1. Let me think about that.
2. Here’s what will work for me.
3. Can I get back to you?
4. That doesn’t work for me.
5. I appreciate your asking but I can’t.
6. I know this is important but I can’t.
7. Thanks, but this isn’t going to work.
8. That isn’t doable for me right now.
9. Oh, I wish I could.
10. Can I help you find a solution?
by Allyn Lewis
We all know networking is important to having a successful career, but how is networking actually done? Making small talk is not always easy. I keep seeing posts like, “An Introvert’s Guide to Networking” and the labeling gets to me. It doesn’t matter if you identify as an introvert or an extrovert, sometimes striking up a conversation is a piece of cake; other times it’s like pulling teeth. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve committed to going to an event that I’m so excited for at the time. Then, the day comes and I’m exhausted to the point where the thought of bubbling around the room passing around business cards seems like torture.
I know *gasp*, yes I said by yourself. When you head out solo, you’re not tempted to cling to your group or the business pal you brought with you. I think there’s something really powerful about the girl on the sidelines, confidently analyzing the room – eyeing up potential connections. She’s comfortable with standing alone on her own two feet without feeling the need to kill awkward time on her iPhone or jump into a conversation with people she’s already familiar with. Hello, the key to networking is meeting new people.
By standing your ground and settling in the moment without needing a distraction, you’ll be more approachable to someone else who is struggling with diving into conversations, too. I have made numerous connections being real. I’ll see someone else by themselves and say something like, “Oh my goodness, I’m feeling so awkward. I don’t know anyone here!” Two things have come out of this – 1) they’re like “umm yeah me too” and all of a sudden we bond over the awkwardness we’re both feeling and keep chatting, or 2) the person is like, “I came with a great group over there, let me introduce you to everyone.” No one has ever responded to me saying, “whoa, you are such a loser because you don’t know anyone.”
Give someone a genuine compliment to get a conversation going. People LOVE compliments. It works – every. single. time. Plus, it’s really rewarding to give someone a compliment. I love seeing their face light up and knowing I put that smile on it! It’s as easy as, “I had to come chat with you because I adore your ________ (shoes, purse, suit jacket, hair cut, etc.) You have to tell me where you got it/them!” Last week, I had the pleasure of exploring MAGIC Market Week with one of my clients. I was so excited to connect with all the brands there, but I was nervous they would get ticked off for talking to them since I wasn’t a buyer. Literally all I did was walk to the booths I was drawn towards and gave one compliment on their pieces or products. Every conversation took off from there and I was able to add so many amazing brands to my network that I’ve already started collaborating with!
It’s not always about what you say, people love to talk about themselves and their business, so don’t feel that you have to be the one carrying the conversation the entire time, or even the majority of the time. This is one of the many important lessons I learned from reading “Leave Your Mark” and I’m shocked at how true this is. Some days, networking is my favorite thing in the world – other days, my brain feels so fried that I have anxiety over not being able to come up with things to say. So, realizing how important listening is really calmed me down on days when networking seems impossible.
The majority of people are more than willing, and often extremely flattered, to offer up advice when asked. The trick to keep them talking and not being annoying is to ask them advice based off of what they have done. Stay away from wording things that focus on you like, “how do you think I should go about approaching X goal for Y project?” Instead try, “what element do you think was the most important in achieving X goal.” You get invaluable insight from others in the industry while they get to talk about themselves and their accomplishments – everyone wins!
One thing I do before every networking event is set an intention for what I want to learn more about. It doesn’t need to be specific, it can be just general business topics. For example, my topic for the night might be gaining insight on how other people utilize blogging. I love this because when the dreaded awkward pause comes up, I already have a starting point for what to ask next to keep the conversation going. I just think about my intention and come up with a question depending on how that topic applies to whomever I’m talking to. I might ask a sales rep if they’ve worked with bloggers before to drive sales or I might ask a small business owner if they are currently using blogging as part of their branding and marketing strategy. Even something more general like, “what are your thoughts on businesses having a blog” can spark a wonderful convo!
Come up with a few bullet points that make you the fabulous you that you are. Then, work them into the conversation casually. If you already know what your talking points are beforehand, you’ll be able to work them into the conversation without seeming self-absorbed. Talking about yourself is a lot easier when you don’t have to focus your energy on what you need to say on top of how to introduce it. Whatever you do, remember that you’re not pitching and promoting your business (or career). You need to pitch yourself. If someone can connect with you, they will take the initiative to learn more about whatever else you’re up to. People connect with people, and only then will they be able to connect with the business.
Ideally, you want to contribute to the conversation and tell them fun facts about you so they remember who you are, but some days that’s easier said than done. Truth be told, talking about yourself can be the hardest part of networking, but guess what? You can still get so much of everything out of a conversation even if you keep the focus off of you. If you are listening and engaging with what the other person is saying, they will remember that, and thus, they will remember you just from that effort alone. We all know how difficult it is to find a good listener.
