The Benefits of Mentoringstring(25) "The Benefits of Mentoring"

It is common knowledge that if you want to improve your own skills, teach someone else. You can help transform someone’s life by taking them under your wing and helping them learn something new. Bonus – you will probably find that you are getting better at it, too! Mentoring is a reciprocal journey of growth and learning, a dynamic process that enriches both the mentor and the mentee.

The essence of mentoring lies in recognizing opportunities to guide and support others, perhaps someone who mirrors your earlier self in the business world. Embracing the role of mentorship entails selflessly sharing knowledge and insights, guiding others to success while helping them sidestep the pitfalls you once encountered. Teaching someone else can also act as a refresher for what you have previously learned and may get you refocused on areas that may have been forgotten.

Chess Club

In my book, The Networking Mentor, I tell a story about a gentleman who coached his 10-year-old son’s chess club. Well… that story is actually about me. I coached my son’s elementary school chess club and I thought, “This is going to be easy enough, I’m pretty good at chess.” Then I realized – I had never studied the game. I read one book in high school, and I was totally self-taught. Guess what? You can’t teach kids that way; you must know what the chess moves are. So, I had to learn what a fork, a skewer, a pin, a ladder – these are all terms for moves in chess – I had to learn what they were so I could coach the children. Well, the funny thing is that I was a pretty good player and I regularly played with a friend of mine. One day he said to me, “Man, what are you doing?” And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Your game has really gotten better.” I said, “Oh, I’m coaching 10-year-olds.” He said, “No, really. What are you doing?” I replied, “Seriously. I’m coaching 10-year-olds.”

I had offered to help the chess club thinking that it would be great to spend time with my son and his friends. I didn’t occur to me that I would become a better player through coaching them! By helping these young chess enthusiasts, I had to brush up on my game and do my homework to learn the names of the moves and the strategies that I had done intuitively for years. I was amazed at how my game improved by coaching elementary school kids, and so was my friend.

Time Investment

Some people say they don’t have time to be a mentor. To them, I say, “Find a way to make the time if at all possible.” You see, every time I was a mentor to someone it was also a learning experience for me. When I was given topics of concern from people I mentored, I always did some research and looked at my own files to see if there was something I could offer to help them through the issue. I came to realize that I was improving myself while I was helping them.

To those who claim a lack of time for mentorship, I urge reconsideration. Mentorship isn’t merely a commitment of time. It’s an investment in personal and professional growth – for both of you. The same is true with mentoring people to network better.

Networking and Mentoring

The process of mentoring people to be a better networker not only benefits the mentee, it also benefits the mentor. Just as coaching young minds in chess strategy compelled me to refine my own game, serving as a networking mentor prompts a refreshing review of learned principles and a reinvigoration of neglected areas. And there is immense gratification in watching someone grow, reach their goals, and achieve success.

The mentoring relationship is working as long as you continue to receive and/or give value to the relationship. I have personally had some mentoring relationships where I started as the mentee and, over time, it evolved to where I was a peer mentoring my mentor on certain issues. That’s when you know you’ve developed a long-term friendship. Ideally, a strong mentoring relationship evolves into a lasting connection and friendship. In the realm of business networking, mentoring yields mutual benefits.

Whose Story Are You In?

Every single one of us has people in our lives who have made a difference. We all have someone in our story who influenced the path we took, or perhaps motivated us to carve our own path. These are the mentors we’ve had along the way and their impact can be life changing. By devoting time and attention to a mentoring relationship, both parties reap deeply powerful and meaningful rewards that extend well beyond simple financial gain. As we mature and gain more experience, we have the opportunity to transition from being a mentee to also being a mentor.

We all have people who are in our story. I believe the real powerful thing in mentoring is to ask: Whose story are YOU in? Whose life are you making a difference in? It is part of a Givers Gain® attitude – what goes around comes around. Someone has helped me; now I’m going to help them, or someone else, be successful. It becomes about the difference you can make in other people’s lives; that is what creates a meaningful life.

Perhaps there is someone who already considers you a mentor, or maybe you know someone you would like to mentor – someone who reminds you of yourself when you were just getting started in your career. Or it could be a new member in your business networking group who needs someone to guide them and share the best practices for success. If so, don’t let the opportunity to be an active mentor pass you by.

They will benefit from your experience, advice, and perspective. Your encouragement can help them gain confidence along their journey. You both can realize improved skills while building a mutually beneficial, long lasting business relationship.

When you selflessly share your wealth of knowledge to help others succeed and help them avoid making the same mistakes you made, they will benefit greatly and so will you. I believe in the power of mentors to make a positive difference in other people’s stories.

Do you have a story about one of your mentors? Have you mentored someone else? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.




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Slowing Down or Speeding Upstring(27) "Slowing Down or Speeding Up"

There’s an old story about speeding up or slowing down that I would like to share on my blog today.

An Airbus 380 is flying over the Atlantic Ocean, maintaining a steady speed of 800 km/h at an altitude of 30,000 feet. Suddenly, a Eurofighter with Tempo Mach 2 appears alongside it.

The pilot of the fighter jet slows down and flies parallel to the Airbus. Using the radio, they greet the pilot of the passenger plane by saying, “Hey there, having a boring flight with your Airbus? Let me show you something!”

