Sep 232014
 

too busy to networkYou know that networking is an important part of building your business. But we all have those days. Those days when you don’t have enough time to scratch yourself, let alone network!

Why don’t you have time to network?

Well, let’s see.

First I have to drop the kids off at school, then I need to run to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner. I must go to the bank to deposit a check that I got yesterday, then I have to meet a colleague for a working lunch.

After lunch, I promised my neighbor that I’d take her to her doctor’s appointment, and then by the time I get her back home it’ll be time to pick the kids up from school.

As soon as they’ve had a quick snack, I have to take Billy to his piano lesson, and then take Bobby to soccer practice.

And I haven’t even thought about making dinner (though I did remember to go to the store and buy the ingredients!)

Do you really think that by the time I have washed the dinner dishes I want to start networking?

Does your day look like this?

If your day does look like this, and you think you don’t have time to network, you’re seriously mistaken, my friend! If you slump down in your armchair at the end of a day like this and kick yourself for not making any new connections, then you’ve missed 8 – count them – EIGHT opportunities to get your networking on!

How can you incorporate networking into a busy day?

Could you have talked to some other parents who were dropping their kids off at school?

Could you have made some small talk in the grocery store?

Could you have had a chat with the bank teller while you were doing your banking? Imagine how many people she comes into contact with each day!

Could you have made a connection with your server, or the hostess, at lunch?

The doctor’s waiting room is the perfect place to start a conversation – have you noticed how everyone has their nose stuck in a magazine?

Picking the kids up from school offers the same opportunities for networking as dropping them off in the morning.

I’ll give you the piano lesson to take a breather while you listen to Billy’s progress, or just catch up with some emails on your smartphone.

Soccer moms LOVE to talk, so why aren’t you networking at soccer practice?

You see, networking isn’t all about promoting your business. Networking is about making connections. And making conversation. And, who knows, in the midst of that conversation, you may find an opportunity to offer your service, or sell your product.

Networking begins with building relationships. And building relationships starts with a conversation.

When you look at networking as making conversation, it doesn’t seem like work at all, does it?

 

Sep 152014
 

awkward conversationA study by the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto is about to publish a study in the Administrative Science Quarterly showing that most people think that networking is schmoozing, and it makes them feel physically dirty.

If this is the feeling networking gives you, you’re doing it all wrong!

I think that the feeling of discomfort comes from forced networking – when you are making conversation for the sake of conversation. If you don’t find the conversation is flowing naturally when you are trying to get to know someone, there is no point in forcing the connection. Dismiss yourself politely from the conversation and move on!

You’ll find that much better connections are made when conversation flows smoothly, and there is no onus on either party to find topics of interest to discuss.

But, haven’t I failed if I don’t make a connection?

Not at all!

If the person you are trying to connect works for an organization that employs more people, there are plenty more opportunities to network with someone you feel more of a natural connection with.

If you’re trying to get to know an solo businessman or entrepreneur and you’re having a hard time connecting, you could find another entrepreneur in the same field, or simply chalk this one up to “I’m going to have to let this one slide” status.

Not everyone lands in a positive relationship 100% of the time! It may be that in another place, at another time, you’re able to connect in a more positive way. It may be, though, that this connection is just not for you.

As everyone’s mother always said … there are plenty more fish in the sea!

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

Don’t talk to strangers!

 Networking  Comments Off on Don’t talk to strangers!
Aug 182014
 

don't talk to strangersI wouldn’t mind placing a bet that, no matter where in the world you grew up, one of the first pieces of advice you were ever given was don’t talk to strangers.

A stranger. “A person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar.”

I’m not sure if that advice ever becomes null and void as you grow older. I just know that, in order to grow you networking sphere, you must absolutely talk to strangers!

The Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, said “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.” And that is a better approach to networking! Only by talking to strangers can you develop new relationships!

How many strangers have you turned into friends this week?

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10 benefits of networking

 Networking  Comments Off on 10 benefits of networking
Jul 282014
 

the benefits of networking by Bev Edgerton, Networking 1 on 1, Bloomington ILDo you still need to be persuaded that, if you’re in business, you need to network?

Have you been avoiding networking meetings because you are convinced you can go it alone?

There are many benefits you can gain from networking, here are just 10 to get you started.

1. Networking is fun!

There’s always someone new to meet at a networking event. There’s always someone to talk to, someone to catch up with, someone to talk to about things outside of your business. If networking is not fun for you, you’re doing it wrong!

