by Judith Bowman
Networking … All of Our Life-lines!
Despite all the many multi-tiered social networking platforms available today, face-to-face networking is the single most effective way to meet the greatest number of qualified prospects in the shortest amount of time while providing the greatest potential to most significantly impact the bottom-line. There is absolutely nothing which will ever replace the value of a face-to-face, handshake to (warm) handshake connection.
Attending any business networking event suggests that you have made a personal and possibly a financial investment to be there. Woody Allen and others, assert that 90% of success is “showing up!” This places a huge emphasis on the remaining 10% of ‘what you do once you are there.’ Therefore, the common practice of going through the motions and merely “showing up … putting in an appearance” and leaving after 15 minutes is doing yourself a complete disservice as you miss the big opportunity to forge connections that you may not otherwise ever have the opportunity to initiate. Such behavior is further insulting to your host.
Networking presents a unique opportunity to personally meet others previously unknown to you, re-acquaint with others while establishing yourself as a resource and reinforcing your brand. Given that 94.7% percent of all adults experience anxiety before a networking event we offer the following seven How to Stand Apart suggestions to help channel some of that nervous energy into positive energy… something to which we as human beings, are naturally drawn:
- Obtain a copy of the guest list and embark in further research to have a point of reference and connection. Perhaps most importantly, learn and practice how to properly pronounce names.
- Eat before you go. Respectfully, no one invites you anywhere because they think you look hungry and need to be fed! You are invited because someone believes you have something valuable to contribute and it is your responsibility to contribute to the overall success of the event. *Hold cocktails in your left hand leaving your right hand free to shake hands; cocktail napkin – always.
- Dress appropriately. Dark colors are appropriate. Wear something with pockets: one for in-coming and one for out-going business cards. Before you make your entrance, do an overall check: tie or scarf, dandruff, stray hairs, teeth, buttons and zippers … pop a breath mint – we are in the “people business!” AND, wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap and dry them thoroughly to eliminate the body oils which encourage “clammy hands” the “kiss of death!”
- Make your entrance. Be mindful that nearly everyone watches the entrance. Use it – to your advantage. Project positive energy, something to which other people naturally migrate. Walk purposefully and adopt the mindset that this is your event, as if those present are your guests in your living room; you own the room.
- Have a tag line prepared for this venue and be adept at small talk which artfully helps break the ice, place others at ease and advance relationships. Small talk is really ‘huge talk,’ and anything out is fair game for conversation. Be current on industry events including (their) company news. Remember to ask open-ended questions, all about them and be sure to ask how you can help them. In so doing, you position yourself as a resource.
- Read the room and circulate. Resist the temptation to “cluster” with those you already know and approach singles, three’s or more; they are open to approach. Someone standing alone is silently screaming, “Help! Someone, save me!… Talk to me!” and in a group of three, while two people are usually engaged the third person is ‘out’ feeling the same way.
That said, doubles may not necessarily be “happily engaged.” … You may have done such a great job making them feel acknowledged that you now have created the infamous “clinger-on-er.” Therefore, walk slowly past two’s giving them the opportunity to signal for an assist.
- Disengage tactfully. After investing three to five minutes (seven minutes max) … it’s time to move on. Say, “it was a pleasure meeting you, … I have enjoyed our time together. … There are a few people on the other side of the room with whom I would like to connect … if we don’t’ find each other before the end of the event perhaps we could catch-up within the next few weeks, or months …or years!” Leave it open-ended. Promise nothing. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Remember, we are forever endeavoring to earn trust to advance relationships. It would then be gracious of you to introduce them to someone else and not leave them alone, stranded (!) … reference to the proverbial “pass-off!”
Finally, walk whomever you are speaking with to the door, actually, outside the door–– to take advantage of the opportunity to engage in “real talk” as in the “meeting after the meeting” where it all comes together. Here, you may comfortably ask for the luncheon, the golf game, etc. and advance the relationship, always the goal.
- Make personal notes about individuals and use this information in subsequent communication to advance relationships and camaraderie … the purpose of the event!
- Drink in extreme moderation, if at all.
- Project positive energy.
- Share personal information, however, not too much personal information.
- Write thank you notes.
- Follow-up. … The fortune is in the follow-up!
Networking is all of our life-lines. Make no mistake, inherent in the word, “Networking” is work and it is also an art that takes practice and skill. And, despite all the other social media platforms, networking presents a unique opportunity to personally present yourself in a positive light, stand apart and advance connections. That said, preparation is absolutely key. Remember to position yourself as a resource and suddenly, you are connected!
Judith Bowman is the president & founder of Protocol Consultants International (PCI) whose mission is to help present and next-generation leaders know how to stand apart to better compete, lead, and advance. Judith’s work is distinguished in the field of Professional Presence as she takes an engaging interactive and fun approach to helping leaders develop professional presence. Her firm also provides Professional Presence/Business Protocol certification. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the National Civility Foundation. A graduate of Boston College, Judith has pursued studies in Effective Business Communication at Harvard University. She is also a member of The Boston Women’s Leadership Council.
Bowman’s first book, Don’t Take the Last Donut, New Rules of Business Etiquette was first published in 2007 and is sold in 16 countries, translated into 14 languages and is on the Recommended Reading list of many Fortune 500 firms. Her second book, How to Stand Apart @ Work … Transforming “Fine” to Fabulous! is written to address today’s on-demand culture.