The fighter jet rolls onto its back, accelerates forward, breaks through the sound barrier, ascends rapidly to an exhilarating height and then swiftly dives down almost to sea level in a thrilling maneuver. It then loops back next to the Airbus and asks eagerly, “So, what do you think?”

The pilot of the Airbus responds calmly but appreciatively; “That was quite impressive! Now it’s your turn to take a look.”

The jet pilot watches attentively as the Airbus continues to fly steadily straight ahead with its unchanged speed. After 15 minutes pass by without any extraordinary actions from the Airbus, its pilot radios back saying humorously, “Well now, how did you find that?”

Perplexed and curious about what just happened, the jet pilot asks in confusion; “What did you do?”

With a cheerful laugh in their voice, the Airbus pilot replies; “Oh well! I just took advantage of some free time. I stood up from my seat to stretch my legs and walked towards the rear of our aircraft to use the restroom. Then I made myself a cup of coffee and treated myself to a delicious chocolate fudge pastry.”

The lesson to be learned from this story is that when you’re young, the thrill of speed and adrenaline can seem appealing. However, as you grow older and gain wisdom, you realize that comfort and peace hold greater significance. This concept is often referred to as S.O.S.; Slower, Older, but Smarter.
This message is dedicated to my readers who see the value in slowing down.

Remember: It’s Not Net-Sit or Net-Eat — It’s Called Networkstring(65) "Remember: It’s Not Net-Sit or Net-Eat — It’s Called Network"

I came up with the phrase, “It’s Not Net-Sit or Net-Eat — It’s Called Network” back in 1985 when I went to a business mixer and witnessed virtually every person either sitting along the edges of the room or standing around eating and drinking.  There was almost no one who was actually networking. It struck me like a bolt of lightning that this was supposed to be a “networking” event, but people were just eating and drinking (especially the latter)! As a result, before the first mixer that I personally organized, I went to a printer and had my new phrase printed up on little signs and put them all around the room to remind people why they were there.

I also came up with the original version of the 10 Commandments of Networking which I printed and posted around the room at that event.

The 10 Commandments of Networking

  1. Always have the tools to network with you (business cards, name badge, etc.).
  2. Set a goal for the number of people you will meet.
  3. Act like a host, rather than acting like a guest.
  4. Listen to people and ask questions about what they do.
  5. Don’t try to sell to them.
  6. Give referrals whenever possible.
  7. Exchange business cards.
  8. Manage your time efficiently.
  9. Write notes about your conversation.
  10. Follow up!

The last thing I did before the event got fully underway was to tell everyone that it’s ok to come to a networking event with someone you know or a co-worker; just don’t hang around with that person the whole time.

What a difference in networking events!  By just giving a little guidance to the participants, the event was much more successful than the ones I’d seen in the past. So GET UP, get off your phones, and network!




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Seven Steps to Avoid Name-Nightmares at Networking Eventsstring(57) "Seven Steps to Avoid Name-Nightmares at Networking Events"

Most of us have experienced the anguish of forgetting someone’s name while they’re standing right in front of us! It’s like a mental game of hide-and-seek that you’re destined to lose. But there’s hope, I’ve got a strong, seven-step plan to turn your name-guessing game into a name-recalling masterpiece. Prepare to impress at social gatherings and business events, all while keeping your pride intact.

  1. Stop the Name-Shaming

Let’s break this vicious cycle of saying “I’m bad at remembering names.” If you keep telling yourself you’re bad at something, your brain is going to believe it and throw in the towel before the networking event even begins. So, let’s all raise our imaginary glasses and toast to a new mantra: “I’ve got this. I can be better at remembering names.”

  1. Repetition Repertoire

Imagine this: You’re introduced to someone, they say their name is Jamison, and you think, “Alright, Jamison, got it.” Fast forward five seconds, and it’s like your brain just performed a vanishing act. The solution? Repetition! Ask them to say their name one more time, like you’re savoring the sound. “Jamison”, then, if appropriate, say something relevant to the moment like: “that’s a memorable name, why did your parents name you that?”

  1. The Name Ninja Technique

You’ve nailed the repetition, but now what? Integrate their name into the conversation.  Say things like; “How did you hear about tonight’s event Jamison?” As you continue to talk make sure to respond a couple times using their name as appropriate. “Wow, that sounds amazing Jamison!” Towards the end of the conversation ask them what social media platform they are most active on. Then, ask for one of their business cards and make a note as to the social media platform that they like to use. The conversation and the business card will help anchor their name in your mind.

  1. Association Amusement Park

For some people, remembering names is like playing a wild game of word association. So, if you meet a Jamison who’s really into football and travel, picture this: Jamison wearing a football helmet, kicking a suitcase across a field while shouting travel tips. Vivid mental images stick like peanut butter to the roof of your brain. Bonus points if it makes you chuckle in the middle of a serious conversation. Whatever form of association you make, dedicate the name to memoryMake associations in your mind. Write notes… When you are back home, review your meeting and try to remember what that person looked like and what they were saying and doing. You may want to send a quick “nice to meet you” message online to help you remember the conversation you had with them.

