My efforts at networking events early after starting my cash practice played a big role in quickly filling my clinical schedule. It also has a lot to do with why my referral sources are so diverse.

I can't stand hearing about colleagues who went out of business because they relied heavily on a physician who started a POPTS or sold their practice to a hospital/corporation with PT services. If you have a practice, or plan to have one in the future, there's no excuse for this.

It happens all the time, but it won't happen to you if you work to diversify your sources of new business. OK, back to networking ...

Though my focus in this article will be on "networking events," it is important to realize that just about any social situation is an opportunity to network and create/strengthen valuable connections. Utilize the techniques below in all these scenarios, and you'll be amazed at the results for your business.

The most common person I see at networking events looks and acts something like this: a friendly local small business owner walks the room introducing himself to others, asking what they do for a living, and eagerly awaits the chance when he will get to talk about his business.

Once he has given his 30-second elevator pitch on the highlights of his service or product, he happily exchanges business cards and moves to the next new "business contact."

Small talk before and after the "what do you do?" portion of the conversations is generally drowned out in the minds of the participants with thoughts like:

  • "Who else can I meet here that might be a good contact?"
  • "How can I bring this conversation back to my business?"
  • "I really need to get back to work, and couldn't care less about this guy's kid getting accepted to Florida State."
  • "That smoked salmon was fantastic. I wonder how I could politely make my way back to the hors-d'oeuvre table."

After it's all over, the business owner leaves with the proud feeling that he has successfully "done his networking for the month," thinking to himself, "Hopefully something will come out of it."

When I enter a networking event, the primary question in my mind is: "How can I add value to these peoples' businesses and make them happy they met me?" Complementary questions in my mind include "Which people in this room would especially benefit from knowing one another?" and "Which contacts do I already have that would likely have a mutually beneficial relationship with any of these people?"

So you're at the event and have begun a conversation with someone (this probably goes without saying, but you should mentally do 4-5 repetitions of the names of everyone you meet, and really enter the event with the intention of retaining all new names). At this point, you want to get them talking more about what they do and get them excited to have an inquisitive audience.

Ask them questions that would prepare you to clearly describe their service/product to someone else. One of your questions should also be something along the lines of: "Since I'm obviously not an expert in your line of work, could you give me an idea of your ideal client so that I know whom to look out for in the future?"

As you continue through the event, keep in mind which contacts might be interested in meeting one another. If you can get them excited about meeting you and also connect them with others, you'll be remembered more than most/all other attendees.

Of course, there will also be time to talk about yourself and your practice, but in my experience, if you are genuinely interested in the people you meet and in adding value to their business in some way, it will be the start of a much more lucrative relationship for you as well.

People like to help out (and do business with) those who have done the same for them. You can spend plenty of time talking about your practice when you follow up with them in your next meeting.

In the next post, I'll give more details on a component of networking that is as equally important as your time/methods at the event itself: the follow-up.