Unconventional ways to make new contacts

By Leslie T. Snadowsky

Before you sign up to attend another huge convention where you’re just a face in the crowd with a pocket full of business cards, think of some unconventional ways to get attention. Can you meet your next client volunteering at a charity function? Land a big fish on a group charter boat excursion? Or get hired after an entrepreneur hears you speak at a Toastmasters event?

When you “get out there,” outside the confines of a cubicle or business conference, you can meet potential contacts and create genuine connections. Doing business when you’re relaxed and having fun may prove to be the smartest thing you’ll ever do while climbing your ladder to success. 

Hobby hooks

Take your penchant for muscle cars and turn it into a vehicle to meet new people with similar interests. Whether you like making jewelry, baking muffins or collecting old coins, make more contacts and land more business prospects by letting your passion lead you to like-minded enthusiasts. Go to MeetUp, Eventbrite, Citysocializer and even Groupon. They help bring people together in creative ways as opposed to the old standards of social media networking and joining an industry association.

Participating in sporting events can help you get healthy and wealthy at the same time. Join a gym or a summer softball league, play pickleball or take a ballroom dancing class. In these less formal settings, people often open up, talk more and make your networking efforts more memorable. If you don’t want to sweat in front of potential sales prospects, think about attending sporting events and tailgating. You may not lose a lot of weight, but you could gain some hefty accounts.

Sign up 

To make more sales and build better relationships, skip signing on to LinkedIn every morning, and, instead, volunteer at a local school, a nonprofit organization or an animal shelter. Here you can share your interests and values with potential clients. If time is tight, donate what you have to offer to your favorite charity as consulting time or pro-bono work.

When serving on a nonprofit board or becoming a chair of a committee, you don’t just attend. You lead, placing yourself in an enviable environment ripe for giving and getting referrals. Civic organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis, Elks, Moose and Lions are great places to start. Or be a leader at your local American Cancer Society chapter or an organization for the arts. Helping your community often brings benefits to your business.

Dominate the room

Want to get known by those who count? Get in front of them and make a speech. If you’re not having much luck attending events where you listen to a speaker and then try to work the room by asking, “What did you think?” switch the dynamic and shine the spotlight on yourself.

Don’t push your resume and accolades onto people, pull them in at work meetings, public conferences and career days where you can take center stage and give a presentation. With the help of SpeakerHub and Toastmasters, you can become the featured attraction where contacts come to you. Those with stage fright can opt for creating a blog, a podcast or a video workshop on Udemy.

It’s all about building community, your network and attracting motivated people to what you do. Language classes are also an alternative favorite. You’re in a space where people are there to improve themselves, and you can make lifelong relationships while learning Mandarin at the same time.

Pet project 

Build your reputation and earn some respect by creating something that others can talk about. Whether it’s a short “how-to” booklet or a new device or tool, connect with those in your market and expand your network. Being a creator also gives you a calling card to reach out to successful people in your field and ask for their input, quotes, experience and
participation. They may choose to invest in your efforts.

If you don’t want to create something tangible, create something experiential. Start with a wine-tasting night for accountants, a realtor hiking group, a book club for lawyers or a monthly food service dining event. Plant a community garden where you can network over tilling soil. Getting out of “work mode” can often help you get the job done.

Back to basics 

With more than seven million members, online space Alignable provides effective ways for small businesses to network, build trust and get referrals. It lets you promote your local business and increase your visibility.

But if you want to go old school, don’t discount the power of a real conversation. To get ahead and land a job, don’t send an email or text. Instead, pick up the phone and make a call. How about sending an old-fashioned, hand-written thank-you note? They may seem like outdated gestures, but nowadays they can make you stand out, get to know someone and let someone get to know you. Do you remember the last time you were standing in a long line and decided to talk to someone instead of staring into your smartphone? Changing the way you communicate with peers can prove to be one of the best networking tips of all.

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