  1. The Phonetic Finesse

If you’ve ever stumbled over someone’s name like it’s a tongue-twister on steroids, try this technique. Ask them if there is a particular way they prefer their name to be pronounced. Not only will you earn extra points for courtesy, but you’ll also have a unique mnemonic device to remember their name. For example, if they say, “It’s actually pronounced ‘Jay-muh-sun,'” you’ll forever think of them pronouncing their name.

  1. The Visual Anchor

For some people, associating the person’s name with a distinctive feature of their appearance is helpful. If Jamison has striking green eyes, imagine him surrounded by jam jars made of emerald glass. This technique capitalizes on the power of visual memory, making it easier to recall their name by conjuring up their unique physical trait.

  1. The Greeting Gambit

Saying “it’s nice to see you” instead of “it’s nice to meet you” is rooted in the idea that many social encounters are not actually the first time you’ve seen someone. In today’s interconnected world, you might have come across someone’s photos or posts on social media (yes, it happens, I’ve had someone who felt bad that I didn’t remember them from our social media connection), you may have heard about them from mutual friends, or even seen them in a previous event, webinar, or video call. By acknowledging this, you’re not treating the encounter as completely new but rather as a continuation of a relationship, no matter how brief or distant. Plus – this has the added benefit of not offending someone that you’ve previously met. For example, there was the wife of a business associate who was once at a party at my home. Many months later, I ran into her at a grocery store which of course, was a completely different context. I recognized her face, but I had no idea where I knew her from. When she came up and said hello, I said, “hi, it’s great to see you.” She then went on to talk about how much she enjoyed the party and voila – it immediately came back to me where I met her.

So, there it is, the ultimate guide to name mastery. No more awkward moments of standing there with a polite smile while your mind is screaming, “Who are you?!”  With these additional techniques in your networking toolkit, you’ll be a name-remembering maestro in no time. So go forth and conquer those social and business events with confidence, knowing that you won’t be left in the awkward abyss of forgotten names!

Does Networking Work for Employees?string(35) "Does Networking Work for Employees?"

Yes, it does. Business networking is an important aspect of professional growth and success. Whether you are self-employed or you are a professional working within a larger organization as an employee, I believe it is worth the time and effort to find networking groups that can refer new business to you. If you currently work for someone, I suggest you take steps to persuade your employer that you will get business by working with these groups. The following story demonstrates the ways that networking can be beneficial to you.

The Bank Manager’s Triumph: A Networking Success Story

Several years ago, I met a bank manager who was diligently attempting to persuade his supervisor that participation in a BNI® chapter would yield substantial results for his branch. The supervisor reluctantly agreed to let him become a member on a trial basis. The bank manager began getting referrals soon after joining the group. After several months, a fellow member gave him a particularly good referral; it was a man who was disgruntled with the level of service at his current bank. The manager decided to visit the man at his company. The man told the bank manager that he felt he was not getting personal service from his bank. The manager assured him that his bank prided itself on service. He gave the man his personal mobile and his home phone number and told him that if there were ever a problem, he could be reached any time of day, at home or at work. The man thanked him for coming to his office and told him he would get back to him.  

Two days later, at exactly 9:00 a.m., the man was standing at the bank door with several savings and checkbooks in hand. The branch manager met him at the door and thanked him for coming to his branch. The man said he was impressed with the way he was handled by the manager and that he had decided to transfer his accounts to the manager’s bank. To the astonishment of the bank manager, the new customer handed over checking, savings, and money-market accounts totaling over $950,000! After everything was completed, the man told the manager how glad he was to be referred to him by their mutual friend.

News of the Referral Got Around

I first heard this story when my office, BNI Headquarters, started getting phone calls from every branch manager in Southern California, USA, who worked for that particular bank. Each of them wanted information about a local BNI chapter in their area. When the bank manager who got the $950,000 referral told his supervisor where he got the referral from, the supervisor (Remember him? He was the reluctant one.) called all his other branch managers and told them to join a local BNI chapter within the next two weeks. The transformative power of effective networking had not only boosted individual success, it had also become a catalyst for organizational change.

Lessons for Employees: Persuasion and Initiative

For those of you working as employees, the bank manager’s triumph offers valuable lessons – the biggest one is persuade your supervisor. Convincing supervisors of the merits of business networking is often the first hurdle. I spoke to an individual who was eager to join a networking group but faced continued resistance from his boss, who cited budget constraints and said the company would not pay for it. Undeterred, the savvy salesman proposed a compelling deal: he would personally fund the membership, and if he secured two referrals resulting in sales within the thirty days, the company would reimburse him. The boss said, “Sure, if you come in with two sales, I’ll see to it that the company pays for the membership.”

Highly motivated by the potential for success, the salesman closed three sales and was working on four more by the end of the first month. True to their agreement, the boss covered the initial membership cost and then paid for the renewal, acknowledging the tangible benefits derived from the salesman’s networking efforts. This story underscores the transformative impact that personal initiative and persuasive communication can have in creating a supportive environment within a company for networking.

