In my June 3, 2013 blog post, I shared four simple activities you can engage in BEFORE attending a networking event to allow for the greatest opportunity for success. Now, let’s take a look at boosting your productivity and leveraging your time while you’re at the networking event.
Like anything in life and business, the more intention you put behind it, the better your results. We hear a great deal of chatter that networking can be a waste of time, unless… you use these six strategies to make the most out of any networking event.
1. Make a positive impression.
First impressions are worth a thousand words and what your body says about you determines how others perceive you. So be intentional about what you are communicating non-verbally, practice self-awareness and monitor your body language and facial expressions. Avoid crossing your arms, frowning, scowling and other negative facial expressions and maintain an open posture and upbeat expression. While in conversation with others, watch your body positioning and “never close the circle.” This means, always keep an open spot for others to join your conversation. If you are speaking to just one person, stand in front of them at an angle. Positive facial expressions and body language are contagious and attractive.
2. Make connections.
When you arrive, find and introduce yourself to the host and ask how you can help.Once you notice the host feels settled, ask them who at the event they recommend you meet. If you’re feeling shy, ask the host if they would be kind enough to make the introduction. One of the reasons you are networking is to make new connections so refrain from hanging out with people you already know. Make a quick appointment to catch up with them later, and get to meeting someone new. Approach others who are standing by themselves – they will be glad you did. Above all, don’t be a “drive-by networker,” collecting and handing out as many business cards as possible. It’s a safe target to walk away from an event with 3 (give or take) new and powerful connections with whom to follow up.
3. Be prepared to answer the question, “So, what do you do?”
Amazingly, not everyone is prepared with an answer so they shoot from the hip which can be disastrous. Since this question is inevitable, be prepared with something to say in 60 seconds or less. And you better believe that your listener is hoping you have a really fascinating answer. Most people know that a Property and Casualty Insurance Agent can insure homes, automobile, recreational vehicles, and such. Just once, I’d love to hear an agent say “I help people sleep better at night, and nap effectively during the day, knowing their possessions are adequately protected should the big bad wolf come along and blow their house down.” The idea is to be creative, and it is imperative that you highlight the benefits you offer, NOT the features. Think about the specific results you help your customers achieve and share a brief customer story or testimonial to capture your listeners’ attention and explain what you do without rattling off a boring list of all your offerings. And yes, rattling off a list is going to bore your audience, whether you are in a one-on-one discussion or giving an introduction to the group. Intrigue them!
4. Focus on learning about others.
As the saying goes… “We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Active listening alone will set you apart from everyone else and make you remarkable. Ask a question and ask the next logical question based on their answer (this is where the “active” part of listening comes in). You can literally continue to ask questions, the goal of which is to find common ground and interests you might share as well as identify them as a potential resource for your “toolbox” to refer out to others. Jot down notes on their business card or a note pad so you can recall your conversation, if needed, at a later date. People enter into a relationship and work with and refer to those they enjoy and have come to “know, like and trust.” Make it a goal to learn something new about people each time you see them and avoid self-serving, me-centered conversations (you know… the ones where you are talking about yourself without being asked for the information).
5. Make it a priority to be helpful.
As you learn about others, think of ways to help them on the spot. If they could use an introduction to a personal or professional resource, let them know right away if you know someone with whom you can connect them. Be generous with your rolodex and make introductions to new customers, referral partners, or resources when you identify a good match. If you can’t think of ways to help right away, make a note in case someone comes to mind after leaving the event and be sure to reconnect if you find a way to help. These activities are all standout qualities of productive networkers.
6. Know your referral and power partners.
When networking, you aren’t just looking for clients of your own, you are strategically looking for referral and power partners. Sure, networking to find one new client might mean one check deposit in the bank, but searching for one new referral or power partner might mean 100 check deposits in the bank. Where would you rather focus your efforts? When someone offers you the opportunity to help, know and communicate the specific professions and industries that make great partners for you. Think about the professions and industries that share your same or an adjacent target market. For example, great power partners for a Chiropractor might be massage therapists or acupuncturists. Your networking will pay off greatly knowing and communicating best connections for your business and asking for introductions to those individuals!
These six tips will boost your productivity on the networking circuit but surely there are more tips out there. What ideas came to your mind as you read this post? I want to hear from you so please comment below so that I and our readers benefit from your ideas and feedback.
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