Keys to building a useful executive network

CEO

Have you ever struck up a conversation with another executive at a conference or a reception and then noticed as that executive seemed to have a knack for working the room?

In other words, that executive was seizing the moment and maximizing his or her interactions with the other attendees at the event.

Cameka Smith is one of those people.

Smith is the founder of The BOSS Network, a Chicago-based community of professional and entrepreneurial women who support each other through conversation, online engagement and event-based networking.

Smith recently shared some executive socializing tips in a webinar titled, “How to Build and Leverage a Powerful Network.”

Smith offered her advice in a recent Zoom conference with members of BizStarts, an organization that supports entrepreneurs in southeastern Wisconsin.

“Relationships are the keys to success,” Smith told the virtual audience of executives.

She then shared her seven keys to building and utilizing an effective network of professional contacts.

  • Develop a networking database. Smith organizes her database with tabs. “Keeping track of all your contacts is the start to building a strong network,” Smith said. “It gives me something to go back to. Always put a note on how you are connected. It’s a game-changer.”
  • Cultivate your current relationships. “I always tell people what I do. It starts with your inner circle. People love to help out and tell you who they know,” Smith said. “In order for your business relationships to bear fruit, you must cultivate and grow those existing relationships.”
  • Maximize your social networks. “Follow the influencers on LinkedIn. You will be surprised how many people respond,” Smith said. “Using social networks is about reciprocation.”
  • Master your elevator speech. “The truth is you have about 60 seconds to gain someone’s attention, and with all of the information we are inundated with on a daily basis, our attention is decreasing,” Smith said. “The more you practice it, the better you get at it. Be confident and speak from the heart.”
  • Attend a networking event. “Practice by getting out there. Those who show up go up,” Smith said. “Utilize resources such as social media, co-workers or fellow church members to find out what’s going on in your city.”
  • It really is about confidence. “You’ve got to have confidence. Utilize everything you have,” Smith said. “Be present and be prepared. Know who the key players in the room are before you even get there. And persistence is key. ‘No’ is not ‘never.’ It’s ‘now.’”
  • Learn to work smartly. “Know your capacity. Know when your spirit is down and you need to refuel,” Smith said. “We must set aside time to renew our spirits, to catch our breath and renew our living being once more. Relax, renew and rest.”

Once you have completed all seven steps, Smith has one final recommendation: “Take some time out to write out your personal mission statement. Your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.”

C-Level Biobox

Name: Cameka Smith
Title: Founder and CEO
Organization: The BOSS Network
Website: www.thebossnetwork.org
Expertise: Entrepreneurship and diversity inclusion
Education: Master’s degree in education at Northern Illinois University
Best advice ever received: “Take care of you first, then everything and everybody else.”
Favorite musical artist: Prince and Whitney Houston
Favorite authors: Maya Angelou and James Baldwin

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