2. Networking  promotes knowledge-sharing.

Whether you’re networking with someone in the same field of business that you’re in, or someone who is a prospect for your goods or services, everyone benefits from knowledge sharing. You can learn of the next big thing in business apps, or of a potential career opening in a business you have your eye on. People love to talk, and news – good or bad – travels fast, so networking events are the perfect vehicle for sharing knowledge. (Just make sure of your facts before you repeat what you heard!)

3. Networking boosts your profile.

The more people you network with, the more people you know. And the more people you know, the more people know you, your business, and your skills. This, coupled with great testimonials for your business, raises your profile in your networking circles.

4. Networking strengthens connections.

Networking is like the worldwide web – there are so many connections to be made, and our many friends and colleagues are connected in various ways. For example, because my friend Julie knows Jeff, Jordan, and Jamie, that puts me in contact with Jeff, Jordan, and Jamie. And when I introduce Jeff, Jordan, and Jaime to my friend Jasmine, our network becomes stronger. Multiply this by 100 of my connections, and the connection possibilities are limitless!

5. Networking spawns fresh ideas.

You’ve heard the expression “two heads are better than one”? Multiply that by the number of people in your personal network! You’ll never be lost for ideas again when you realize how many minds you have to tap.

6. Networking keeps you “in the know”.

Never fear that you don’t have the latest information. Your network will make sure that you never need to worry about missing a newspaper, or a news story, whether it’s local or global. Someone always knows what’s going on, even before you have to ask!

7. Networking generates referrals.

There are networking groups dedicated to the business of passing referrals. But, even if thats not the sole purpose of your networking group, make sure you are known as the expert in your field. Attend events regularly, and talk about your business, your skills, and your achievements, so other networkers remember that you are the “go to” person when they’re looking for someone in your field of expertise!

8. Networking builds friendships.

Let’s face it, entrepreneurs are a friendly, caring bunch! And some of the people you network with are your best friends. People you enjoy spending time with, and people you can count on to be there when you need them. People with similar interests tend to become friends, and those friendships are strengthened at networking events.

9. Networking highlights your expertise.

Along the same line of thought as #7, when you attend networking events regularly, your name becomes more and more well-known. People may tag your name with your profession, so you’re called out as “Joe the plumber”, or “Helen the social media expert” – your name becomes synonymous with your  business, and that’s a good thing!

10. Networking helps build a support system.

You’ll never have to reach for the Yellow Pages when looking for a tradesman, a business, or a product. Your connections are all you need. Looking to have a tree chopped down? You met the local “tree doctor” at an event a couple of weeks ago! You can turn to your network for an opinion on the best gym to join, for the  bank with the best interest rates on a mortgage loan, for a recommendation on a new car, and when you need to hire someone to take care of your accounts. Word of mouth is a powerful support system, and you’ll learn to rely on the referrals of your network.

photo credit: Patricia Mellin via photopin cc

Are you prepared to network?

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Jul 212014
 

Image by kvanhorn @ FlickrWe live in such a hurried world today, that it’s not uncommon to hear stories of last minute packing, last minute cramming for tests and exams, consuming information in bite-sized chunks, and generally taking all the short cuts we can to get where we want to be.

So, why would you be prepared to network? Is it any higher on your list of priorities than, say, the business meeting you have planned for the same day? It’s getting harder and harder to find time for preparation, so we launch ourselves into meetings and events without a second thought.

There are a few things you can do, however, to prepare yourself for a networking event:

  1. Keep a spare box of business cards in the glove box of your car. Avoid the last minute “I don’t have enough cards!” panic by keeping stock at hand. You can never have too many business cards!
  2. Start with the end in mind. Know your goal, and work towards it. Want to meet the CEO of the latest start-up in town? Want to add 2 new people to your mastermind group? Need a plumber to fix a leaky faucet? Are you looking for sales, or do you want to add to your team? Know what you want, then go get it.
  3. Keep a mental list of questions to ask. It’s too easy to revert to the “umm” and “ahh” phase when you can’t think what to say! Think of something outside of the realm of business. Aim to gather some personal facts, but don’t get too personal! “Do you live here, or did you have to travel?”, “How long have you been selling widgets?”, “I see you’re wearing a Rotary badge, how long have you been a Rotarian?” Friendly chatter, but not invasive questions. Get to know them better!
  4. Carry a notebook. Ever find yourself losing a head-full of information, simply because you didn’t make notes? We’ve all done it. We’ve all scratched our heads trying to remember who it was that told us about the changes happening over at that realtor’s office, or repeated a phone number over and over, trying to commit it to memory. There is no shame in writing things down! Put a notebook and pen in your glove box next to that box of business cards, or use an app on your smartphone to take notes.
  5. Practice your elevator pitch. You’ve heard this before. You’re in an elevator going to the 8th floor. The elevator stops at the 2nd floor and Bill Gates gets in. He asks you what you do for a living. You have 7 floors to tell him your story. And …. GO ….

