I thought I'd post six tips of my own to complement Gautam's.:
- Never waste a lunch. Always eat with someone. Never eat alone. Phone a friend or colleague - maybe one you have not seen for a while and arrange lunch.
- Never waste a trip. If you travel on business either abroad or maybe just to a local large city - let people know you will be there and invite them to meet you. Don't waste an evening in your hotel room working or watching television when you could be out having a drink or dinner with someone. If you can get to meet new people so much the better. If you are a woman take a look at the Global Dinner Network.
- Connect people to people. Remember networking is not just about you connecting to other people, its also about you connecting other people with each other. So next time you arrange a meeting with a friend invite along another friend and connect the two of them.
- Deliberately target people. There is nothing wrong with targeting people whom you wish to connect with. I was fascinated at a conference recently by a woman who had just started out as an independent consultant. She pretty much cornered every major speaker or person of interest at the event to introduce herself; have a conversation and connect with them. But remember - networking is nor just about connecting - its about making something of those connections.
- Don't be afraid to ask for something. A lot of networkers, I must admit myself included, are a little reluctant to ask a new contact for something. If you can see a way in which that person can help you - then go ahead and ask - you have little to lose. But of course if you can make the proposal a win-win or offer some thing in return then so much the better.
- Offer help without expectation of return. If I am networking and I see an opportunity to help the other person - maybe something that I can do for little effort but has a large impact for them then I offer to do it with no expectation of anything in return. Sure I hope they might reciprocate in some way and yes I am looking to establish a relationship but I don't expect or ask for anything in return unless of course I can see a nice win-win