Good Networking Is More Than a Handshake
by Kathy Everitt
Monday, November 19, 2018
The best networkers are relationship builders. They seek opportunities for mutual benefit, with a view toward the long game. But their goal isn’t to meet as many people as possible. For the best networkers, the goal is to connectwith as many people as possible.
Whether you are just starting your dental practice or looking to grow, networking is a key tactic for success. The reality is, many people don’t maximize the opportunities for networking within their community. It is not enough to occasionally attend a local chamber of commerce luncheon or be listed in the membership directory. You need to engage others to make a true impression. This is going to take time and effort, but it will pay dividends.
So what can you do? Here are five ideas to get you started:
- Have a script. Practice your “elevator pitch” until you can recite it easily and naturally. Then, have three or four great go-to questions that are not“What do you do?” Try one of these conversation starters: “What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this week?” “What are you looking forward to this summer (or winter or year)?” “What do you do for fun?” “Who is your favorite superhero?” Unexpected questions open up conversations, make you a lot more memorable and help pave the way in building relationships with other professionals.
- Attend your community’s special events. Make a goal of meeting five new people at each event. This may mean sitting at a table with people you don’t know, or introducing yourself to a stranger or two. It may feel awkward at first, especially if you’re the shy type, but if you have your questions ready (see above), you’ll be doing more listening than talking.
- Take an active role in your local chamber of commerce or Rotary club. Many community organizations have volunteer “hosts” or “greeters” who pitch in at events. These volunteers provide a face to the event and make sure the attendees know where to go and what it is expected. Offer to be the host at an event.
- Accept speaking opportunities. Groups such as Rotary, the chamber of commerce and community colleges often look for speakers who can talk about interesting topics. This is more than promoting your practice; it is talking about the benefits of regular dental care. It’s also a way to meet potential patients.
- Volunteer. Joining a nonprofit’s board or taking a spot on a committee will introduce you to new people, offer insight into the needs and challenges of your community, and show you are invested in the place where you live and work.
Networking is more than handing out business cards. As Keith Ferrazzi said in Never Eat Alone, “You can get to know anyone in this world by helping with their health, their wealth or their children. Once you’ve been helpful in one of these areas, a lifelong connection is made.”