I'm almost finished reading Penny Power's new book "Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me". Yesterday evening I read this quote about a question Penny was struggling with in preparation for a conference in Bali in 2005 : "How do you measure the value in your network ?"
This was Penny's answer : "Your network value is based on what people say about you when you are not there". Indeed, networking is about being talked about when you are not in the room. That sentence really sums it all up, doesn't it ? Gaining trust and reputation from your network should be the only thing on your mind. I also have been asked the obvious question 'What's the real value of all your networking efforts ?' a number of times. My answer was this simple statement :
The single value you really want as a result of your networking efforts is to become TOP-OF-MIND for the people in your network.
I'll add an example to make this more clear :
Imagine meeting me at a networking event in Brussels. We get to know a little bit more about each other while having a drink at the bar. You are telling me about your professional activities and I'm also telling you something more about my IT company and the fact we are coming onsite to solve your computer problems. Three months later you are visiting a friend and he complains about his computer. He needs someone to take a look at his problems, but he really doesn't want to take his PC to the shop.
If my name is on top of your mind at that very moment ... I succeeded in my networking efforts.
How to achieve this ?
The best advise I can give you for this rule to work, is adding something to your story which will stick. Something that isn't average and what will make people remember you. Otherwise you will just be one of the 1000 other business coaches or IT technicians in my network. Make sure you stand out and have a special twist when you present yourself !