It’s no secret that networking is essential if you want to grow your business. While there is a right and wrong way to network, I find that a lot of networking strategies just create noise that you won’t really be able to sort through to build a lasting relationship with someone.

Online networking is convenient, but doesn’t stick as well as networking in person. However, when you attend events, there’s a chance that you don’t even follow up with some of the people you meet and shake hands with and vice versa.

Attending conferences can be also be overwhelming and make it hard to connect with people one-on-one. If you’re interested in networking effectively and making the most of your time and effort, check out these 4 ways to network in person and build a relationship that sticks.

1. Go Out to Lunch or Dinner

A man who used to work with Oprah for several years revealed that one of the most profound lessons he learned was to never eat alone. Successful people take time to network and connect with others.

What better way to do that than over a meal? You have to eat anyway, so it’s a good idea to invite someone you’d like to meet or get to know better to eat with you for some one-on-one time.

If you’d prefer to treat but don’t have a lot of money to spend, try setting up a lunch date or even a brief meeting for coffee at a cafe.

I’m sure the outing will be more memorable than an email or brief introduction and you can really learn more about the other person’s life, business, personality, etc.

2. Steal Some Time With the Speaker After Their Presentation

If your goal is to network and you attend a presentation, it’s always a good idea to stick around after the speaker has finished.

Take good notes during the talk and do your research ahead of time. Learn more about the speaker’s background and jot down some questions or conversation starters you’d like to bring up afterward.

Most speakers stick around after for a while and are interested in talking with other people so it’s the perfect opportunity to network. That way when you do follow up later, they can put a face with your name and remember the conversation you had and not just the fact that you attended.

3. Set Up an Outing With Someone Local

Whether you live in a large or small town, there is probably someone you can connect with on a personal and professional level even if you have to drive out to a large city to meet up with them.

If you’re talking to someone at an event who sounds interesting, take the initiative to set up an outing so you can continue talking just like you would if you were planning a second date with someone.

If the person you are talking to mentions how they like art, invite them to a local art museum, or you can email them and see if they want to attend another networking event with you. That way, you’re doing more than just exchanging cards. You’ll actually be taking steps toward building a solid relationship with them.

You don’t have to hang out with people in your network every weekend like best friends, but it doesn’t hurt to meet up every once-in-a-while and surround yourself with professionals who share similar interests and goals.

4. Ask the Right Questions

When you meet someone, they may or may not be the right person for your network. It’s important to make sure you have a connection and share some common ground or else you’re just wasting your time and it’s likely that neither of you will make the effort to continue the conversation after the initial meeting.

This is why sometimes you follow up with someone, get a single response, and the conversation just dies. To avoid hitting this dead end, be sure to ask the right questions when you’re networking.

Instead of the typical ‘What do you do’ question, ask questions like:

What are you currently working on?
How did you get started in this niche?
What would you recommend for ________ ?
What goals are you most excited about?

These questions are very open ended which will create an interesting conversation that will allow you to determine how you and the other person could potential work together or help each other out.

Once you’ve made the connection from the conversation and the foundation for your relationship is established, both of you will feel much more confident and eager to follow up and join each other’s network.

Summary: Focus on the Relationship

Contrary to popular belief, networking is not meant for you to speed through prospects and determine who can help you out most or meet as many professionals as possible. It’s all about the relationship you build with the other person.

Someone is not going to do you a favor, refer you to a colleague, or partner with you on a project if they don’t like you or don’t know you that well.

That’s why it’s important to focus on building a solid relationship with people that is mutually beneficial but is also built on trust, authenticity, and genuine interest.

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Choncé Maddox is a professional writer who recently left her job in the web design industry to produce killer content and manage her own writing business full time. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurs be more productive and create a life they love by doing fulfilling work. On the side, she runs a podcast and blogs about getting out of debt at MyDebtEpiphany.com.

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