As the NNA’s Notary Event of the Year draws near, Notaries nationwide are focusing on how to enhance their networking skills. From breaking the ice during networking events, to tips on how to establish and maintain your own network of colleagues and clients, here are a few tips to help get you started. 1. Attend Professional Conferences: Industry-specific events such as the NNA’s Annual Conference are great (and fun!) ways for Notaries to meet face to face with colleagues and industry experts. Maximize your experience by pre-planning your itinerary, scheduling your “must-see” panels, interactive labs, and keynote speakers, and including time for socializing. “Before I attended an NNA workshop on networking at Conference, I had no idea how important this area would become to my business success,” said Arizona NSA Kathy Fletcher, a 2013 National Notary Association Notary of the Year Nominee. Breaking the ice with fellow attendees can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. “Just ask questions,” says Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of Business Network International. “You don’t have to know anything about the topic to converse about it. You just have to know enough to ask the questions.” A general knowledge of current events and popular culture also comes in handy. Keep in mind: the people you’re talking to are there for the same reason you are and may be waiting for you to make the first move. Tips for managing contacts met at Conference or other networking events: Repeat a person’s name when you meet them to help you remember later. Jot down the names, contact information, and other memorable characteristics about the individuals you meet, such as their job title, location, and personal interests. Do this on the back of their business cards, or in the “notes” section of your smartphone contact page for quick access down the line. 2. Join Groups And Professional Associations: Professional associations like the NNA provide unbeatable resources and networking opportunities, and many provide members-only directories that help you find work. Whether you’re a paralegal, a banking professional, or a Notary looking to expand your income as a field inspector or virtual assistant, there is likely an association that’s right for you. These websites and associations can help you get started: Chambers of Commerce: Nationwide Directory Business Network International National Association for the Self-Employed American Business Women’s Association National Association of Women Business Owners 3. Connect Through Social Media: New and veteran Notaries alike connect with one another on the NNA’s social media platforms to exchange information, get answers to questions, and solicit advice on everything from what products to use to ways to advertising and growing a business. Create your own business-only social media presence to extend your networking reach, advertise your services, and solicit reviews of your customer service. Keep it professional! 4. Leave A Lasting Impression: Whether you’re attending industry events, meeting with a client, or even running to the market, have a stack of business cards ready to distribute at a moment’s notice, as you never know who might be in need of your services. 5. Follow Up And Maintain Contact: Establishing contact is only a first step to successful networking; it’s now up to you to create strong relationships through good fostering and follow-up. Send emails after meeting colleagues, reminding the individuals of who you are and including something that shows you remember them (this is where taking notes on the individual’s role, personality or interests comes in handy), contribute to Internet discussion threads, and give back to the Notary community by helping others. Consider becoming a mentor. Kelle Clarke is a Contributing Editor with the National Notary Association.