Networking isn’t just about attending an event with a stack of business cards and speaking with random people. People want to do business with people they like and trust, and people they know through friends and shared connections.
Attending networking events has its place. If you work in a particular industry sector and you know that your contacts are going to be at a conference or event, you might want to attend. Events provide opportunities to catch up with clients and key contacts and are likely to be time well spent. However attending such an event “cold” where you know nobody in the room, is unlikely to produce a new pipeline of business.
If you want to build a really powerful network for yourself, look for situations that will allow you to make friends, not just “contacts”. Small settings work well. Friends of friends and e-mail introductions go a long way. Keep the focus on making meaningful connections, instead of giving business cards to random people.
Finding people with common interests such as sailing or golf can help you to build strong relationships and they will be more likely to engage with you when they need to buy the product or service you offer.
So, focus on the relationships first and wait for the business opportunities to arise over time. This can be a slow process, but you’ll end up with a strong circle of people you trust.