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Networking... All of Our Lifelines!

Attending any business networking event suggests you have made a personal and possibly a financial investment to be there.  “Showing up” … putting in an appearance and leaving after 15 minutes is doing yourself a disservice, insulting your host while missing the big opportunity to enable connections and meet others you may not otherwise ever have the opportunity to meet. 

Despite all the many multi-tired 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 potential to most significantly impact bottom-line results.  There is absolutely nothing which will ever replace a face-to-face, handshake to-warm handshake connection.  Embrace networking as a terrific gift and a wonderful opportunity to personally meet and greet others previously unknown to you, re-acquaint with others while reinforcing your brand and establishing yourself, as a man/woman “well-met.”

Resist the temptation to “cluster” with those you already know.  Given that 94.7% percent of all adults experience anxiety before a networking event we offer the following seven tips to help channel some of that nervous energy into positive energy… something to which we, as human beings, are naturally drawn:

1.      Obtain a copy of the guest list and indulge in further research to have a point of reference and connection.  Perhaps most importantly, learn and practice how to properly pronounce their name.

2.      Eat before you go.  Respectfully, no one invites us anywhere because they think we look hungry and need to be fed!  You are invited because someone believes you have something 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.

3.      Dress appropriately. Dark colors are appropriate.  Ladies – something with large 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 soup and dry them thoroughly to eliminate the body oils which encourage “clammy hands” the “kiss of death!”

4.      Make your entrance.  Psych yourself and be aware of projecting positive energy, something people are drawn toward.  Be mindful that nearly everyone watches the entrance.  Use it - to your advantage.  Walk purposefully and adopt the mindset that this is your event, as if everyone is a guest in your living room; you own the room.

5.      Have a tag line prepared for that event. Small talk is really ‘huge talk,’ and anything out is fair game for conversation.  Be up on industry events including (their) company news.  Ask open-ended questions… all about them.   

*Ask how you can help them.  In so doing, you position yourself as a resource.

6.      Read the room and circulate.  Approach singles, three’s or more, as they are open to approach.  Someone standing alone is silently screaming, “Help!  Someone, save me!” and in a group of three, 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 and give them the opportunity to call or signal you to assist.

7.      Disengage tactfully.  After investing three to five minute (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 to leave them alone, stranded (!) … referring 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, comfortably ask for the luncheon, the golf game, etc. and advance the relationship, your goal.

Make no mistake, inherent in the word, “Networking” is work and it is also an art that takes practice and skill.  Networking is all of our life-lines.  And, despite all the other social media platforms, networking presents a huge opportunity to personally present yourself in a positive light, stand apart and advance connections however, preparation is absolutely key.  Remember to position yourself as a resource and suddenly, you are connected!

*The fortune is in the follow-up!

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Judith Bowman is president and founder of Protocol Consultants International, best-selling author, speaker, and business protocol coach.. Judith is also Founder and Executive Director of the National Civility Foundation. A graduate of Boston College, she has pursued studies in Effective Business Communication at Harvard University. Judith founded Protocol University providing Protocol Certification including “Train the Trainer.” For more information on Judith or to inquire about her availability for your next event, please contact H Speakers.

Kirsten SingletonComment