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I recently returned from attending a very successful conference with fellow health practitioners.  Along with the valuable information that is always so positively received by attendees, participants also routinely give high ratings to the numerous networking opportunities made available throughout the event.

Networking is such a powerful benefit of actually attending a “physical” versus “virtual” conference.

In fact, I try and include the opportunity to network into most of my live programs and events. For example, my Unstoppable Health Facebook group is also intended, in part, as a networking platform.

So what is networking?

Networking consists of many layers of marketing. Yes, marketing!

To me, marketing is making meaningful connections and sharing one’s passion; and that sharing can be with peers, partners, or, in particular, your clients and growing tribe.

The top layer to networking is social – face-time, if you will. This layer of networking is all about learning a few new things and meeting people in the industry. If you are a good listener, you can see how the interaction with another contributes to their life. Contacts you make at this level of networking are people you might meet again. You might start to follow them through their business marketing, and they can follow you, too.

A lot of people stop here. They meet people, exchange business cards, and return home and – maybe – put the card info into some kind of contact management software, Rolodex, or any other tool for tracking contacts. They may try to connect via LinkedIn, although they may be unsuccessful depending on “who” the new contact is. But many more will rubber-band those cards and throw them in a drawer. The extent of their networking was whatever they learned while in that moment (industry news and gossip, latest and greatest technology, or social media tips, best practices, etc.). They may have made new contacts with people that they might meet again someday, further developing that connection down the road.  However, unless more is done with the information, nothing will ever come to fruition.

This is helpful, but less likely to result in near-term collaboration.

So that brings me to a deeper layer of networking – finding reciprocity.

Look up the word “reciprocity” and you’ll find a definition like, “a social rule that says people should repay, in kind, what another person has provided for them; that is, people give back (reciprocate) the kind of treatment they have received from another.”

Why is reciprocity important to true, meaningful networking?

If you can meet someone, share the passion that drives you both, AND find a way to expand each other's success, imagine the potential impact to your business! But creating reciprocity at an event when you’ve only met someone once is tough. There is another way. Let me give you an example.

If you go to a conference and just walk up to strangers, that is at least a way to engage. Chat and, like I said, maybe learn more about them as you listen to their story. You now have a name to put with a face, maybe even their business card, which could maybe help develop a future relationship. If you attend a lot of events, you’ll more than likely meet again.

Begin your networking BEFORE an event.

Imagine if PRIOR to the conference you join the conference Facebook group and introduce yourself, as well as post some helpful information, along with asking questions about the event to get the conversation going. Maybe you’ve been to the location previously and can share tips, such as how to get around in that part of the city, or maybe some great dining suggestions.

Perhaps you can offer to help with the event. If you’re a closet blogger, you volunteer to write a blog for the conference, or maybe even check out the speakers and offer to help them in some way, perhaps posting to social media, or any other help they might need.

Find out the conference and speaker Twitter hashtags and give them some free press, and include them on your tweet, of course. Now you are working on collaborating with people BEFORE you even get to the event. You are creating an environment of shared purpose. You may have “met” people on Facebook who you’ve identified as knowledgeable in your field, and you've tagged them as people that would be good mentors, partners, or to have a working relationship with, so now you get to go to the conference to actually meet them in person. You've taken the first steps to establish a working relationship, so now you can elaborate and build upon those initial interactions. This can result in deeper connection opportunities.

Do you see the difference?

SHINE Conference logo - square x500Facilitating reciprocity is something my team focuses on for my practitioner-focused conferences such as the SHINE Conference.  

The Scientific and Holistic Investigation of Nutritional Endocrinology (SHINE) Conference happens the end of October, and we specifically incorporate activities to support deeper connections among participants, such as role-playing and mastermind activities. I think that is why I have so many people returning to this event year after year. Not only are they attracted to all the learning opportunities from the guest expert speakers, as well as me, which helps them to build  their confidence to up their game with their practice, but they have found it an important place to build deep connections.

Do you spend time networking?

If you aren't including time for networking in your marketing plan, I strongly encourage you to get it in your calendar now.  Go through your local chamber of commerce calendar of events, and make a list of those you would like to attend.  Even better, plan to network at an educational conference so you can learn and even earn CEUs while you network.

There are many more benefits to networking.  Here are just a few:

Networking will strengthen your practice or career

Practitioners spend a lot of time trying to jump-start or expand their business, but often feel like a little fish in a very large pond – and sometimes it feels like an ocean. In many cases, they may feel they lack the credibility they need because they just have started out, and feel they are not as well known in their local community, as well as in the professional community.

As you more deeply network, you can gain introductions and opportunities. You may meet people with the same specialty focus as you, as well as meeting those that have different specialties. This is an excellent opportunity to partner on a marketing program together. Maybe consider co-hosting a community presentation together – your topic could be blood sugar and their topic could be burst training and healthy exercise, for example. Again, find the win-win, the reciprocal benefit – to both of you for the given collaboration.

If you find a bigger fish to mentor or partner with you, a single promotion can help you create or grow your tribe as well as theirs. Deeper networking can result in joint venture (JV) opportunities, referrals, along with other potential revenue sources.

Networking will advance your clients’ care

The more you learn about the human body and how it works, the more you are exposed to research along with the tried-and-true best practices of others.  You'll also learn more about new technology, social media tips, and all of the marketing tools that are working for your colleagues.  As you learn more how these things work together, the better you will be able to help your current clients, as well as attract new clients. Think about how important it is to learn about best practices – true tips to do things better – more economically and efficiently. All of that positively impacts your client care and bottom line.

Networking will increase the overall “voice” for holistic care

I view other practitioners as peers versus competition.

We are all in this together, with the common mission to change the medical model. In order to do this, we need to collaborate as often as possible.

I view every conference that I attend as a strategic networking opportunity. But not necessarily an opportunity only for ME; it may be helping someone else by supporting their webinar, or introducing people to them.

Connecting people in YOUR network with each other is a wonderful way to increase the overall “voice” for holistic care, and can also end up providing benefits to you down the road.

Networking will help develop your leadership skills

Timid? Well, time to get over that. Networking with your peers and those who have common interests in holistic healthcare is a great way to “find your voice!”

Prior to an event, do the research on the other attendees as well as the speakers. Join the Facebook group for the conference, or get active on other social media relating to the conference and speakers. Ask meaningful questions. Volunteer to help in some way. As an example, if you feel you are very timid, email a speaker or conference coordinator and offer to take detailed notes, type them up, and share them after the conference. This could result in a connection with the speaker as well as the conference attendees. Such creative ideas lend you credibility and a voice – without having to say a word.

Bottom line, networking will help build your business

Build your business using networking strategies

Build your business using networking!

So treat “deeper” networking as part of your overall marketing and business strategy.

If you feel you are ready to learn more and make that initial step to becoming your own boss and building a career you love, apply for the Nutritional Endocrinology Practitioner Training program at http://www.NEPTApply.com.

Not only will you learn about how you can help your clients find health solutions to their elusive health questions, but you will learn the formula for a thriving practice.

Learn how to become the “go-to” practitioner in your community!

We have also opened the registration page for our SHINE Conference, taking place on October 28 – 30, at a beautiful resort just East of the Austin airport. We are very excited about the topic, Mastering Functional Assessments to Transform Lives, and have a number of really excellent speakers lined up.

Reserve your spot now to attend as registration is filling up fast.

I would love to hear your COMMENTS on what you have done to successfully network. How has it helped you?