Effective Networking

Effective Networking

by Lori Padgett

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, a network is a “group, system, etc. of interconnected or cooperating individuals.”

Choosing An Event/Group

  • Visit as many groups as possible that spark your interest. Notice the tone and attitude of the group. Do the people sound supportive of one another? Does the leadership appear competent? Many groups will allow you to visit two times before joining.
  • Attend events consistently. Going just once every few months is almost a waste of time for networking purposes. Building business relationships takes time and patience.

Being Prepared

  • Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes you special or different from others doing the same thing. You must first have a clear understanding of what you do before you can articulate it to others.
  • Establishing and building relationships, not hard selling, is the key to successful networking. Be prepared to share your expertise and contacts.
  • Crucial to your success is that you treat networking as an exchange of ideas, information and experience. You are not selling or simply telling or “sponging” off of others for your own benefit only. Be generous in sharing your talents, experiences, and ideas, and always be respectful of those around you.
  • Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.
  • Make people feel important, in order to make yourself important to them.
  • To avoid being tongue-tied when you try to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, prepare a self-introduction that is clear, interesting, and well delivered. It shouldn’t be longer than 8-10 seconds. Although practicing your introduction might at first seem silly and artificial, it will eventually help you make an introduction that sounds natural, confident, and smooth.
  • Dress for the occasion. This could mean dressing the way that your customers dress or dressing the way that they expect you to dress. First impressions are made in a matter of seconds.
  • Have your own name tag with business name made up – it’s inexpensive and shows professionalism. It also shows that you are prepared and pay attention to detail.
  • Organize yourself. Always carry a pen and paper with you during an event to jot down miscellaneous information that you may need to remember. (i.e.: a reminder to send a contact further information about your product or services). Never, never, never, write on a business card that a contact has given to you. Many people view this as disrespectful and bad manners, and you can never tell if the person that you have just met will be someone who views it this way.
  • Never leave home without your business cards!

Prior to the Event

  • Let preparation and practice be your guide. Spend some time planning your conversation generators.
  • In many networking events, you will find yourself with time to “mingle” among the other attendees before the formal program begins. It may be beneficial for you to spend some time planning and preparing how you will “work the room” to get the most from your efforts.

At the Event

  • Arrive early. It’s much harder to break in on conversations when you arrive late.
  • Wear your name tag on the right side to provide an easy sight-line to your name when shaking hands.
  • Not sure how to approach someone? Simply smile, nod your head, walk forwards with hand stretched out and say, “I just wanted to come over and say hello.” (Sounds daft but it works.)  Say your name clearly. “My name is (your name in full). It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
  • Approach and introduce yourself to people standing alone, or groups of three or more. When two people are talking together, there is a possibility that they know each other and are engaging in a personal conversation. However, their body language (i.e.: are they facing each other as they talk?), will give you a good indication if they are approachable.
  • Have an effective handshake. You’ve probably been on the receiving end of at least one “bone-crusher” and one “limp fish.” Practice your handshake to avoid giving one of those yourself! Also, always keep your right hand free, and hold drinks in your left hand to avoid cold, wet greetings.
  • Start with small talk.
  • Use an “elevator” speech: describe who you are or what you do in ten seconds or less
  • Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
  • Ask “feel good’ questions like, “How did you get started?” or “What do you consider a challenging project?” You will learn a lot about your contact’s business, while showing interest in them as a person.
  • LISTEN CAREFULLY, and don’t monopolize the conversation.
  • When appropriate, offer a business card, and ask the other person for one of his or hers. Sometimes, it is more appropriate to exchange business cards only when you depart from one another. Whenever you give a business card, ask for a business card. When given one, don’t just take it and place it in your pocket. Make the person feel important by looking at their card for a few seconds. You might see something that could be a topic of discussion. . Confirming the information is a nice way to engage. Then place it in your wallet or in your jacket pocket.
  • Some people give 2 business cards as standard practice. That way, their contact has one card to keep and one card to pass on to someone else, or perhaps to keep in a different location.
  • Don’t stay too long in one place. After eight to ten minutes of conversation with a contact, excuse yourself with a pleasantry such as, “It was nice meeting you …
  • Again, take your business cards absolutely EVERYWHERE! Maximize every “per chance” meeting. You never know when you might meet someone who can help you. Family or friends social events could produce unexpected encounters with people. So you’re going to a birthday party for your friend’s child. You never know who you might meet there.

After the Event

  • Once the event is over, your networking doesn’t stop! Be sure to follow up with those people you’ve met, keep in contact, share information and offer to help in any way you can.
  • Be sure to send a written acknowledgement or “Thank You” note to your networking contacts.
  • It’s also a great idea to send a “Thank You” note to the host or sponsors of the event. You will be remembered for it.
  • Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas. You want to build the relationship, so take the first step!
  • Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.

