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I came across this awesome post from my friend Dayna Schmidt this afternoon about the right way to leverage your time at a conference – or any networking opportunity. Dayna recounted the story of meeting Andrea Adams-Miller at a seminar in May and the opportunities it has opened up for her since.  Dayna’s point is – and she is right on – you aren’t going to get these opportunities if you aren’t putting in the effort to be personable and mingle. Trust me, you already know all the people in your Blackberry.

Dayna was right about something else as well, you don’t need to make 100 great connections – or even 10. One great connection can open up a host of possibilities and opportunities you have never imagined. Her challenge to you is to get excited, find a conference/seminar/event, and go find your ONE connection.

My challenge to you is different – get excited, find a conference/seminar/event and go BE that one connection.  Yes, we all want to get ahead – and that is the point – lets ALL get ahead. Hydrologists have a term ‘drawdown;’ it is the measure of the lowering of the water level in a reservoir as it is being pumped out. The lower the ratio of drawdown to water extracted the greater the aquifer’s ability to replenish itself. Networking is a lot like hydrology, if you don’t take time to replenish the well… eventually it will run dry.

The approach I strive for is to simply be a net giver. To approach every situation from the perspective of how can I add to the relationship. Note I didn’t say BEFORE taking; it is more a practice of giving selflessly. Every time you give this way in your professional relationships you are literally replenishing your well – of goodwill, of opportunity, and of success.

So when you meet someone, take the time to listen – really listen – to who they are, what they are passionate about, and what they need. Then reflect on your network and resources to see how you can help them along.