Guide to Networking: Online and In-person

Lou Bortone asked:

Business networking for entrepreneurs is an art and a science. The trend of E Networking has also opened up a new online world of Mega-Networking. From the proliferation of social networking sites like Facebook to the more structured, in-person networking groups like Business Networking International (BNI), there have never been more opportunities for building your professional network. However, many of the tried and true rules of engagement apply, because, in the end, its all about relationships.

With that in mind, there are three basic kinds of business networking:

1) Traditional networking  In-person meet and greets at professional events and meetings, etc. In addition to joining an association specific to your industry, check out your local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary International chapter.

2) Structured networking clubs  Professional groups like Business Networking International (BNI) require a significant time commitment but can be tremendously helpful in finding new business.

3) Online or E-Networking  Internet-based networking websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook take six-degrees-of-separation networking and make it digital.

Here are the things you need to know to maximize your networking efforts:

“Perfect your elevator pitch Prepare and rehearse your one-minute introduction speech in advance. This breaks the ice and also serves as a good conversation-starter.

Resources: Learn how to create an effective elevator pitch at Need inspiration? Read successful elevator pitches and tweak your own at

“Be a joiner Join professional trade groups. Volunteer. Get more involved in trade associations. Make a name for yourself; dont hide behind the scenes.

Resources: You can join local chapters of Fast Company magazines Company of Friends group to stay connected, or more freelance-oriented groups like, where you can find work and search for freelancers to work for you.

“Give action to get action Remember that networking works both ways. Be ready to reciprocate. Kevin Spaceys Hollywood agent character said it best in the film Swimming with Sharks: Youve got to give action to get action!

Resources: Dont dismiss the power of social networking websites like Friendster and Knowmentum. These can be a source of great connections.

“Take advantage of online networking opportunities The newest trend in networking provides unique opportunities to connect with colleagues online and expand your network exponentially.

Resources: LinkedIn is a popular E-networking site, as is Ryze. Some online networking sites are geared towards specific industries. EntreMate, for example, specializes in connecting entrepreneurs who are looking for business partners.

“Follow up Cultivate your relationships. Send notes after meeting a new contact. Be proactive about staying in touch. Recognize that it takes time to build a relationship.

Resources: The Riley Guide offers additional information and advice about networking.

Finally, keep in mind these basic networking guidelines:

“Dig your well before youre thirsty  the best time to develop your network is before you need it!

“Be a great listener. Youll expand your circle of friends when you show sincere interest.

“Offer assistance. Networking is not a one-way street.

“Just like theres a right way to work a room, you must observe proper netiquette when youre networking online.

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