Small Business Networking

A new year brings new resolve to kick it up a notch, no matter what area of your life needs kickin’!  Small business owners struggle more than most in this economy because we don’t get a paycheck unless business comes in the door.  So, in the door we go to drum up new contacts at networking events.

I joined a new Italian group last night in NYC.  I went for fun and wound up meeting some great people.  This morning I wonder if I made the most efficient use of my time networking at the event.

There are so many scenarios.  Say, for example you attend a social networking event…’re in a very crowded room and you do not know a soul.  What do you do?  First of all, bravo for even attending!  Second, screw those who say you need that 60 second elevator speech to introduce yourself.  You are not a walking business card, nor does anyone at a social event want to speak with a billboard, yet you all know why you are present.

Small business networking

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Here are my top 3 tips for “working the room” at a crowded event:

1.  Ask for introductions – this only works if you know someone. Have your “contact” introduce you to whomever and then you’re on your own. Engage the person with questions about them before you start blabbing about yourself. “What brought you here tonight?” Then springboard from there. You cannot have this formulaic rhythm in your head.

2.  Speak about yourself but leave them wanting more – here is where your 60 second speech comes into play.  If you have just met someone, do not speak on and on about yourself.  It’s boring, even if they are laughing (they may be laughing at you or nervously because they want to escape)  Alter the conversation with their thoughts, cultural ideas and interests.  Steer absolutely clear of religion and politics unless you never want to see their business.

3.  Know your “networking” style – There are two styles in my opinion.  There are those who love to really walk the crowd, shaking as many hands and meeting as many people as possible.  I much prefer connecting with a few people during the evening and having at least a 15 minute conversation with them.  They remember you if you engage them.  If you shake hands and just collect cards, I can almost guarantee that no one there will remember you in 2 weeks much less two months when their need for your services may first arrive.

Anyone who has read this blog long enough knows that my Dad greatly influenced my business style and when I started my own practice he bought me a copy of Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  I guess after being on the air for 20+ years, Dad still thought I needed help communicating.  LOL

Anyway, Covey suggests the “principles of empathic communication.”  Seek first to understand in order to be understood.  Everyone filters their thoughts and expressions through their own agendas and priorities.  Until you can grasp that their goals may not be the same as your endgame, you will not be successful at meeting their game and growing yours.

Buon anno a tutti and may we all have a more prosperous 2012