The 12 x 12 x 12 Rule for Networkingstring(36) "The 12 x 12 x 12 Rule for Networking"

Do you want your business networking efforts to be more effective? This simple rule has three critical questions to ask yourself before going to a networking event. I introduced the “12 x 12 x 12 Rule” in my book, Networking Like a Pro, and then adapted it in 2020 for online networking meetings. I share both in this blog. 

Perception is Reality

It’s true – the way you’re perceived absolutely does affect the business you conduct (or don’t conduct) with other people. This is especially true in networking when you’re meeting someone for the first time. When it comes to perception vs. reality, it is important to create the right perception of yourself and your business 

Let’s face it, most prospective clients don’t care how full your schedule is this week. They just want to know if you’re a possible solution to a problem they have. The same is true for potential referral partners. They want to know if they can trust you with the people and clients with whom they have a good relationship before referring you to them. In both cases, their initial perception of you goes a long way in making that determination. 

This is precisely what the 12 x 12 x 12 Rule is all about. It looks at you from the perspective of other people and shows you how to optimize their perception by fine-tuning your business networking practices.  

Let’s talk about the three questions to ask yourself before going to a business networking event. 

1) How Do You Look From 12 Feet Away?


Have you dressed appropriately for the event you are attending?
Are you prepared?
Do you have what you need for the event, including business cards? 

You can prepare in advance by researching the dress code for the event (do not wear casual clothes), finding out what time to arrive (be early), and what you need to bring with you. Knowing this information in advance can make you much more comfortable walking into a room.  

2) How Do You Come Across From 12 Inches Away?


Do you still look prepared? Are your clothes clean, is your breath fresh? This may seem unimportant; however, you don’t want to be remembered for a wrinkled shirt or having bad breath!  

Remember to smile as you meet someone for the first time and stay engaged during the conversation. Practice active listening and maintain eye contact. Be relaxed rather than having a rigid stance with your arms crossed. When forming networking relationships, much of the important information is communicated through nonverbal cues.  


It’s necessary to realize how much your attitude can impact that first impression when meeting someone. Always have an upbeat, positive attitude when you are talking to other people. Having a positive attitude is one of the most important characteristics of a great networker.  


Do you remember the part of the “12 Foot” rule about being prepared? It applies here, too. Can you easily find your business cards? Have your cards ready to hand out, rather than fumbling around looking through pockets or a purse.
Make sure that you have a system for keeping YOUR cards separate from the cards you receive at the event. Giving the wrong card to a new contact will hurt your credibility and undo some of that great first impression. 

3) What Are the First 12 Words Out of Your Mouth?


This is the most important point. When someone asks you what you do, you want to be ready with a response that is memorable. Have you thought about what you are going to say to someone else at a networking event?  

Think about concise ways to get your points across – what you want to say about your business, your target market, the benefits of your product or service, etc. Consider giving examples of projects you are working on or stories about how you helped clients. Be confident and speak with conviction. Say something that promotes curiosity and engagement without sounding over-rehearsed or contrived.
These 12 words are designed to get people’s attention and invite them to ask questions for continuing a conversation. 

The 12 x 12 x 12 Rule for Zoom

The 12 x 12 x 12 Zoom rule was created in 2020 during The Great Pause, when most global business networking was happening online.  

1) What Does It Look Like 12 Feet Around You?

With many people working from home offices, it is important to pay attention to the setting of your personal meeting location. Make sure the background that people see behind you is as professional as possible. Remove the visible clutter and close the door to keep children or pets from interrupting.  

If using a virtual background, make it something related to your industry; make it static rather than a potentially distracting video. Remember to keep the background professional, such as bookshelves or an office setting. Don’t use a tropical beach background unless you are a travel agent or work on a beach.
Your background says a lot about you.  

2) What Do You Look Like 12 Inches Away from Your Camera?

Have you dressed appropriately for the meeting? I mean, are you FULLY DRESSED for the meeting with both a professional top and bottom?

You don’t want to wear something (or wear too little) that could lead to a situation which ends up with you on the news. 

