Webster’s II New College Dictionary defines networking as, “An informal system whereby persons having common interests assist each other.” I would say that’s a bit of an understatement in our current “do not call list” environment. Effective networking can mean the difference between success and failure.

A client of mine puts it best, “Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking and talking advertisements for one another.” Networking is creating connections and great relationships. It is not about collecting business cards! The more people who know about you, your goals and objectives and your business, the more easily you will attract the results you want.

Here are some tried and true principles of attraction networking.

Be Prepared. Write out a list of conversation-starters and conversation-enders prior to the networking event. Practice using them in advance so they appear to be natural when you say them.

Give First. Walk into the networking event with the attitude of being of value to others first. The Law of Psychological Reciprocity will do the rest.

Be a Detective. Discover who the other person is, what they value or need. Be genuinely curious about others, it is easier to start conversations and people usually love talking about themselves. Don’t tell or lecture, instead ask questions. Make the goal of your conversations to connect rather than impress. You can never go wrong by being a good listener.

Broadcast Your Own Message. Develop a 30-45 second “infomercial” that clearly states your unique value and WIIFT (what’s in it for them?). This is no time to improvise live. Prepare and practice saying your “infomercial” in advance of the event.

Know What You Want. Be prepared to ask specifically for what you need or are looking to gain. Remember the Six Degrees of Separation theory which states that we are only six people away from finding out anything we need to know.

Multiply Your Network. Expand your network by adding new contacts, resources and people who are experts to your rolodex; by doing so you will increase your value as a resource to others and will personally benefit from the added contacts and connections.

Stretch Yourself. Use your network to extend your skills. Take a leadership position in an organization you belong to. Pick a position that may be new to you. Don’t be afraid to ask others for their help and guidance. This will help you in developing significant relationships.

In summary, remember the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Don’t expect connections and relationships to happen on their own. Be proactive and take the initiative to establish a network that will serve you well and be of mutual benefit.

Good luck on your journey to success.