Those are just a few things to consider when preparing to network. And they really don’t require much forethought on your part.

Now, get out there and network!

Image courtesy of kvanhorn @ Flickr

Do women and men network differently?

 Networking  Comments Off on Do women and men network differently?
Jul 142014
 

do women network differently than men?You know the importance of building your network, but does your gender affect how you network?

Studies would have us believe that there are inherent differences – women tend to be better listeners, men tend to do most of the talking.

It has also been found that women tend to build relationships with a longer term future in mind, keeping snippets of information handy in their memory banks for use at a later time. Men, it seems, network more effectively when they are trying to fulfill an immediate need. It seems that men  network to sell themselves, their product, or their service. Women network with a genuine interest to find out more about the person they are talking to.

Take a look at your online social networks. Your LinkedIn account, Google Plus, and even Facebook. Do you have an even ratio of male to female contacts? Odds are, you have more female connections in your social networks because women tend to adopt social media more readily. You may, however, get a more in-depth viewpoint from the men in your networks!

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) reports that women need to be encouraged to create and build networks and make connections with people who can provide advice and service.

There is an interesting article here by Becky Beaupre Gillespie, who interviewed three female entrepreneurs on this very topic.

What has been your experience with men vs. women when it comes to networking? Do you think they are evenly weighted, or are you noticing differences?

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11 things you should never do at a networking event

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Jul 122014
 

Networking 1 on 1You know you’ve done it – you’ve left an event and thought you yourself “What the heck was he thinking!” Yes, you just met the man who violated all the rules of networking, and now you know you’ll never look at him with a straight face again, let alone do business with him!

Of course there is no list of rules as you enter the rooms, because these things should be inherent. So, what are those cardinal networking rules you should not break?

1. Drink the alcohol!

We know that it loosens you up. We know that it’s false courage. But it can also get you into a lot of trouble if you happen to loosen up too much! Stick with the seltzer water and a slice of lemon!

2. Under- or over-dress for the occasion

If you don’t know how you’re expected to dress, call the event organizer! When you’re dressed incorrectly for an occasion, you just feel uncomfortable.

3. Forget the facts

When you were at previous events, you took notes. They may have been mental notes that you jotted down later, or they may have been memories triggered by something on a person’s business card. However you remembered these facts, now is the time to brush up on them.  Greeting someone with “Nice to see you again, Simon! I hear your product launch went well” is a much better opener than “Didn’t I meet you at the Chamber event?”

4. Eat the food

Similar to the advice about not drinking alcohol, the food may be very tempting, but you won’t create a great impression with a poppyseed stuck in your teeth and garlic breath!

5. Indulge in negative talk

“I’d never do business with that guy from Jones & Co. You wouldn’t believe what he said to my customer!” We’ve all done it. Given our opinion about another person to someone who really doesn’t care to know. The pitfall here is that you just don’t know who is connected to whom, and how they are connected! Don’t burn bridges unnecessarily by talking someone down.

6. Talk about your personal life

OK, so your day didn’t go as planned. But is it really relevant to your business that you just put your grandma in a nursing home, and you think your wife is having an affair with the neighbor, and you can’t stand the new secretary your boss just hired, and your son’s orthodontist appointment is going to cost you a fortune. Nobody cares. They are all fighting their own personal battles (and they manage to keep theirs undisclosed!)

7. Judge other attendees at first glance

Just because someone doesn’t dress how you would expect them to, or you think they are too young to own their own business, or you heard something negative about them from another guest at the event, should not deter you from forming your own opinion. Try to put all those first impressions out of your head and start afresh. You may just be surprise.

8. Forget your business cards

“Just tell me your name and I’ll look you up on Facebook/LinkedIn/insert social media of choice here.” Do you really think the person you’re talking to will remember that? If you have a very compelling story, or something that makes you unforgettable, then maybe they will. But face it, they’re meeting possibly hundreds of people at this event! How will they remember you? Make sure to take more business cards than you think you’ll need.

9. Fill your hands with stuff and wear clothes with no pockets

Ladies, have you ever tried to carry a purse in one hand, while holding a glass in the other, and dig for your business cards in your purse? Just don’t do it. If you’re going to carry a purse, make sure the straps are long enough that you can carry it on your shoulder, and you can reach your business cards without looking like you’re doing the Elaine Benes dance.

10. Be a wallflower

You’re here to network. If you sit in a chair in the corner, people are not going to come to you. Take the initiative to start conversations with people. Be the first to offer a handshake and an introduction. It’s called networking.

11. Pay more attention to your phone than the person you’re talking to

Don’t text and network. That’s all.