Networking – A Cultural Shift

The bank manager’s success and the subsequent organizational response highlight the opportunity for a cultural shift within companies. The reluctance of the supervisor who was initially hesitant about the networking idea, transformed into proactive encouragement for all branch managers to join local BNI chapters. This shift reflects the recognition that networking is more than an individual pursuit; it can be a strategic advantage for the entire organization.

Creating a culture that values and promotes networking involves leadership buy-in, consistent communication, and the showcasing of tangible results. The success stories that emerge from individual networking efforts can serve as powerful tools to persuade employers of the broader benefits. Organizations that actively support and facilitate business networking initiatives are more likely to foster innovation, collaboration, and a heightened sense of community among employees.

Virtual Platforms and Global Reach

In today’s digital age, the landscape of networking has expanded beyond traditional face-to-face interactions. Virtual platforms and online communities provide avenues for connecting with professionals globally, transcending geographical boundaries. While in-person networking remains invaluable, the digital realm offers unique opportunities for expanding one’s network and accessing a diverse range of perspectives. Embracing this digital shift allows individuals and organizations to tap into global networking and business opportunities.

The Enduring Impact of Networking

The bank manager’s triumph serves as a testament to the enduring impact of strategic business networking. Whether you’re a self-employed professional seeking to carve your niche or an employee within a larger organization aiming to create a culture of collaboration, networking is an invaluable asset.

The lessons learned from the stories in this blog extend beyond individual success to encompass organizational growth and cultural transformation. By recognizing the potential of business networking, and actively pursuing professional relationships, individuals and companies alike can unlock doors to new referral opportunities. Whether you are self-employed or you work for someone else, I recommend that you start looking for networking groups that can refer new business to you.

Top Ways Your Networking Partners Can Promote Youstring(49) "Top Ways Your Networking Partners Can Promote You"

Networking is not just about meeting new people. It is about building strong, mutually beneficial relationships. Whether you’re new to business networking or a seasoned pro, understanding how others can promote you and your business is essential.

Has a fellow member from your networking group ever said to you, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you with your business.”?
If so, did you respond with, “Thank you. Now that you mention it, there are a few things I need.”?
Or maybe you said something like, “Well, thanks, I appreciate that. I’ll let you know.”

Most of us aren’t prepared to accept help at the time it’s offered, which means the opportunity may pass and we miss out. Before you can do so, you must make the connection between specific items, services, or connections you need and the people who can supply them. Systematic referral marketing helps you do that by determining, as precisely as possible, the types of help you want and need. Some are simple, cheap, and quick; others are complex, costly, and time-consuming.

Here are 15 ways others can promote you to help your business.

Display or Distribute Your Materials

Your networking partners can exhibit your marketing materials and products in their offices or homes. If these items are displayed well, such as on a counter or a bulletin board, visitors will ask questions about them. Promo­tional items can be shared in other places, leading to increased visibility and potential interest. For example, a dry cleaner can attach a neighboring hair salon’s coupon to the bags covering their customers’ clothes.

Make Announcements

When attending meetings or addressing groups, your network can boost your visibility by announc­ing an event or a sale your business is con­ducting. They can set up exhibits of your products or services. They can also invite you to make an announcement yourself, amplifying your reach.

Invite You to Events

Workshops and seminars are oppor­tunities to increase your skills, knowledge, visibility, and contacts. Members of personal or business groups that you don’t belong to can invite you to their events and programs. These opportunities provide a platform to meet prospective sources and cli­ents. Additionally, being invited to speak at such events can establish you as an expert in your field.

Endorse Your Products and Services

When your network sings your praises or endorses your products or services, it can significantly influence others’ decisions. Encourage them to share their positive experiences through informal conversations and with testimonials on social media or other platforms.

Nominate You for Recognition and Awards

Your referrals sources can nominate you for service awards, recognizing your contributions to your profession or your community. This not only enhances your visibility, it also positions you as a dedicated professional in the eyes of your peers and clients.

Make Initial Contact with Prospects and Referral Sources

Instead of merely sharing their contact information, a network member can introduce you to important prospects. This personal touch can build relationships faster and provide the prospect or potential referral source with insight into your business as well as shared interests they may have with you.

Arrange Meetings on Your Behalf

Your network can go a step further by coordinating meetings with key contacts. Ideally, they will set the date, time, and location, and they will attend the meeting with you, offering support and insights.

Publish Information for You

Leverage your network’s connections to have your business featured in publications they influence. For example, a referral source who belongs to an association that publishes a monthly newsletter can help you get an article or story published, boosting your visibility.

Form Strategic Alliances with You

Of all the kinds of support that a source can offer, this one has the greatest potential for long-term gain for both parties. These partnerships involve mutual referrals, creating a symbiotic connection that benefits both of you. Seek out businesses that complement your own and foster lasting gains by agreeing to refer business to each other whenever possible.

Connect with You Through Online Networks

Expand your online presence by connecting with your networking partners on social platforms. This opens the door to event notifications, project updates, and the exchange of business information. Recommendations and testimonials from these connections can further elevate your online profile.

Provide Referrals

Referrals are the lifeblood of business networking. Encourage your sources to refer specific individuals who require your services or products. As the number of referrals you receive increases, so does your potential for increasing the percentage of your business generated through referrals.