Tips For Sit-Down Events

  • Some networking events will provide a meal. It is crucial to practice good table etiquette to make the best impression.
  • At a sit down affair, don’t sit as soon as you get there. Keep moving around and networking as long as possible.
  • At the dinner table, introduce yourself at the beginning of the evening to everyone at your table.  If you are familiar with the others at the table (whether you knew them previous to the event, or have just met them), make the introductions. Proceed as if you are the host of the table.
  • Listen to learn. Start the conversation by asking questions, such as why people are there, what they hope to gain, how they found out about the event, etc.
  • Keep your business cards handy, but not on the table. Do not deal them out impersonally.

Additional Thoughts…

  • Consider volunteering to help out at various networking event. This puts you in a better strategic position for meeting people and passing your business card along. Others might view you differently, if they know you are willing to go the extra mile in helping them. This is a great way to stay visible and give back to groups that have helped you.  Zig Ziglar, one of the most successful sales trainers in the world says “if you help enough people get what they want in life, you will get what you want in life”.
  • Risk rejection – it’s not the end of the world.  Rejection happens to everyone at one point or another. Some individuals may not respond to your introduction in the way you would like. If that happens, don’t take it personally. Politely move on. Maintain an outgoing and friendly attitude and always keep your sense of humour!
  • Never make assumptions about the person you are talking to. Everyone has friends, colleagues, relations and contacts, and one of them might be just the person you need to speak to.
  • Do not hand out anything other than your business cards at an event. If a contact is interested in more information, send them a brochure or other information after the event. This provides you with a great opportunity for a future follow-up with them.
  • Networking involves WORK. With preparation, effort and enthusiasm, you’ll get a great deal out of it.
  • Don’t feel intimidated. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. You are dealing with a person. They have the same hopes and fears that you have.
  • Remember you have one mouth and two ears. Use them proportionately and you’ll be well on your way to being a successful networker!

Lori Padgett is the Owner of Apex Administration and can be contacted through her website at:  http://www.apexadministration.com

Fundamentals of Networking

by Sheri Andrunyk

There are so many aspects of personal growth and development.

Meeting new people always adds tremendous value and insight, whether in a personal or professional setting.

  • Building relationships!
  • Be genuine and interested in others!  People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
  • Give before you get!  You may not be able to exchange business with everyone you meet; however, you can listen and learn about others, so you can refer them business when the opportunity arises.  Most will do the same in return.  You reap what you sow!
  • Set yourself apart!
  • Be willing to ‘share’ what you have to offer!  It’s not enough to say ‘this is what I do’… and ‘hope’ others get it.   Answer ‘why you’ … ‘why your business’? Your prospects and clients are saying “Sell me…! … Educate me; enlighten me… on the benefits… on you… on trying something new or attending an event…”  Make it easy!

People are busy.  They want to know that their business is very important to you; and that you respect their time and can relate to their life.  Strike a kind and effective balance in the way you communicate and connect with them.

Be a ‘breath of fresh air’!  Make her/him feel ‘taken care of’.

Isn’t this what ‘we’ want when we’re the client?

This way, you will enjoy making many new friends along the way…

Sheri Andrunyk is the Founder of Women For Women, Keynote Speaker & Empowerment Coach.  Sheri conducts a “Women in Business Workshop Series” that is open to all women; and also offers uniquely personalized coaching sessions, instilling further confidence and clarity for her clients.  In addition, Sheri is President of Sales for Aloette Cosmetics and provides support and training to her staff of Beauty Specialists.  www.womenforwomen.ca sheri@womenforwomen.ca

First Impressions Count! Lasting Impressions Sell! Bet Your Business Card On It.

by Karen Saunders

It’s the trade show of the year, and you’re poised to meet, greet and network up a storm because the precise buyers for your product or services are here. Business card? Check. Sales brochures? Check. Product samples, informational literature, or other appropriate peripherals? Check.

But wait. Let’s go back to item #1 – both in the list above and the all-important first step in creating a strong, lasting and favorable impression. In other words, what you looked like or said may not be remembered when potential customers are back home, but your business card will be in the pile he’ll sift through to separate the wheat from the chaff; the business she’ll want to follow up on.

What’s your card saying about you? Here are some of the most common mistakes you’ve no doubt seen and reacted to negatively. Tossing the card into the wastebasket is inevitable.

Paper too thin. Card is wimpy and bends or crumples in your hand or briefcase. And screams cheap. Might be an indicator of your other business practices and products.

Pre-printed perforated cards you run through your computer printer. More cheap impressions, plus your card may look like dozens of others because of the limited preprinted designs available.

There’s much more. Boring. Bad choice of type face and size. Too much or too little information. No focal point, muddy graphics — the list goes on.

Your business card is often the first — and perhaps only — impression prospective clients may see. Will it encourage them to find out more about you and your business? Having a good logo design and a clean layout leaves them with a favorable first impression that you’re a credible professional businessperson.

