Not all networking happens at events. Some of the most effective networking you can do happens over coffee meetings. One-on-one catch-ups, whether they’re in real life or virtual, give you a chance to really connect without the distractions of being in a big crowd.

My husband is one of the best examples I know of one-on-one networking and the magic that happens. He’s naturally an introvert so big crowds don’t work for him. But get him one-on-one with someone and something fascinating happens. He listens to the person and talks about whatever is relevant to the conversation. And you know what? It never fails. A week or a month down the road and someone else will say they are looking for this or that and my husband is able to say, “Let me put you in touch with someone who does that.” Connections become his superpower.

It works the same way no matter if you are looking for Board members or donations.

Here are five tips to make your one-on-one networking even more effective.


  1.     Have a point to the meeting

A networking meeting is more likely to be effective if it’s clear why it’s happening. Are you looking for a mentor, Board member,  or a new donor? Has the person been recommended to you? Maybe you’re new in town or to the nonprofit world and looking to connect with peers.


If it’s a get-to-know-you meeting, it’s okay to talk about common interests like books, movies, or sports.


  1.     Be strategic

Do your research and identify leaders that you really want to connect with. Be clear about where you want to be in a year, five years’ time and seek out the people who can help you get there. Part of the point of networking is not just the people you meet, but the people they know who can help you grow your own network.


If you have changed jobs, sectors, or towns, connecting with the right people can help you hit the ground running.


  1.     Make it mutually beneficial

A networking meeting isn’t just about what you can get out of the other person – there has to be some benefit for them too. Think about what you can offer. What are your special skills or connections? Do you have acquaintances or experiences in common? Pay the other person the respect of doing some background research so you know where they’re from, and what their career path and big projects have been.


  1.     Respect their time

Remember this person has made time for you in their day. Be respectful of that and keep to the agreed time (don’t be late!). Don’t hog the conversation, and make sure the meeting doesn’t go over time, unless the other person is keen to keep talking. Give them your business card, but don’t hand over your resume unless it’s requested.


  1.     Remember your manners

Be polite during your meeting and remember to follow up within twenty-four hours with a brief email thanking them for taking time out to talk.


If you committed to sending an article or book reference, remember to follow up. You want this first meeting to set the tone for a future meaningful relationship. If it feels appropriate you could connect on LinkedIn.

Join me next week in the group where our Get It Done Quick training will be  5 Ways to Build Your Network from Scratch.

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