Do you notice the universal joy that emanates when spring arrives?  With the sun shining brightly and flowers blooming, everyone is eager to trade in the heavy winter coats for sunglasses and brightly colored outfits.  There is never a missed opportunity to sit at an outdoor cafe, sip on a refreshing drink or mingle.  And it only gets better with summer.

Spring and summer are great for networking because the atmosphere is welcoming and relaxed, people are already mixing and mingling, and having a follow-up lunch takes a lot less convincing when it isn’t 35 degrees outside.  So with happy people around, why miss the chance to strike up a conversation and make new connections?

Here are 5 things you need to do to maximize your spring and summer networking efforts:

Find out where the events are! These may be in your city, in a city you’re visiting or somewhere close enough for you to drive.  You can look these up by areas of interest, by organizations you’re interested in, or you can even be completely spontaneous if you’re really looking to expand your network beyond your usual comfort zone.  Check out your local Chamber of Commerce, sites like Meetup, or even host your own tweet up for your local buddies on Twitter!

Prioritize and create your networking schedule. Realistically, you can’t attend every event.  So evaluate the cost of your time versus the benefits.  If you’re a consultant who is looking obtain new clients in the technology space, your time may be better spent going to a startup networking event versus one targeting volleyball enthusiasts.  Figure out which events are a priority for you, make a list and schedule them in your calendar.

Revamp your business cards. Are the ones you have “so last season?”  Well, it may be time to get a fresh new design, a new logo or have a graphic artist help you redefine your brand.  Think of something upbeat that could be a conversation starter.  Maybe try orange or yellow as others will generally stay away from these colors.  Be bold in your approach so that you stand out from the crowd.

Prepare. Wherever you’re going in life, you want to arrive prepared.  If you’re looking to meet a particular person at an event, what will you speak with them about?  Did you read their latest book and would like some insight?  You may only have a few seconds to make that first impression so make sure you do your research ahead of time. If you’re at a social media networking event, are you familiar with the latest tools and applications so that you can keep up with the conversation?  Preparing doesn’t have to be exhaustive, because at the end of the day, making that connection comes down to being personable and relatable.  But preparing certainly helps you add value to any conversation,  showcases your knowledge, and gives you that competitive edge in a room full of people.

Bring Friends! Yes, this is an option.  If it will help you to see some familiar faces, invite some friends or colleagues who have similar interests.  There is one rule, though.  Whether it is to build your personal network or to identify opportunities for you business, it is important to remember why you’re attending these events.  With that said, make sure you’re making new connections and not spending your entire time conversing with people you can catch up any day of the week.

Do you have any other tactics that you use to maximize your spring and summer networking efforts?  We would love to hear!

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