Stranger Danger? Not in Networking!

Why do people hate networking events? There are a few common reasons, but one that I have heard time and time again is an anxiety about introducing yourself to new contacts. I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling of nerves as you meet new people and try to strike up a conversation. There are a few small things I think you should include in your introduction with new people that could help take the edge off.

  • ID-100356039Don’t forget your name and your business! Because, yes, believe it or not this happens. I was at a networking event a few years ago, and someone came up to me. We spoke for a few minutes about their business and their experience using referral networking before they had to excuse themselves. It was then that I realized that I had never gotten their name, despite the fact that they knew mine. If your goal is to introduce yourself to a new contact and leave a lasting impression, definitely make sure you give your name.
  • Find common ground. Finding something about your new contact that you can relate to is among the best ways to quickly develop the start of a relationship. This also will alleviate the pressure of your conversation with someone new, as it’ll spark topics you both can relate to and talk about.
  • Be memorable. If you can stand out from the crowd and make yourself unforgettable (in a positive way!), you’re more likely to really develop relationships. This is most effective when done when you are one-on-one with someone, and not in a group. Be sure to read the person, and use a quirk about yourself, your business, etc., that can resonate with the specific person. This one requires a bit of social intelligence, but when done right is highly effective.
  • Ask questions about the other person. People love to talk about themselves and their business. Everyone has an easy time talking about things they know well, and what do people know better than themselves? Not only will this allow the other person to take the lead on the conversation in a positive way, it helps you learn about the other person. The caveat here is to make sure you are asking genuine questions. Asking nonsense questions just to keep asking questions is transparent, and will negatively impact how you are perceived.

How do you handle meeting someone new at networking events? Let me know in the comments below!

No Time for Small Talk

People often mistakenly perceive what goes on at networking meetings and events as making small talk with a bunch of strangers.  Real business networking , however, isn’t about making small talk at all; rather it is about building meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships with other business professionals and small talk isn’t generally something that helps further this aim.  Serious networkers, recognizing that they have limited time to introduce themselves and convey the essence of what they do, generally avoid lengthy small talk. 

 

If you want to build your business through word of mouth, you must give a message that’s heard by others.  You need to create a positive message and deliver it effectively–who are you, what do you offer, and to whom do you offer it?  When you properly position yourself with an effective message instead of trying to connect through making small talk, you save time because others quickly understand  what your company represents and offers.

Take the time to plan your introduction and prepare some concise and descriptive overviews of your products or services.  Then, when you meet someone for the first time, you can give him a good explanation of what you have to offer.  I recommend that you develop several scripts that you can readily use when attending networking meetings.

Show pride in who you are and what you do.  As an example of this, I often mention a fantastic quote from Martha Taft.  When she was a young girl in elementary school, she was asked to introduce herself to a group of people.  “My name is Martha Bowers Taft,” she said.  “My great-grandfather was President of the United States, my grandfather was a United States Senator, my daddy is Ambassador to Ireland, and I am a Brownie.”

If you have honed your message and have crafted an introduction which has been very effective for you at networking functions, I encourage you to share it in the comment forum below and to explain how you went about constructing your message and your introduction.  You never know who you’ll help by sharing your insights. Thanks!

Preparation & Follow Up–the Two Keys to Referral Success

In this brief video, filmed at the 2012 BNI® International Directors’ Conference in early November, I talk with Terry Hamill, a respected business networking expert based in Europe.  Terry explains two important keys for maximum effectiveness and success in business referral generation–preparation and follow up.

Terry advises that the true gold is in the follow up and that the most successful networkers use the strongest follow-up methods; he also offers a few important tips for preparation prior to attending networking meetings and events.

Do you have a favorite follow-up method or a highly effective preparation tactic that you use prior to attending networking functions?  If so, we’d love to hear about it!  What works well for you could really help other people in their journey to networking success so, by all means, please feel free to share your favored methods and tactics in the comment forum below. Thanks!

Congruent in Words and Actions

I recently saw someone’s Twitter update telling me all about how his vitamin line will not only make me skinny and healthy, but will also make me wealthy. While there is nothing objectionable about any of these outcomes, the jarring reality is that the man promoting this wonderful opportunity is neither skinny, nor healthy, and he had just been posting updates about how he was desperately trying to dig himself out of debt!

Do you see the disconnect here? I’m sure you have seen people at networking meetings and events who will stand, introduce themselves, and deliver a promise-filled monologue about how their product or service will bring you all kinds of things which they themselves obviously do not have the benefit of enjoying.

What’s missing is congruency. When your professional message is not congruent with your personal situation, your networking efforts will not be effective. If you are promoting yourself as a wellness coach, and yet you are often sick and carrying 20 extra pounds, there is a jarring incongruence for which it will be hard for you to compensate. When I want to refer my colleagues to a wellness coach, I will refer one who is healthy, fit and obviously achieving the results she promises I will receive from participating in her program.

This may seem logical, but I often see people all over the world with incongruent messages. Ask yourself how congruent your message is.  If you’re a professional organizer, is your briefcase a disaster? If you’re a car detailer, how does your own vehicle look? If you have never done so, take stock today of your message. Evaluate what you’re saying the benefits of your products or services are compared to what you are showing people they are.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you do thunders above your head so loudly, I cannot hear the words you speak.” In his book Inside the Magic Kingdom, Tom Connellan calls this “walking the talk.” How are you doing when it comes to walking the talk in your business? It will have a definite effect on the success of your networking efforts.