Introduce You to Prospects

Personal introductions are powerful. Your network can facilitate introductions with prospective customers, providing key information about you and the prospect, which can expedite the relationship building process.

Follow Up with Referrals

Your sources can follow up with prospects they referred to you to ensure a smooth transition and answer questions or concerns, enhancing trust. They can also give you valuable feedback about yourself and your products or service, which you might not have been able to get on your own.

Serve as a Sponsor

Some of your sources may be willing to fund or sponsor a program or event you are hosting. They may offer resources such as lending you equipment, or they might let you use a meeting room, or provide other support that can elevate your business activities.

Sell Your Products and Services

The most immediate way your network can positively impact your bottom line is by selling your products or services. A well-connected source can persuade a prospect to make a purchase, then have you deliver the product to your new client. If you do so swiftly and cordially, you may gain a lifelong customer.

Networking is a dynamic and multifaceted endeavor. Put your networking circle to work for you with these strategies to harness the power of your network and promote your business effectively. When others offer their support in promoting your business, seize the opportunity and deploy these strategies for success. By cultivating these mutually beneficial relationships, you can supercharge your business’s growth and impact.

Create an Identity for Your Businessstring(36) "Create an Identity for Your Business"

Creating a strong and distinct identity for your business is of paramount importance in today’s competitive landscape.
Your business identity goes beyond your logo and brand colors; it’s about the image you project, how you position yourself, and the lasting impression you leave on your target audience. Jeff Davidson, the author of “Marketing on a Shoestring,” aptly notes that we are living in the age of the image, and the impact of your business’s image is undeniable. Your success, regardless of the size of your business, heavily depends on how you position yourself and what you project.

The concept of positioning was popularized in the early 1980s by Al Ries and Jack Trout. They astutely pointed out that in today’s over-communicated society, very little communication actually takes place. To break through the noise and create a lasting impression, a company must create a unique position in the minds of their target audience, recognizing that the most effective communication occurs when optimally placed and timed.

Being the “first” is one of the most effective ways to establish a position in someone’s mind. Think about Neil Armstrong – he was the first person to walk on the moon, a fact that is universally recognized. However, try naming any of the astronauts who walked on the moon during subsequent NASA missions, and you’ll likely draw a blank. This demonstrates the power of being the first – it’s memorable and enduring.

When you effectively position your business, you save time and resources because your message is clear and others quickly understand what your company represents and offers. Every networking encounter, advertisement, message, employee, and every square inch of your office space should contribute to delivering a consistent and memorable theme to your target market.

The identity you develop for your business should be unique and tailored to your specific goals and values. You might aim to become a leader in a burgeoning industry or a compelling alternative to the established giants. Your business might be known for being open 24/7, or it could be an exclusive, by-appointment-only establishment. In today’s fast-paced, swiftly changing, and highly competitive environment, creating a distinctive identity isn’t just a choice; it is a necessity for survival and growth.
Positioning can help you create an identity and maintain a secure spot in the minds of those you wish to serve.

Start by Answering Three Fundamental Questions

  1. What You’re Going to Be
    Define your core purpose and values. What is your business all about? What do you stand for, and what are your long-term goals?
  2. What You’re Going to Offer
    Be clear about the products or services you provide. What makes them unique or better than the competition? What problems do they solve for your customers?
  3. To Whom You’re Going to Offer It
    Identify your target audience. Who are the people or organizations that will benefit the most from what you offer? What are their needs, preferences, and pain points?

Once you have a clear vision of these aspects, you can begin crafting your business’s identity. This identity should permeate every facet of your business, from your marketing materials and website to your interactions with customers and employees. Consistency is key.

Immerse yourself in learning about creating a business identity, brand, and image. Carve out time each day to explore this topic further. There is a wealth of valuable information available online – articles and blog posts, books and courses. The more you educate yourself on the subject, the more equipped you’ll be to define and communicate your business’s identity effectively.

Creating a strong and memorable identity for your business is a crucial element in your journey to success. Your identity sets you apart, communicates your value, and leaves a lasting impression. Take the challenge to delve into the process of identity creation for your business. Start by answering the three foundational questions and dedicating time to research and learning. Within a week, you’ll likely find yourself equipped with a clear answer about your business’s identity that you can confidently share with others.

how to overcome the fear of public speaking

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speakingstring(43) "How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking"

Did you know that people have ranked the fear of public speaking as worse than the fear of dying? Talking to an audience can be frightening, especially if it is for more than a minute or two. The mere thought of standing before an audience, trying to convey a message or pitch an idea, can send shivers down one’s spine.

Well, the fact is that no matter how much you try to avoid it, networking for your business is going to involve public speaking. You may find yourself giving a 30- or 60-second weekly presentation at a networking meeting, a ten-minute presentation at a Chamber of Commerce function, or a comprehensive thirty-minute educational presentation to a prospective customer. At some point you will likely be in front of an audience. My recommendation? Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you can do it.

Use These Strategies

These five strategies are my top tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking and gain confidence to start winning over your audiences.