Make sure your hair is combed, and don’t eat on camera. And just as if you were attending an in-person meeting, refrain from personal grooming and excessively touching your face or head.   

Look at the camera and make “eye contact” with it. Give the meeting your full attention; refrain from doing other tasks or activities. And DON’T answer your phone! 

3) What Are the First 12 Words Out of Your Mouth?

This is the most important point. Just like in-person meetings, think about what you are going to say prior to the meeting. Find concise ways to talk about your business, target market, and the benefits you provide, without using industry jargon. Practice your 12 words out loud and on camera before the meeting.  

Finally, use a properly positioned microphone so everyone can clearly hear you speak. Mute yourself when you’re not speaking and be ready to unmute when it’s your turn to talk. 


Perception is reality when it comes to meeting people for the first time. Follow the “12 x 12 x 12 Rule” the next time you are going to any networking event. You will go a long way toward creating the right impression. 

Don’t Reinvent the Wheelstring(26) "Don’t Reinvent the Wheel"

As businesspeople and networkers, and even in our personal lives, we often make things harder than they need to be. In the business world, there are endless opportunities to learn from the successes and mistakes of others who have ventured into the entrepreneurial waters before we did.  There is an abundance of tried-and-true techniques – for communicating, for sales, and general business practices. In fact, there are so many that some of them seem too simplistic to truly be effective.

So, what do we do?
We re-evaluate them, we “improve” upon them, and we overcomplicate them. Possibly worse, we sometimes just abandon the old way and try to start over from scratch. Yet all we succeed in doing is making things harder than they really are.

Often, we think we are smarter than those who came before us. Maybe our egos prevent us from listening to those who have more experience. The trouble with reinventing the wheel is that it exposes us to the danger of history repeating itself.

One of the biggest mistakes that people in business and in sales make is not listening to those who have experience. For some reason, they assume that they themselves know better . . . and the truth is, they don’t. There is nothing like experience; it beats education every day of the week. The only thing better is a combination of education and
experience . . . or a willingness to learn from other people’s experiences.

Avoid the Danger Zone

These are three common warning signs that you may be falling into the danger zone of reinventing the wheel or repeating work.

  • Instead of solving a problem, you invent new features to cover it up.
    First, it is poor customer service to add features to try and distract from a known issue with a product or service. Instead of wasting time coming up with new features on an old issue, invest the time to investigate the old issue and make minor changes on existing features to elevate the whole product.
  • When something with a history doesn’t work perfectly, you think it might be easier to start over.
    Without a doubt, there is always a reason why things got to where they currently are. Instead of erasing all the work of those who came before you, do some research. Talk with your predecessors and learn about the motivation that led to the choices that created the current situation. Chances are you will discover the core problem and be able to make strategic moves to target the issue, rather than completely starting over.
  • You forget that the wheel you’re thinking about reinventing is a common wheel that many businesspeople are faced with.
    Is your wheel unique to you? Or is it something that others in your profession are dealing with? If the latter, it is highly possible that many other people are also working to reinvent that wheel right now. Perhaps it is a standard business practice in your field that simply doesn’t work. Instead of putting forth resources, such as time and money, to tackle it on your own, do research to find out if there is a group in your field that is already exploring the issue. If you are working to forge new paths at the same time others are trying to do the same thing, it’s likely that you could work more effectively as a team and avoid wasting valuable resources.         

Simple Ideas Can Have a Big Impact

There are many basic sales techniques that a successful salesperson knows to be effective. They don’t look for something more complicated or involved because they know from their own experience, and from the experience of others, what works in sales and what doesn’t work. If you’ve read my book, Masters of Sales, you may have read things that seemed too simple to be effective, or you may have read ideas that you’ve heard before. Instead of being dismissed, these tactics and ideas should be embraced. Truly successful networkers and businesspeople learn from other people’s success. They remember that it is often the simplest ideas which have the biggest impact.

We can learn from others’ mistakes and avoid dooming ourselves to make the same bad decisions. We can also learn from others’ success and utilize their knowledge and experience so that we don’t reinvent the wheel.

Is there a simple lesson you have learned from another businessperson or fellow networker that has helped you achieve success? 




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