Networking and Connecting
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Stephen P Smith.
Author’s Note: The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, “Work. Smarter!” which will be available in May. You can pre-order a paperback edition of the book, along with a special coaching opportunity for any of the book’s topics here – The Work Smarter Book Pre-Order.
I am looking forward to the launch and helping people get a grip on their work.
I am a big fan of the Chamber of Commerce. Part of the reason is the opportunity to meet other business people in a relaxed social setting at the regular get-togethers such as Business After Hours, Lunch-and-Learn, or Breakfast Seminars.
Sometimes these meetings have a structure, with a focused presentation, other times they are more free-form with food and beverages. All the time they are a great way to meet others in your community that you can work with, or can send more business your way.
I always attend a networking event with two goals in mind:
- Meet at least one new person and introduce them to someone I already know that would have an interest in developing a business relationship with this new person.
- Re-connect with someone that I may not have seen/spoken to in a while and get caught up on what they are working on.
By following these steps I have often been able to help others create business relationships and establish myself as a Connector. This often brings people (and business opportunities!) to me that I may never have had the chance to meet otherwise. The most popular type of networking event is the Business After Hours which has some excellent opportunities as well as its own special pitfalls to watch out for.
One thing to remember – have a good supply of business cards with you. So many people do not bring cards with them, and they miss out on opportunities. I also recommend having a short stack of 3″x5″ cards in your pocket for writing quick notes about the people that you meet.
The Challenges of the After-Hours Event
Your typical Business After Hours is an unstructured event with some finger food and a beer/wine bar. We can look at an event like this as having two main challenges and three primary opportunities.
- First, the bar. Avoid the bar as best you can. Getting tipsy at one of these events may be expected by the majority of the participants, but no one has to know that you have been carrying the same glass of wine for two hours. Consuming alcohol reduces your ability to stay focused on the reason you are at the event: meeting people that can bring you business. Limit your alcohol consumption or avoid it altogether to get the most out of your attendance.
- Your close friends and co-workers. Since you already have a relationship with some of the attendees it can be easy to spend most of your time talking shop with your co-workers or friends, rather than catching up with folks that you do not get to see very often or meeting the new people. I suggest that you work toward a goal of meeting 2-3 people that you do not know at each networking event. Ask them about themselves and their business, with an eye toward introducing them to someone that you already know.
As you can see, the challenges are insidious in that they are so easy to fall into. Stay focused on your own goals and you will be able to get the most out of your attendance and reap the benefits of the opportunities that the event can deliver.
Networking Brings Opportunities for Your Business
The primary opportunities of a Business After Hours event can build your authority, credibility and your bottom line. Have your elevator pitch ready to deploy!
Most people that attend these events are looking to sell something, that something being their product or service. You need to attend the Business After Hours with the goal of selling yourself – not your business, not your new product. Use the networking event to sell “Brand You” and set times for follow-up with the people that you meet.
These follow-up meetings or calls are the time for selling your business.
- Build Authority by meeting new people and introducing them to others in your existing network. If you meet someone who has a new company that makes widgets and you know someone that makes widget-packaging machines, get them together. This will demonstrate your knowledge of the market and showcase a benefit of developing a relationship with you.
- Offer Value by listening to the people that you meet. Encourage them to talk about their business and interests. You need to work toward engaging them about them, and by explaining how you help others. Not by promoting your own business. That will come as your relationship grows.
- Get more business! By engaging the people that you meet and learning more about them you develop your credibility in the community. Bringing other people together into new relationships establishes your ability as a Connector and creates a positive balance in your Emotional Bank Account. Be prepared to help someone else get more business and they will come to you for help later. That is how relationships work!
Letting the other person talk, and actively listening, is a good way of beginning to build a rapport with a new person. People do like the sound of their own voice.
Phil has written a fantastic article about exactly how to follow up after a networking event here, at the end of the post on “Why I Hate Your Newsletter“. Specifically:
“Personally email each person you met at the networking – Follow up is where most networkers (myself sometimes included) fall down. Make time that night or the very next day and send a personal two paragraph e-mail to each person you connected with. Paragraph 1 should include something you enjoyed about the other person. Paragraph 2 should be asking them for that coffee date, and offer 2 mornings and 2 afternoons that work for you in the next 2 weeks. Make sure to include your email signature in case a curious person wants to learn a little more about you.