If you struggle with any of these, let me know. I’m here to help you be the best networker you can be.

Image courtesy of Jodi Womack @ Flickr

The 10 best places to network

 Networking  Comments Off on The 10 best places to network
Mar 112014
 

Networking venues you many not have thought ofAre you tired of going to the same old places and seeing the same old faces?

If your networking needs a fresh perspective, consider the following:

1. Trade shows

Here you can find people of like mind or, more importantly, people looking for your product or service. As always, make sure you have plenty of business cards, and any advertising collateral you wish to share. You could have your own booth, in which case make sure you bring back up so you have time to network with other business owners. Or you could attend as a visitor, leaving you free to network with whomever you choose. As you ask exhibitors about their business, remember to tell them about yours.

2. Religious events

Think about it. Regardless of your religion, there are no restrictions on who can attend a service, and a congregation is a natural team, or tribe, sharing a natural bond. A great place to network!

3. Coffee shops

I want to say that this is a no-brainer, yet many people overlook the power of the coffee shop! There are millions of dollars in business done in coffee shops daily. The preferred haunt of many an entrepreneur, you may find that different types of people congregate in different coffee shops, so stake them out and find out who’s going where.

4. Neighborhood groups

Do you know the plethora of talents available in your neighborhood? If you don’t attend neighborhood meetings, you may never find out! Your next door neighbor could be your best client, and you wouldn’t even know it if you never talked to them.

5. Conferences and conventions

Like trade shows, you’ll be most likely to find people here who are looking for you and your product or service. And they’ll be expecting to hear your elevator pitch when you hand them your business card. Do you have your elevator pitch ready?

6. Meetups

If you’ve never been to a Meetup, check out meetup.com and look for groups in your area. You can find groups related to business, hobbies and interests, gender, religion, nutrition, political affiliation, marital status, and much more.

7. Volunteer groups

Meet people AND do good!

8. Chambers of Commerce

Your local Chamber organizes many events designed to help you in your networking endeavors. Whether you attend meetings before hours, after hours, or during business hours, you’ll always find someone willing to hear your pitch, and give you theirs in response.

This app will help you locate your local Chamber of Commerce.

9. Toastmasters

Sharpen your networking skills while practicing your speaking skills. Find a Toastmasters club here.

10, Alumni events

Catch up with alums – you already have a common talking point!

Your turn!

What’s your favorite place to network?

 

When you find it hard to talk to people

 Networking  Comments Off on When you find it hard to talk to people
Mar 032014
 

networking when you're shyThere are talkers, and then there are people who find it hard to talk to others.

Some people just open their mouths and their whole life story spills out, and others need to be coaxed into sharing even their name.

Why is it so hard for some people to open up?

Is it nerves? Is it purely for the sake of privacy?  I’ll tell you a secret … many people find it hard to talk to others because they are scared of looking stupid. They are worried that they will open their mouth and make a fool of themselves.

If this sounds like you, I have some tips that may help you feel more comfortable in a networking situation.

  • Talk about topics you know well.
  • Ask questions instead of waiting to answer questions.
  • Make small talk – talk about the weather, a community issue you’re passionate about, or a story in the local newspaper.
  • Imagine that the people you are talking to are also finding it hard to carry on a conversation.
  • Pick a group of people to talk to rather than an individual, you’ll feel more comfortable listening if there are at least two others talking.
  • If you feel yourself floundering, you can always excuse yourself from the group and start a new conversation with someone else.

Remember, whatever the topic of the discussion is, you don’t have to be right. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have all the answers. Just be you.

photo credit: Tim Dorr via photopin cc

Are you ready for more Networking 1 on 1?

 Networking  Comments Off on Are you ready for more Networking 1 on 1?
Jan 172014
 

networking isn't all about online!Last year saw me undertake an amazing journey.

So many people told me “Bev, with all your networking expertise, you should write a book!” – and I did. It was a journey of self-discovery, and a journey that I really didn’t want to end.

Since the publication of Networking 1 on 1, I find myself saying “Oh! I wish I have had put that in the book!” or I find things that I wish I had talked about more. Of course, I did what any good networker would do, I shared my thoughts with my friends and peers, who confirmed that the right thing to do was to write a second installment!

Networking is an ever-evolving skill. And just as you never stop learning in life, you never stop learning about networking! I’m so excited to be on this next part of my journey. I’ll let you in on more “networking rockstar secrets” and I’ll talk about how to discover more opportunities to build your network. And that’s just the start!

I truly believe that despite all the online socializing sites available to us, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction.

Stay tuned! More information will come your way soon.

photo credit: kylesteed via photopin cc