By Anne Baber & Lynne Waymon

Grab a piece of paper and a calculator and, right now, tally up the amount of money you personally spent (or your company spent for you) on networking activities this year. Include memberships, dues, conferences, luncheons, receptions, referral groups, and that round of golf with a prospect.

In our workshops, we’ve heard people report totals that range from $15 to $75,000! How about you?

Are you surprised to see how little you actually spend, given how important meeting new people and re-connecting with long–time contacts is to your bottom-line? Or are you shocked to realize how much you spend and want more return on your investment? If you want to make the most of your memberships here are 10 tips. They’ll help you enhance your reputation, establish your credibility, and raise your visibility.

1.   Assume your presidential responsibilities.

When you attend an organization’s event, remember you’re not just another member, you’re president of your own network! You are responsible for what you take away from the meeting. The success of the meeting is up to you. Many organizations will send you a guest list so you can see who will attend. Take charge of meeting the people you want to meet and making the connections that will be valuable to you.

2.   Showcase your capabilities.

Teach your fellow members what you can do – – your skills, abilities, and talents. As you become active, take on only those roles you can and will do well. If you do a great job as treasurer, people will assume that you are an excellent computer programmer or an outstanding real estate salesperson. Conversely, if you’ve promised to do something, but don’t come through, people will assume that you are not a competent attorney or public relations practitioner. We call this The All or Nothing Principle. If you do one thing well, people will assume you do everything well. If you do one thing poorly, people will assume you do nothing well.

3.   Show off your wares or your services.

Provide a demonstration or a sample. Contribute door prizes. Do a display. Take every opportunity to give other members a chance to experience – – with all of their senses — your products or expertise. Karen sells a line of designer clothing. She wears a new outfit to every meeting, leaving the price tags on!

4.   Show up.

Get there early and stay late. The involved people — speakers, board members, movers and shakers – – are likely to be there for “pre- and post-meeting meetings.” They are the ones you want to cultivate for your network. Don’t fume about what happened this morning or what’s on your agenda for the afternoon. Be there and be present in the moment. If you can, turn off your pager or cell phone. Pay attention to the here and now.

5.   Listen carefully with a bias toward action.

What do people need that you can offer? Always be ready to give information, resources, or help to others. If Susan says, “Boy, I’m ready for a vacation!,” say “I have a terrific travel agent. Would you like her name?”

6.   Help others connect.

Who would your conversation partner like to meet? To find out, listen. When Carla introduced herself as an interior designer who focuses on the senior citizen market, Mitzi immediately said, “I’ve got to get you together with someone I know who shows businesses how to market to the 50 plus generation.” Listen for links, what people have in common. “You went to the University of Chicago? So did Danielle. Let me take you over and introduce you.” Or, “Oh Sarah, I just met Ona who has also just started her own business. Let me introduce you to her.”

When you become known as somebody who knows everybody, people will call you and ask you if you know someone who . . . . As you link people together, you build your reputation as an expert networker.

7.   Tell success stories.

What picture do you want to pop up in people’s minds when they hear your name? They will remember what you last told them. Have something important to tell when they ask you, “What’s new?” As you think about what you want to tell people, begin with your goal. What do you want people to know about you or your business? Plan ahead to talk about clients served, problems solved, or products that saved the day. You can talk about your successes without bragging. As Will Rogers, the great American humorist once said, “If you done it, it ain’t braging.”

Lynne Waymon is the co-founder and CEO of Contacts Count the nationwide training and consulting firm specializing in business and professional networking You can reach Lynne or Anne at