No matter what, even if you feel like you have a crappy, going-through-the-motions conversation, you need to follow up, always. After the event, I like to do a quick tweet or instagram comment saying something like, “so lovely to meet you tonight!” Then, I send email followups within 48 hours of meeting that person.
Networking is exhausting. If you’re at a conference or event, make sure you give yourself a few breaks to clear your mind and refresh before jumping back into all the conversations. Another thing to remember – you do not need to talk to everyone in the room. If you walk out with one solid connection that you can say adds value to your network, then that event was worth it. Quality over quantity. It’s fine if you only passed out 3 business cards and not 50 if you had 3 meaningful conversations.
In business, your value isn’t determined by the size of your dreams, the amount of money you make, how many people are on your staff, or the load of clients you’re managing. Your value and how much you are worth (both internally and externally) is determined by your network – who you’re connected to and who is within your reach. Even your skill set means nothing if you don’t have a network of professionals to share them with! Happy networking. =)
Pat Brans, contributor
Nearly three hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin came up with an approach to changing habits that has yet to be surpassed. A young adult seeking to straighten out his act, Franklin developed a list of thirteen virtues, jotting down a brief definition of each. These were character traits he took to be important, but in which he found himself lacking. He knew that nurturing these habits would bring about positive change in his life.
Starting at the top of the list, Franklin spent one week working on each virtue. In the morning he thought about how he would reinforce the new habit throughout the day. During the day he looked at his notes to remind himself of the new habit. At the end of the day, he counted how many times he fell back into the old habit.
While Franklin was surprised at first to see how “faulty” his behavior was, he was so resolved that he pressed on, working through the entire list in a thirteen-week cycle, and completing four such cycles in a year. As for results, he noted in his autobiography that while perfection was unattainable, he could see big improvements.
Modern psychologists recognize three key elements in Franklin’s three-hundred-year-old procedure for changing habits:
Applying Benjamin Franklin’s Method
Here are 12 time management habits for the new year. Tailor these as you like, but whatever you do, work on one each week using Benjamin Franklin’s method:
Habit 1: Strive to be authentic. Be as honest with yourself as you can about what you want and why you do what you do.
Habit 2: Favor trusting relationships. Put your efforts into building relationships with people you can trust and count on, and make sure those same people can trust and count on you.
Habit 3: Maintain a lifestyle that will give you maximum energy. Work your way up to doing aerobic exercise at least three times a week, eating a light lunch, and getting enough sleep.
Habit 4: Listen to your biorhythms and organize your day accordingly. Make it a habit to pay attention to regular fluctuations in your physical and mental energy levels throughout the day; and based on what you learn, make adjustments to how you schedule tasks.
Habit 5: Set very few priorities and stick to them. Select a maximum of two things that are your highest priority, and plan time to work on them.
Habit 6: Turn down things that are inconsistent with your priorities. Get good at saying no to other people, and do so frequently.
Habit 7: Set aside time for focused effort. Schedule time every day to work on just one thing.
Habit 8: Always look for ways of doing things better and faster. Be on the lookout for tasks you do over and over again, and look for ways of improving how you do them.
Habit 9: Build solid processes. Set up processes that last and that run without your attention.
Habit 10: Spot trouble ahead and solve problems immediately. Set aside time to think about what lies ahead, and face all problems as soon as you can.
Habit 11: Break your goals into small units of work, and think only about one unit at a time. Spend most of your time working on the task in front of you, and avoid dreaming too much about the big goal.
Habit 12: Finish what’s important and stop doing what’s no longer worthwhile. Don’t stop doing what you considered worth starting unless there’s a good reason to give it up.
By stepping up to the podium, you can increase awareness of your business and yourself.
Q: How can I publicize my business and position myself as an expert when I can’t always get my press releases published?
A: Public speaking is another form of effective PR. You probably don’t think of yourself as a speaker, but it’s easier than you think-and the results will prove it’s well worth the effort.
If a prospect wanted to meet with you today to discuss buying something from you, you would gladly meet and talk. You could probably talk as long as that interested prospect wanted to talk. See, you can talk. You are a speaker. Now imagine making this same presentation, holding this same discussion with a room full of prospects.
Speaking to increase your public awareness is not quite the same as delivering your sales pitch at the podium. You need to deliver something of value to your targeted audience, and you want to educate and inform. This type of speaking does a number of things for you:
There are a number of places where you can speak. Many service organizations feature speakers and meet weekly, such as Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis. Toastmasters is a group that will help you with your speaking. Church groups and Universities also have guest speakers on particular subjects. Some chambers of commerce invite guests to speak at their functions. You can even develop your own seminar or workshop if you have the right subject and the right audience.