“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.
Do you value networking for lead generation?
I came across a video from entrepreneur.com recently, on making small talk, which brought a smile to my face. Humour really is the way to get a message across a lot of the time, don’t you think? Anyway, it made me reflect on the number of events my colleague in OC&K, and I attend each month. Every time we are at an event it is very amusing to spot the various networking techniques being employed and the number of people that are just not comfortable networking, in any situation.
So in this post I’m going to chat about how being more prepared can help get rid of ‘cold feet’ and then outline some examples of bad networking.
I am conscious of the fact that for many people reading here, this is an old and well documented topic but, for me it never seems to be a waste of time reviewing how to communicate clearly and effectively and how to go about building relationships from a standing start. Of course the words you speak and hear at a networking event do play a part in getting your message across but it is the way that you speak and listen that makes a significant difference.
OK so – hands up – how many people think success at an event is a case of counting the number of people (business cards) that you encounter (distribute)? One might even measure it as a personal brand awareness driver by spending an evening chatting with acquaintances over a ‘free’ glass of vino! Either way, here are some thoughts that might make your networking efforts, actually worthwhile.
Food for thought.
Above all else – have a short and simple description about what you do. At OC&K, ‘we help, mainly, small businesses to be smarter about their marketing activity’. If you can’t ream it off naturally, how is your ‘listener’ going to understand what you do without further clarification, who will then probably switch off, as you continue to elaborate. Prepare before you attend i.e. find out who is going to be there that you would like to chat to and while preparing your ‘strategy’ – decide on some objectives (2/3 is fine). This way you can judge whether your evening was a success or not.
A trick I always like to use is to go and say hello to the speaker. It’s amazing how many people you meet that gather around the speaker after a presentation. If there is no speaker, use the organiser instead. Even if they are not relevant to your business – they are usually well connected, and you’d never know who you’d ‘bump into’.
The best thing to do at any networking event is to really listen. However, if you are talking, try to use similar terminology and follow the body language of your counterpart. Someone pointed out to me that the word listen is an anagram of silent. – which is a good way to remember this point.
This is an old one but, where possible get them to talk about their work, career, interests or even their opinions. We know that people tend to have positive recall of a conversation if they have spoken about themselves. Give the other person your undivided attention and if that’s working both ways, then a relationship commences. I believe that the hardest thing to do is to get out of your own comfort zone. It is all too easy to talk with somebody all night that has the same interests as you have. Mingle and listen to different stories.
I attended a fantastic networking event last Thursday evening, the #dubnet, 1 year old celebration organised by the @dubnetbiz gang, at a great Dublin city centre venue, The Church. During the evening I was reminded that trying to stay focused on someone who is talking about their business in an incoherent way, is very difficult. It is all too easy to make an excuse to leave and move onto somebody else, but of course I wouldn’t do that. I believe that not only would it be bad manners to do so but it could also mean that perhaps the person had not prepared properly and should be given a chance, within reason. In fact, on the one occasion that it happened last Thursday, I summarised what I believed the person was saying and they noticed that they were babbling on. Lesson learnt, I hope.
Personally, when networking, the two things I focus on the most is being helpful, where and when I can, during a conversation, and making sure I make a note to follow-up where I have said that I would.
Tips and Timesavers.
There are no hard and fast rules about what not to do so here are eleven examples of what I consider bad networking:
- You move on after an introduction because you believe that the person isn’t useful to you.
- You don’t allow the person you are speaking with to speak in a 60 second period.
- You remain in the company of a colleague / friend that you attended with.
- You give a business card to people you haven’t spoken with.
- You forget to keep a note of who you promised to follow up.
- You are there for the food and/or the booze.
- You stay talking to a person you know already.
- You spend your time on your smartphone.
- You gossip about others at the event.
- You ask closed (yes or no) questions.
- You sell.
In the advent of uber connectivity online, I believe that it is more important nowadays that we don’t lose the skill of good face-to-face networking. Of course online networking is an integral part of building and growing a business, but offline follow up is essential, if a relationship is to be developed. It is a skill to feel confident in a networking situation, but with experience and some careful planning you should be able to capitalize on the value of networking for lead generation.
If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page. Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers. Jim – O’C&K