Social networking is great, but it is still important to get out and have some face time with other professionals in your field. After reading about how important it is to network with other restaurant professionals, try to get yourself out there by:
Participating in Local Industry Associations. Research local restaurant associations and begin an active membership. Join committees, go to the meetings and the networking events, offer to speak on relevant topics, submit articles for the newsletter, and so on. Being a member allows you access to the member directory. Most have lists that allow you to look for people you want to connect with, and to do so before you attend an event.
Connecting with Industry Professionals. Sites such as Meetup let you join groups that are specific to your area. You can narrow down your interest by choosing from a pre-populated pick list, ensuring you are grouped with like-minded others. Most groups meet regularly in informal venues to discuss topics and get to know each other better.
Joining User’s Groups and/or Conferences. Attending a User’s Conference is sure to get you in the same room as other restaurant professionals that use the same technology, software, or products that you do. There is always a lot to learn in these specific groups of users.
Attending Trade Shows/Trade Events. Do your homework before the show. Look at the list of who has booths, and monitor the attendee list if it is available – this allows you to see who you might want to have conversations with before you get there. It is very possible that you will recognize names of former co-workers that have moved to different companies, giving you the opportunity to reconnect.
Becoming a Member of Your Local Chamber of Commerce. You will meet many local professionals in your neighborhood. Even though they will not all be in the restaurant industry, they still present great networking scenarios, and an opportunity to get in front of customers, mentors, and colleagues in a professional and friendly atmosphere.
No matter where you begin your networking journey, be sure to maximize the effectiveness of every contact by connecting with others before, during, and after the event. This will greatly increase your presence at the event by allowing you to meet more people and have more important conversations. After each event, be sure to follow-up via phone and e-mail with colleagues that you want to get to know better.
As a final note, as tempting as it may be, do not sell to other members or recruit employees during the social events. The goal is to better understand the industry and to learn from others through listening. Your colleagues will not share information with you if you are not a trusted member of their community.
To read more on the benefits and importance of networking in the industry read: The importance of Networking with Fellow Industry Professionals.