Lessons from Master Networkers
How networking can work for you and be fun as well
I’ve written before about how networking doesn’t work… And I remain convinced that much networking is wasted time.
But developing our businesses still means continuously meeting new people, new suppliers, new referral sources, new clients. Obviously, networking is still one of the most effective ways to do so.
But there’s networking and there’s networking.
On the one hand is attending some kind of dedicated networking event, standing around making small talk with strangers in the vain hope they’ll buy something from you. And on the other hand is networking with strategy and focus. It took me some years to work out the difference, but once I did, networking actually started to work.
There are a bunch of lessons I learned over the years from master networkers about how to turn networking into an efficient form of business development, these are my favorites:
1) Own the room:
The first lesson about networking, I actually learned from an acting and singing teacher, who I took some lessons from in 2005. Marriette Rups-Donnelly owns Powerhouse Presentations and one of the things she taught me is to own the room. Owning the room starts by getting there early. Being one of the first at the event allows you to greet people as they walk in, help them over their nerves and introduce them around to others. It is great strategy for them and it’s great for you as well. Being early means you are less likely to have to rudely cut in to small groups of people talking.
Successful networking starts even earlier though. Before you get to the event, owning the room means preparing your mindset before you even walk in the door. I remember Marriette teaching me to imagine I wore a big cape. She got me to visualise wearing a big swishing suave shiny red cape and to imagine sweeping into a room with it, taking up a lot more space than my physical body.
Imagining myself as a dashing Imperial Russian prince from the 1870s, making an entrance with my cape, was not something that came naturally. But around about the same time I was also studying NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). NLP talks a lot about taking control of your mental state (see Anthony Robbins and other NLP practitioners). With the help of NLP and Marriette I did start to get more comfortable with walking in and owning the room and I am here to tell you those two “tricks” combined, started having an enormous impact on my networking exploits.
Next time you go to a networking event… Get there early, take a deep breath before you walk into the room and imagine yourself a latter day Count Vronsky with a big cape sweeping behind you before you walk in, it’s actually a lot of fun, trust me.
2) A coffee is better than 20 cards
Have you ever been accosted at a networking event by someone who just hands you his card and says: “If you ever need a web developer, call me” and walks off to spray his cards over everyone else at the meeting. It’s annoying right? How much business do you think that leads to for the webdeveloper?
David Jones from David Jones Electricians in Sydney has always understood the wisdom of the old saying: “People do business with people they know like and trust”. In other words, business comes about as a consequence of genuine personal connections. David attends networking and other events and he looks for people he can make a genuine connection with. He’d rather spend the whole evening talking with one person he connects with than hand out 20 cards to anyone. Afterwards, he always invites people he meets like that to something else, another event, a coffee or something he thinks this person might be interested in, not necessarily business related. And David has built one of the biggest and most engaged networks I know.
Giving someone a business card is worse than useless if you annoy them in the process and they throw your card in the bin on the way out.
Next time, when attending an event, set yourself an intention to meet just one person you’d enjoy having a coffee or going for a walk on the beach with, and invite them to do just that.
3) Action speaks louder than words
Wendy Lloyd Curley is a networking genius. Wendy owns “Wendy the Candle Lady” an incredibly successful business in an MLM system (Multi Level Marketing, also known as Network Marketing) selling candles, fragrances and home decorations. Wendy’s business is all about building relationships, networks and meeting new people. The thing I learnt from Wendy is her statement: If you leave a one-on-one coffee/ networking meeting without at least one committed action, the meeting has been a waste of everyone’s time. Wendy has lots and lots of coffee meetings with people and she always walks away committed to go and actually do one thing for the other person. She also encourages this person to commit to at least one single action on Wendy’s behalf. Actions like: “I am going to write one email tomorrow to this accountant I know and introduce you to him”. Single committed actions such as those are much more likely to have an impact than a generic: “Ok, Great I’ll certainly keep that in mind and be on the lookout for you”.
In your next coffee meeting with someone you meet at a networking event, make sure you find one small simple action that might be useful to the other person and go and do it.
4) The hostess gets the mostess
Martin Paul owns More Strategic. More Strategic is a management consultancy that focuses on supporting Not for Profits and Charities to improve their fundraising.
Not long ago Martin spoke at a fundraising conference and at the end of his talk he invited all attendants to drinks and nibbles in a private room at the venue that evening to talk in greater depth about the implications of his talk. Some 25 executives from some of the major charities showed up. In the following year, several new contracts flowed from this initiative.
Being the host of an event bestows enormous benefits on you.
What event can you host?
5) Focus beats Spray and Pray
Geoff Anderson from Sonic Sight produces videos for organisations in Sydney. Some time ago Geoff decided that a great target market for his video production work is the private school system in the big cities of Australia. Investigating marketing options to this market, he found an annual conference in Australia that was well attended by many of the marketing directors in the private school system. Geoff decided to sponsor the conference and offer the conference organiser assistance in video production on the day. Geoff was the only video producer at the conference and connected meaningfully with some 50 of his prime clients. The project cost him some money and time, but it would have taken him years of attending random networking events, fruitlessly knocking on doors and being turned away by gatekeepers to achieve the same result.
The name of the game is focus.
How can you get to talk to a bunch of your clients all in the same room?
There are other tips I can give you to make networking more effective, such as:
- Always follow up.
- Dress appropriately and a little different than everyone else.
- Experiment with different opening lines, and practice them.
But if you take the big 5 above to heart and practice them, networking will start to work for your business… I promise you.
#Networking #SmallBusinessNetworking #FunInBusiness #BusinessDevelopment
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