scouring the room trying to hand out as many business cards as possible. Instead, focus on how you can be helpful to the people you meet. In the long run, this will pay off in dividends. Images: ”Man hand pressing Social network icon /Shutterstock.com“ ______________________________________________________________________________ Tweak Your Biz is a thought leader global publication and online business community. Today, it is part of the Small Biz Trends stable of websites and receives over 300,000 unique views per month. Would you like to write for us? 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