Share a story with me about someone (don’t name names!) whose message was not congruent with their actions.  I’d love to hear other stories.

 

International Networking Week® 2011–New Video

The new video for International Networking Week® 2011, is now available on YouTube!

The short, eight-minute video, sponsored by NetworkingNow.com and the Referral Institute, discusses the history and significance of this exciting, celebratory week which will be recognized across the globe this coming February 7-11, 2011 (Mark your calendar now! :)), and it also explains a concept many networkers fail to recognize but which all networkers need to be aware of–the ‘networking disconnect’.

This is the fifth year for International Networking Week® and it is now recognized by many countries around the world, with thousands of events being held during the Week.  One of the main goals of the Week is to help businesspeople everywhere build their networking skills; don’t wait until the last minute to join in the celebration and start the year off as a better networker–watch the video now, find an event in your area, and come back and let me know what you’ll be doing to recognize International Networking Week®.

For additional information go to www.InternationalNetworkingWeek.com.

"New Year’s Resolutions and Networking"

A friend of mine, TR Garland (pictured with me in the photo at right), just wrote a great blog entry which contains some very timely information for many people across the globe and I’d like to take the opportunity to share it with you today as a guest blog.  Enjoy . . .

“New Year’s Resolutions and Networking” by TR Garland

In about 30 days, the majority of people around the world are going to be faced with the same thing we’re all faced with once at a certain point every single year.

No, I’m not talking about keeping a smile on your face while spending the holidays with your in-laws (wink-wink).  I’m talking about setting New Year’s Resolutions.

Every year, one of the top resolutions is to “get in shape.”  The truth of the matter is that most of us already know how to get in shape:

1.  Design a nutritional plan and stick to it

2.  Design a workout schedule and stick to it

3.  Track your actions and results daily and recalibrate if needed

The problem is, a large percentage of people don’t reach their goals because:

1.  They don’t write out a formal nutrition plan or workout schedule

2.  They don’t hold themselves accountable

In other words, life gets in their way.

So what can be done about this?  Well, there’s something about human psychology that pushes us to not let someone else down. Because of this, people who invest in a personal trainer to help keep them accountable tend to achieve desired results much more consistently than they ever would by attempting to get in shape on their own.

It’s important to note that this same concept holds true for business networking and referral marketing.

Many people are spending a lot of time networking by just chatting away with others and maybe grabbing others’ business cards.  By doing this, they then expect results; they expect that the people whom they’ve met and exchanged business cards with will eventually pass a referral to them.  This mindset is called being reactive ( . . . and hoping for the best!).  Being reactive is an employee  mindset or mentality that, in my opinion, gets placed into the same category as punch cards, guaranteed smoke breaks, assembly lines, benefits entitlement, and cubicles.  In other words, this mindset is something that isn’t really that viable anymore in today’s economic environment.

If you don’t believe me, look around and note which businesses are thriving and hiring.  I’m confident you’ll discover that the businesses which are doing well are those that do not have a reactive mindset and, instead, maintain an entrepreneurial mindset.

An entrepreneurial mindset is one that takes ownership and focuses on being proactive versus reactive.  Just like the “getting in shape” example above, being proactive and accountable in your business networking and referral marketing efforts is a sure-fire way to get results–plain and simple.

So, especially if you’ll be out attending holiday parties in the coming 30 days with your spouse, significant other, family, or friends, remember to be proactive with your networking efforts.  Go to each event with a purpose (in addition to your goal of having fun).  Don’t simply gather business cards, that’s not what I’m talking about.  Instead, set relevant and realistic networking goals and ask the person you went with to hold you accountable to your goals.

And, of course, there’s a time and a place for everything.  You need to respect the event you’re attending and if the environment doesn’t warrant you achieving certain networking goals . . . grab a celebratory beverage and some festive treats and remember, there’s always next year!

* TR Garland is a Referral Marketing Strategist for the Referral Institute® in Orange County, California where he is a consultant to top performers and entrepreneurs on maximizing their ROI/ROT from business contacts and networking.  Starting in 2011, you can follow TR for his tips, tactics, and techniques on effective networking at his newly launched blog located at www.BeABetterNetworker.com.

 

If You’re Not Inviting, You’re Missing Out

Inviting prospective referral sources to an event you’re attending, hosting or participating in as a featured guest, exhibitor, panel speaker or award recipient is a great way to enhance your contact with them and build credibility.

If you’re not inviting your prospective referral sources to events, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to keep them informed of activities you’re involved in. When the event is one where you have a chance to share your expertise or where you are being recognized for an achievement, using this tactic contributes to building your credibility and image as a successful and knowledgeable professional.  This tactic also helps acquaint your targets with others in your network and transforms strictly business relationships into friendships.

If you haven’t been inviting prospective sources to events and you’re not sure whom to invite or how to invite them, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Make a list of the events you’ll be attending and a list of network members you might invite.
  • With plenty of lead time, call or write each prospective source to invite him or her to the event; explain the reason for the invitation.
  • Pay your network member’s admission fee, if there is one.
  • Make sure the event offers benefits to your prospective sources, such as an opportunity to meet someone they admire, to be entertained or to be recognized.
  • Whenever possible, allow your guests to invite guests of their own.
  • It’s OK to invite people you do not expect to attend.  Remember, one of your aims is to keep your sources informed of what you are doing.

So, what events are you attending in the coming weeks?  Make use of the tips above and make it your goal to invite someone to each event you attend from here on out. Chances are you’ll not only reap some great benefits, you’ll probably enjoy the event even more with your network member along.

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