1) Preparation is Key 

One of the most effective ways to alleviate the fear of public speaking is thorough preparation. Avoid the urge to “wing it.” Instead, create a clear outline of what you intend to say and rehearse it. Utilize note cards or have your speech typed out with large, easily readable fonts to ensure you don’t lose your place. However, be cautious not to over-prepare, as this can lead to heightened anxiety. Strike a balance between being well-prepared and allowing yourself some flexibility to engage with your audience naturally.

2) Be Specific and Showcase Your Expertise

When delivering a presentation, especially in a networking context, avoid overwhelming your audience with too much information. Focus on one or two key aspects of your business that you are most knowledgeable about and passionate about. By concentrating on what you know best, you will enhance your comfort level and reduce stress. Remember, the audience perceives you as the expert, and they are eager to learn from you. Trust in your expertise and present your subject matter with confidence.

3) Use Supporting Materials Wisely

Visual aids such as handouts, PowerPoint slides, and props can be valuable tools to support your presentation. These resources can help you stay on track, and they also offer an additional layer of engagement for your audience. However, be cautious when using PowerPoint. It should enhance your presentation, not serve as a crutch. Avoid the temptation to read directly from the slides. Invest time in understanding how to effectively utilize this tool; there are numerous books and articles that provide guidance on the subject.

4) Embrace Your Role as an Expert

It is important to understand that as a speaker, you are the authority on your subject. Your audience is eager to gain knowledge from you; they want to hear what you have to say. Focus on what you excel at, and you will naturally exude confidence and credibility. Believing in yourself and your message is pivotal to your success as a public speaker.

5) Be Creative and Engage Your Audience 

Don’t feel constrained by traditional speaking approaches. Experiment with different ways of communicating that make you feel comfortable. Instead of simply talking at your audience, engage them in a conversation. You can even start with a Q&A session then answer at length. Don’t be afraid to be different and surprise the audience. Move around the stage, interact with the audience, or use unexpected elements to invigorate your presentation. Having fun with your message can help convert nervous energy into positive energy. When your enthusiasm shines through, the audience will feel it, and anxiety will dissipate.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Starting your journey to conquer the fear of public speaking begins with practice. You can’t get better at something if you never practice it, and the best time to start practicing is NOW. Begin with small opportunities, such as delivering a one-minute elevator pitch, and gradually increase your speaking time as your confidence grows. Look for opportunities to speak at events or educational presentations. Many associations and membership organizations are constantly seeking speakers, and positioning yourself as an expert can be highly satisfying and beneficial for your business.

While the fear of public speaking is prevalent, it is a skill that can be mastered with practice and the right approach. By following these strategies, you can increase your confidence and become a more effective and engaging public speaker. Remember, it’s natural to feel a little nervous. With the right mindset and techniques, you can transform that anxiety into a powerful and positive energy that captivates your audience. So, don’t let the fear of public speaking hold you back; embrace the opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise with the world. Overcome the fear of public speaking and enjoy the satisfaction of educating other people about what you do.

I would appreciate your feedback. Please respond in the comment section to any, or all, of these questions.

  • On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “not really afraid” and 10 being “more afraid than death,” how afraid would you say you are of public speaking?
  • What mental and physical manifestations of fear and anxiety do you experience when you are faced with having to speak in public?
  • What tools, tactics, or strategies have you personally found to be helpful and effective to manage your fear of public speaking?
Art of building referral relationship

Building Referral Relationships: The Art of Patience and Persistencestring(68) "Building Referral Relationships: The Art of Patience and Persistence"

In the world of business, good referrals are akin to gold. They can open doors, create opportunities, and supercharge your professional network. However, the question that many professionals wonder is, “How long does it take to receive referrals from your network?” The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Building referral relationships is a process that resembles the development of close personal friendships, and it takes time and effort. Let’s talk about the timeline for nurturing these valuable connections and I’ll share insights on how to expedite the process.

The Friendship Analogy

Strong referral relationships mirror the gradual progression of friendships. It is not about the quantity of contacts as much as it is the quality of the connections you establish. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships shed light on the timeline of friendships. It revealed that it takes roughly 50 hours of interaction to transform an acquaintance into a “casual friend.” To become “real friends,” individuals require a total of 90 hours, and to reach the status of “close friends,” the threshold is approximately 200 hours. According to the study, “friendship status was examined as a function of hours together, shared activities, and everyday talk.”

Building Trust for Referrals

Now, let’s translate this into the realm of business referrals. To receive referrals from your network, you need to cultivate trust and rapport with your referral partners. It’s a process that cannot be rushed. So, if you’re impatiently looking for immediate referrals, you might need to rethink your strategy. In most cases, it takes between 90 and 200 hours of meaningful interaction to foster the trust necessary for regular referrals.

I know that 90 to 200 hours may sound like a lot, however that is almost an exact match with what I’ve seen in BNI. When BNI members hit the 90-hour mark of participation they almost always begin receiving more and more referrals. Based on an independent study published in 2012 for BNI, when those same individuals cross the 200-hour mark, they generate an average of over five times the number of referrals they did in their first year! Yes, you read that right: more than 500% more referrals when they have built strong relationships with their referral partners.

