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?
LOOK THE PART BEFORE GOING TO THE EVENT
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?
ARE YOU AS GOOD UP CLOSE AS YOU WERE FROM AFAR?
DOES YOUR BODY LANGUAGE SEND THE RIGHT MESSAGE?
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.
ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING
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?
HAVE YOUR PROFESSIONAL INTRODUCTION READY TO SHARE
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?
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.