Developing effective networking skills is a core skill for any professional, whether you are self-employed or employed. Thanks to Paul Green of NN Connect – who has shared his tips on networking with us. He shares 3 further tips in Part Two…
Building on the last article, here are some more shared thoughts on how to make the most out of your networking experiences.
Love Your Business – Love Networking
You love your business right? Well of course – otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it would you?
What can really make networking work for you is letting that passion come across when you are speaking about your “baby” to other business owners. Having a positive attitude is infectious and you want to surround yourself with ambitious, like-minded people who share a similar passion to you; because success breeds success doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, you may come across the doom-mongers out there who seem to have the world on their shoulders and are looking for any reason and justification as to why things aren’t working out for them as they would have hoped! It’ll be the economy or customers just don’t get what they’re offering – it may even be the weather! It may also be their opinion that networking doesn’t work for their type of business but it’s more than likely down to them.
If that’s your experience with particular networking groups or people you hang around with – it’s time to change. If you don’t, there is a danger that you’ll be brought down the lowest common denominator or at least feel demotivated being around such energy.
I was once told there are 2 types of people: sappers and zappers! It’s the latter that effective networkers are connected with. So what are you waiting for – get out there and spread the love!
I realise that it can be a bit of chore going out and about networking, particularly if it is silly-o’clock in the morning and even the birds aren’t up! But if you want to get the most of this effort and the use of your time – be prepared for the meeting.
Have a predetermined outcome for the meeting – maybe it’s to connect with a potential referral partner or find a new supplier or you may even have a referral to give; even better, especially for the recipient!
It may seem obvious, however make sure you have a good supply of business cards and marketing material, know the “rules” for the meeting and have your elevator pitch prepared. Consider what knowledge you might be able to impart as the expert in your field; the latter will help you stand out from the crowd and add to your credibility in whatever it is you do.
You don’t have to be a boy scout to be prepared; it’s not exclusive to them and after it’s your time and money that you are investing for the greater good and you should want to see a return from that investment. So when it comes to effective networking be proactive, don’t let the event just occur around you.
Don’t be a fool when it comes to networking
It occurred to me at recent networking groups, there is a great opportunity being missed to better engage the audience when you get the chance to do your elevator pitch.
Why not tell a story? Everyone loves a good tale (some might say gossip) but it is what keeps people watching day in day out, week in week out, all the soaps on TV and serial dramas.
As business owners, you will all have something to say about you as a person or your business.
So what makes a good story? How about:
- Something that resonates with the audience; that has feeling and an emotional connection?
- Something that enables change in the other person – their thoughts, reactions, responses,….
- And of course it needs a beginning, middle and end!
The benefits this may bring over your standard business pitch are that you become more memorable, you can stand out from your competitor (because your story is unique to you), people may get to know you better as a person (and people do business with people they know, like and trust) and it can add to your credibility.
There are basically 2 ways to share knowledge: push information out or pull people in with a story.
Don’t be a fool and choose the latter!
Are You Making An Exhibition Of Yourself?
In the context of networking, then this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as long as it’s for the right reasons!
One thing you do want to do on your networking endeavours is to stand out from the crowd especially if you are in a group where you may have competitors present. So give it some thought when preparing for a networking meeting.
There are a number of ways you can do this by appealing to your audiences senses; be it through something visual that you do, maybe something audible, possibly appeal to the sense of touch, not forgetting taste and smell.
Some examples across the spectrum of senses that I have experienced in my years of networking are:
- The use of bras as props
- Introductions through songs and poems
- Dressing up as a super-hero*
- Letting off a fire extinguisher
- Use of a megaphone*
- Cake tasting (one of my favourite!)
- Lighting an indoor firework
- Letting off party poppers
- Producing an Italian flag after an England defeat at football (my least favourite!)
One of the best had to be writing an introduction on large cards in a Love Actually style, and getting the group to read them out one after the other. Incidentally this one and the two asterisked items above, were all done by the same business. When you are developing effective networking skills, try new things – what is there to lose?
Whatever your product or service, there is bound to be something that will help you during your introductions and/or your marketing in general when you are spreading the word about your business.
Keep on networking!
Paul Green is an author, has featured as a guest blogger and writer in magazines, and a Sage Business Expert. As well as being accredited by the Institute for Independent Business, since August 2012 he has run NN coNNect; a community of local businesses where the emphasis is on developing effective networking skills and business growth.
The Development Company runs interactive, and informative seminars and half day events to enable your team to start a networking strategy, set meaningful networking goals, and get results from networking.
Mari Daly, Marketing Manager, USB2U & Gilt Edged Promotions Ltd: “Thank you Kay, for your marvellous and fun 60 minute seminar on developing Effective Networking Skills. It was a fab start for the week indeed, thanks to you! :).”