Steps to Accelerate Referral Success

Building a referral-based business is a deliberate process that involves nurturing meaningful relationships. To expedite this journey and start receiving referrals sooner, ask yourself the following four crucial questions:

  1. Am I Building Relationships?
    Are you actively engaging with your referral partners and investing time in getting to know them? Building trust is a two-way street, and your effort will be reciprocated.
  2. Am I Demonstrating Value?
    Regularly make stimulating, educational presentations to your network about the value you provide to your clients. This showcases your expertise and reinforces your credibility.
  3. Am I Giving Back?
    Engage in business transactions within your network, allowing you to give dynamic testimonials and direct business to others. This reciprocity is often rewarded with referrals in return.
  4. Am I Staying Informed?
    Maintain regular meetings with your networking colleagues to learn about, and stay current on, their businesses. This knowledge will enable you to confidently refer your contacts to them, strengthening the bond.

The Depth of Relationships

Building a referral-based business is all about building a powerful, personal network. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you will never get the kind of referrals that will make a difference for your business. When you follow these simple tactics and focus on developing strong relationships that are built on trust and mutual support, you are on your way to getting referrals.

 The journey to receiving referrals from your network is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. The best way to speed up the process is to spend time in the process of developing relationships with the people you are networking with. By following the steps outlined, you can accelerate the timeline for receiving referrals. Remember, networking is about farming, not hunting. It’s about nurturing relationships and friendships with other professionals. So, be patient, be persistent, and in due time, your network will become a valuable source of referrals that can transform your business.




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Direct communication: tips on communication

My Advice: Talk ‘TO’ Each Other, Not ‘ABOUT’ Each Otherstring(63) "My Advice: Talk ‘TO’ Each Other, Not ‘ABOUT’ Each Other"

In life, we often find ourselves navigating a complex web of relationships—be it with family, friends, colleagues, or partners. These relationships are built on a foundation of trust, understanding, and effective communication. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that one invaluable lesson stands out above the rest: clear, open, honest, and direct communication with people is the key to solving most problems that may arise in these relationships.

It’s a common scenario in our lives; when faced with a challenge or a disagreement in a relationship, our instinct is to seek solace in talking to others about the issue rather than addressing it with the person directly involved. This tendency can easily lead to the deterioration of relationships, as communication becomes less about resolution and more about venting frustrations or assigning blame. It’s a pattern that many of us fall into, and it’s a pattern that can be highly detrimental.

A wise piece of advice that has stayed with me throughout the years is the notion that when you point your finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointing back at you. This simple yet profound idea highlights the importance of self-reflection and personal responsibility in our relationships. It reminds us that instead of attributing all the problems to others, we should examine our own role and our own contributions to the situation.

The Power of Direct Communication

From personal and professional experiences, I have learned (sometimes the hard way) that the most effective way to strengthen and maintain healthy relationships, particularly those with referral partners, is to engage in direct communication. This means talking “to” each other instead of talking “about” each other. When a problem or challenge arises, the best course of action is to address it head-on, rather than letting it fester and grow through gossip or third-party discussions.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have concerns or issues with someone in your life, I encourage you to take immediate action. Pick up the phone and call them, send an email, or, even better, request a face-to-face meeting. Approach the conversation with the intention of understanding each other’s perspectives and finding a mutually beneficial solution. Remember that the goal is to work collaboratively towards resolving the challenges that have arisen rather than engage in the “blame game”.

Stay Focused on Solutions

Maintaining a “solutions-focused” mindset is paramount in these discussions. Instead of dwelling on past mistakes or trying to pinpoint fault, focus on finding ways to move forward positively. Encourage open dialogue and active listening, as these are the cornerstones of effective communication. By actively seeking solutions and addressing concerns directly, you demonstrate your commitment to the relationship and your willingness to work together to overcome obstacles.

In the context of referral partners, this approach is especially crucial. Referral partnerships are built on trust and mutual support, and they thrive when both parties communicate openly and honestly. When issues or misunderstandings arise, addressing them directly can prevent them from escalating into more significant problems that could damage the partnership.

The power of clear, open, honest, and direct communication cannot be overstated when it comes to maintaining and strengthening relationships. Rather than talking “about” each other, it is essential to talk “to” each other when challenges or conflicts arise. By doing so, we foster an environment of trust, understanding, and collaboration, ultimately ensuring that our relationships remain healthy, resilient, and mutually beneficial. Remember, effective communication is the bridge that leads to resolution, growth, and a more harmonious connection with those around us.

I invite you to tell me about a time in your life when you spoke with someone and resolved the situation OR about a time when you didn’t talk about the issue and the relationship got worse.

Successful Networking In Business

Successful Business Networkingstring(30) "Successful Business Networking"

Let’s talk about the word “networking”. It has become so overused that some business professionals can no longer define it. Many people think that networking is only about going to social mixers or after-work business events, where they shake a few hands, collect some new business cards, and, of course, give away some cards of their own. Sadly, they truly believe that’s all there is to networking. To be fair, we could say that they are engaging in social networking. However, that type of activity should never be confused with business networking.

As the Founder & Chief Visionary officer of BNI® I have seen the definition of business networking change and evolve over the past 38 years. This is my definition of networking:
“Networking is the process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, and expand your sphere of influence or serve the community.”

Notice the key word is relationships.

