Does networking make you feel like a big phony? Hate talking about yourself nonstop and forcing your business cards on everyone? You’re in luck, because it turns out that a more natural approach to networking actually pays off better in the long run. Here are some tips:

  1. Create goals. Are you looking to meet potential clients, meet other business owners whom you might partner with, or simply become better known in the local community? Setting a goal will help you select the right networking.

  2. Prepare. Have plenty of business cards and choose a smartphone app that lets you exchange contact information quickly. Craft a short, interesting elevator pitch that explains what your business does. (For example, “I help small business owners save time by consolidating their daily tasks.”)

  3. Consider the options. There are networking groups for specific types of businesses and owners, such as start-ups or women-owned businesses. There are also groups devoted to specific goals, such as leads clubs or referral building networks. Ask other business owners you trust about their favorite organizations and what has worked for them. Your industry trade association and your local chamber of commerce are good places to start.

  4. Ask questions. Don’t just talk about yourself, ask questions to get others engaged. People like a great conversationalist and you’ll learn something that will help you build a business relationship.

  5. Follow up. Reconnect within a few days while the interaction is fresh in their mind. At minimum, connect with them on social media so you don’t lose touch.

  6. Assess outcomes. After attending a group a few times, evaluate whether it’s been of value to you. If not, move on.