As I keynoted a conference last weekend, I reminded the 200+ attendees that they were at a networking event. Their ideal client could be discovered in the hotel lobby or a new business mentor could be sitting in row 4. Every time you have an opportunity to make new connections, you’re networking. An event doesn’t need the word networking in the title in order for you to make new connections. You never know who someone knows, or what knowledge a business associate has, that can propel your business.
photo ©2007 by luc legay, Flikr http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
5 inspired tips to make networking work for you:
Think Outside The Box: Last year I became a 50 year old sorority “pledge”, as an alumnae initiate of Delta Phi Epsilon International Sorority. I know what you’re thinking: "Sorority?". Yes, a Sorority is a network. DPhiE is 55,000+ members strong, with a vision to develop women leaders to be their best selves. The connections and friends I’ve made are priceless, and continue to grow, as I become more engaged both socially and professionally with my new sisters. From one-on-one coffee meet-ups to happy hours and joining the Fantasy Football Team, I make the time to get involved and develop connections for life.
Share Who You Are vs. What You Do: What’s the one question EVERYONE asks as soon as they meet you? “What do you do?” We’re so programmed to answer this question that sometimes we go on auto-pilot. There’s no inflection in our voice or enthusiasm about our business, because we’ve said it a thousand times before. It’s like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher. Instead, be bold and say what no one else is saying. Stop telling people what you do. Tell them who you are. Who you are is so much more engaging and interesting. When people ask me, “What do you do?” I answer: I’m the Million Dollar Party Girl! (with lots of enthusiasm and energy). It leads to my new connection wanting to learn more about me. Always leave them wanting more!
Become A Connector: Even if you’re attending your first networking event, you can make your mark by becoming a connector. Fake it ‘til you make it. Think of it as a party that you’re hosting and your job is to introduce the guests that don’t know each other. You’re one of them, so start with YOU.
Before you go: Find out who you want to meet by checking the attendee list. Connect with the Leader of the group and ask who would be a good connection for you. The person running the event wants the networking event to be a success, too. Break the ice and use social media to introduce yourself via Twitter, LinkedIn or a Facebook event page. If you have a blog, or read one, that offers relevant content and expertise, share it on the event page or via a tweet.
At the event: Be mindful of who you met that are branding matches made in heaven. For example, if you meet an interior designer and a building contractor, ask if they know each other. If not, go into “Hostess” mode and become a connector. It could be their first event, too.
After the event: Whether it’s a business referral or someone looking for a car for their teenager, follow up with people you want to connect via an E-troduction.
Ask The Right Questions: Two questions that will multiply your networking results are 1) What are you excited about? and 2) How can I help you? When you ask “What are you excited about?”, you’ll connect on a deeper level and really find out what your new contact is passionate about. They’ll light up like a candle and you’ll be the person who allowed them to share their glow. “How can I help you?” communicates that you are interested in something other than handing out random business cards. Listen and offer suggestions. If you think of a referral, write it down on your business card. I can guarantee you, your card won’t end up in the land of forgotten contacts.
Show Up As Your Brand: We’ve all heard the saying, "you can’t judge a book by its cover". The reality is, people do. As soon as you walk in the door at a networking event, attendees are making a decision about who you are, and what you do, by how you show up. Your wardrobe, attitude, energy, the whole package, should all communicate your brand. I show up as the Million $ Party Girl. My wardrobe is a little sassy, make-up and hair are current, attitude is always positive and my energy gets there before I do. If you’re walking in the door looking like a hot mess because you were running late, or your first comment is a complaint about how busy you are, look in the mirror to find out why you might not be making valuable connections. I’ve even had people come up to me and complain about how busy I am by saying, “I see on Facebook how busy you are. Where do you get your energy?” What they are really saying is they have no time, and no energy. My reply? “I’m blessed to live an abundant life because I’m passionate about what I do!”
For more tips on how to show up as your brand, read: Visionista Brand Photo Shoot
Lynn Bardowski is a 23-year entrepreneur, best selling author, national speaker, mentor and radio show host. For insights on entrepreneurship, leadership and vision, read her book, listen to her radio show, follow her blog, and "LIKE" her Facebook page. You may republish this article in full, as long as you list this paragraph and provide a link.
Purple is Passion! Do You Like the Dress?
How About the Shoes? Expressive?
A Fun VISIONista Photoshoot
by Lynn Bardowski
Photographer: Danielle Diangelo @ AngelEye Photography. www.daniellediangelo.com
Dress: Sandra Darren
Comment: I am a die hard Maxxinista! (T J Maxx for great bargains) Got this dress for just $30. Focus on solid colors that highlight your eye, skin and hair color. People should see YOU in the dress, not the dress on you.