Successful networking of any kind starts with the genuine desire to build relationships for the purpose of giving and receiving business. If someone is only networking to gain and not to give, they will never be successful.

Building Relationships should be one of the most important components of your business. And the best way to do that is by FARMING not by hunting. It is all about cultivating relationships – taking the time and giving the energy to help them grow and flourish. Think like a good farmer does: they know when to tend to their crops and when to harvest them. If you over pick or try to harvest too soon, you’ll be left with nothing. However, if you continue to care for and maintain your crops (and your business relationships), they will grow abundantly and provide bountiful results for you.

Business professionals who are the farming type of networkers go to networking events because of the opportunities to meet new people. They do not use those events as face-to-face cold calling opportunities. They understand the importance of meeting someone and then building a relationship with them. They go well beyond the ‘hunting’ style of meeting people, which is simply adding another name to their contact list.

Build Deep Relationships

I’ve said this for years: If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, it is not powerful. To maximize your business relationships, you need to go beyond knowing someone’s name, their job, and where they work.  A deep network contains the contacts that you know much more about, and those who usually know much more about you. You want to find out about their family, their interests, their hobbies, their goals. That is how you build a strong, deep network.

Social capital is also an important component of building strong relationships. Social capital is like financial capital. In order to amass financial capital, you have to invest and grow your assets. You need to have money in the bank before you can make a withdrawal. Relationships are very much the same, particularly referral relationships. You must support and help others with their business before you can ask for their help.

Two Views of Business Networking

I have found that businesspeople tend to fall into one of two groups when it comes to their views about networking. For many people, the current mind-set is that networking is a passive business strategy, rather than a proactive marketing tool. This attitude results in a scattered and often ineffective networking approach that consequently wastes the businessperson’s time, and their money. It’s no surprise that when people feel they’ve been wasting their time and money on something, they are understandably not going to want to continue that activity.

On the other hand, some professionals do consider networking a proactive marketing tool for their business. How can you tell? They make it a significant part of their marketing and business plans. They have networking goals. They may even include a budget line item for networking. Most importantly, they practice it and live it every day. They realize that their networking team is there to keep an eye out for potential customers for them. When you “target talk”, that is, when you hone in on exactly what type of client you are looking for, the result will be better, more qualified referrals from your networking partners.

When you have a proactive mindset and attitude about networking, and you focus on building strong, mutually beneficial relationships with like-minded people, you will be well on your way to successful business networking.




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Get The Most Value On Your Business Networking Investment

Get the Most Value for Your Networking Timestring(43) "Get the Most Value for Your Networking Time"

As the Founder of BNI, an international organization with hundreds of thousands of members globally, I am well aware of how we are sometimes overwhelmed by commitments and obligations. And I know firsthand how important it is to make the most of your time. Have you ever tried to get back an hour you spent on something that didn’t turn out well? It’s absolutely impossible. Since we all know we can’t retrieve an hour, much less a day, of our precious time, we obviously want to spend it as wisely and effectively as we can.

So, if you spent some of your time networking for your business, you would want to get a high return on your networking investment, right? Here are some tips to help you do just that.

1. Be “on” 24/7
Be on the top of your networking game all the time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Networking opportunities present themselves in the most unsuspected places and at various times of day. It helps to be prepared. Always have your business cards with you and have your response ready when someone asks you about what you do. Keep it succinct and memorable by giving a brief summary of your business.

2. Learn to play golf or something else
Challenge yourself to learn the game of golf or some other activity that aligns with your skills and interests. It’s true that a lot of business happens on the golf course. And it could just as easily happen on the badminton court, the soccer field or across a pool table. Even during these “fun” activities, always be prepared for networking opportunities.

3. Have purposeful meal meetings
Get more value out of your mealtime by having a meeting that includes a meal and a specific, meaningful purpose such as business networking. These meetings are strategic and results-oriented and can provide high value for your invested time. Remember:

  • It’s not a break from work. It’s a way to build a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with each other.
  • It’s not a time to have three martinis. It’s a time to teach three things about your business to a potential referral partner and learn about theirs.
  • It’s not about trying out and critiquing new restaurants. It’s a way to help a colleague solve their problems.

4. First impressions count
Make sure you get off to a good start. Begin by taking a closer look at your appearance and your body language. Are they helping you start productive conversations? Or ending them before you can even say a word? Dress appropriately, smile when you meet someone, and maintain eye contact. Be relaxed and comfortable rather than rigid with your arms crossed. Always maintain a positive attitude.

5. Seek out a referral networking group and join a chamber of commerce
If you’re going to venture out and build a network, the first steps should be to seek out a referral networking group and a chamber of commerce to help network your business. These are strong interprofessional groups where participants typically get the majority of their business through referrals. Visit a few groups to get a feel for them and be selective when you make your commitments.

6. Sponsor and/or host select events
Find out how you can leverage sponsorship opportunities and specific events to position your business in front of key people. Of course, you need to take the initiative to do the research and make it happen. Hosting a successful business mixer can also be a powerful tool for fostering connections and expanding your professional network.

When you implement these strategies, you can strengthen your network and get more return on your business networking investment. You also increase your visibility within the community and, most importantly, you get the most value from the time you spend networking.




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