Following are 13 easy ways for you to do what the professional designers do; insider secrets about business cards that go right to your first impression and bottom line.

  1. Create a focal point or central place that draws a reader’s eye.
  2. Allow white space to help balance the layout. Don’t fill up the card with text.
  3. Use a clear, strong logo that looks good when reduced in size on your business card.
  4. Use a highlight color sparingly. Make sure colored elements highlight the one main message you want to convey.
  5. Be sure the highlight color you choose is appropriate to your business. For example, using green on a lawn care business card would be far more appropriate than say red or orange.
  6. Limit your selection of type fonts to no more than two, which may also include their “families.” For example, a font family includes styles such as bold, italic, or bold italic versions.
  7. Format text to be smaller, more compact, and more professional looking.
  8. Choose appropriate fonts for your business, avoiding trendy, or overly embellished versions.
  9. Avoid using all capital letters because they are more difficult to read, and look unprofessional.
  10. Use a grid to align text and objects to each other.
  11. Don’t use illustrations that are too detailed or delicate, as they may look muddy when printed at a small size.
  12. Stay away from amateur-looking or dated clip art (unless you are going for the “retro” look). Find good quality resources.
  13. Select a beefy cover stock for your paper. Sometimes 80# cover is not enough. You can get a free swatch book from your printer or paper representative. The swatch book will give you the opportunity to examine and feel the various sheets for finish, thickness, stiffness, opacity (translucence), and color.

Impress your clients with your cards as though your business depended on it! Cards are small in size but huge in importance to your business success. Start employing these design tips to ensure your cards are doing the biggest possible job for you.

Copyright © Karen Saunders

Karen Saunders is the owner of MacGraphics Services, a unique design firm for today’s entrepreneur.  Karen’s book, Turn Eye Appeal Into Buy Appeal: How to easily transform your marketing pieces into dazzling, persuasive sales tools! is a comprehensive resource that teaches you how to create effective marketing materials, give marketing projects a professional appearance, and execute projects using ready-made checklists to immediately begin assisting clients with the planning, developing and creating of marketing materials.  To learn more, visit http://www.marketerschoice.com/app/?af=1090208.  You can contact Karen at 888-796-7300, or Karen@macgraphics.net.

Networking 101

Lately there seems to be a lot of talk about how to get your business known and how to find clients. Since September is rolling around before we know it, this might be an opportune time to address networking.

Networking is such a vital part of growing a business, especially a VA business. So what is networking, how and where do you start?

First and foremost, networking is about building relationships. Think about it for a minute. If you were looking for someone to fix your computer or do some work in your home, where would you look? Would you go through the Yellow Pages and then hope that you found someone reliable, who knew their stuff and was the best person to handle your needs? Would you really trust someone that you didn’t really know?

This is what networking is all about. You need to get out there and get yourself known. Once people get to know you and your business then it is easy for them to refer you to others. Why? Because, they have built trust and a relationship with you. They know what type of person you are and what your work ethics are by how you present yourself. This works online and in person.

Now where do you go to network, what groups can I possibly look at and where do you find them?

Here is a few to get you started both online and off:

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The York Business Exchange (YBE) www.ybe.ca

Business Owners Idea Café www.businessownersideacafe.com

The Leapfrog Network www.leapfrognetwork.com

BNI Canada www.bnicanada.ca

eWomen Network www.ewomennetwork.com

Canadian Women’s Business Network www.cdnbizwomen.com

entreWomen www.entrewomen.ca

Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs www.cawee.net

Business Women’s Networking Association  http://www.bwna.biz

Women Entrepreneurs of Canada www.wec.ca

Small Business Forum  www.small-business-forum.com

Company of Women www.companyofwomen.ca

Wings Canada www.wingscanada.com

Ryze Business Networking  www.ryze.com

Linked In www.linkedin.com

International Association of Administrative Professionals www.iaap-hq.org

Canadian Virtual Assistant Connection  www.cvac.ca

Canadian Virtual Assistant’s Network www.canadianva.net

Virtual Assistant’s Networking Forum www.vanetworking.com

Women In A Home Office www.womeninahomeoffice.com

Canadian Federation of Independent Business www.cfib.ca

SOHO Business Group www.soho.ca Business Innovation Group (BIG) www.bignetworking.ca

Business Partnerships http://businesspartnerships.ca

Business Networks http://businesspartnerships.ca

Meetup http://smallbiz.meetup.com

ReferralQuest www.referralquest.net

For other groups, events, meetings and times check out this fabulous website by Jennifer Beale – the Queen of Network. You can even sign up to have meeting and events come right into your mailbox:

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Remember that networking is an ongoing investment in your business. Think of it as courting your potential clients, it doesn’t happen overnight, it does take time but what lasting relationship doesn’t!  Happy networking!