Attend the coffee meeting with a notebook and pen and some questions about their business – Show up early to make sure you get a spot both of you can sit at, and be prepared to ask some good questions about their business and their role in it, some things you CAN’T find out on their website. Ask if you may take notes (it makes some people nervous, that’s why you ask first) and write down key points. This is NOT meant to be a grilling session, so if you bring out your order pad, you are going to scare this person away. Find out what their biggest goal is for this year and think about how you might be able to help them achieve it. Pleasure is WAY more fun than pain if you ask me.”
Do you have a networking event coming up? What are some of your own, personal strategies for meeting new people and incorporating them into your network?
Share in the comments.
About the author: Stephen Smith teaches Productivity and Social Media Literacy skills at In Context MultiMedia. He will be publishing a compilation of best practices based on his popular Weekly Letterin May 2012.
You can follow him on Twitter at @hdbbstephen.
Recently I spoke at DeVry University and shared my suggestions on how IT professionals and other professionals can leverage social media to grow their knowledge and connect that knowledge to the people and ideas they need to take their career forward.
The speech is a little over 15 minutes in length, and the audience enjoyed it – and learned something from it as well. I think you will too.
Your turn: What was your biggest takeaway from this video? How will you use it in your career?
I love to attend networking events. I love to get to know new people, find out about businesses I didn’t know existed, and reconnect with people I haven’t seen for a while. The bigger the event, the better for me.
But there is one thing I absolutely HATE about networking events! It’s when I give someone my business card, and without even looking at it, they put it in their pocket, and keep talking. I believe, like many Asian cultures, that if I give you my business card, I’d like you to look at it, see if there’s anything you see that’s interesting to you, remark on it if you find something interesting, and then place it in your pocket.
Doing that would be bad enough, but that ISN’T what I hate the most about networking events. What I hate is after the event, many small business owners sign me up for their email marketing list, just because they now have my email address.
Just because you have my email address does NOT mean I want to be on your email marketing list!
If your email newsletter didn’t suck because it’s full of “specials” and “coupons” but no real information, it probably wouldn’t be so bad that you signed me up without my permission. Then again, if your newsletter didn’t suck, you would know better than to just sign me up for your email marketing list. You’d probably also know that signing me up to your small business email newsletter without my permission means you’re in violation of CAN-SPAM. This means each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000.
Let’s do the math: If you signed all 63 people you met for your email newsletter and they all reported you as a spammer, you’d risk a fine of just $1,008,000, just to make sure we all got your email newsletter. Do you really think after 1 meeting ANYONE will buy anything from you as a result of your email newsletter?
HINT: ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Here’s a better way to make your small business networking more effective. It has NOTHING to do with making your email newsletter suck less. I’ll write that soon.
More effective small business networking
Don’t try to meet 63 people at the networking event. You can’t possibly remember all 63 people anyway. Instead, research the event ahead of time to identify the 10 people who are attending that you REALLY want to meet, and learn a few things about them before you get to the event. See who you know that will be attending the event that knows the people you want to meet. Find those people at the event, spend some time reconnecting with them, then ask for an introduction to 1 of the 10 people you want to meet because of something you learned by researching about them before you arrived.
Give each of those 10 people your full attention. If you are fortunate enough to get an introduction to one of the people you want to meet, give that person your full attention. Ask questions about what you researched, focusing on things you have in common unrelated to business. Learn all you can about them. Most people will return the favor and ask some questions about your interests. Avoid talking about business if at all possible, or stay away from anything in depth about your business. After 10 or so minutes, gently ask for their business card and let them know you’d like to follow up tomorrow for a 30 minute coffee meeting, your treat where you can learn more about their business, and state you know they have other people they need to meet at this event. If they ask, offer your card in return. Then thank them for their time, and either walk away (if there is someone right there that wants to talk to them, or other people in the group), or introduce them to someone you know who also has things in common.
After you walk away, write down a few things you learned on the back of their business card, or in a pocket notebook you brought along.
Repeat until you’re out of people to connect with, or the networking event ends.
Personally email each person you met at the networking – Follow up is where most networkers (myself sometimes included) fall down. Make time that night or the very next day and send a personal two paragraph e-mail to each person you connected with. Paragraph 1 should include something you enjoyed about the other person. Paragraph 2 should be asking them for that coffee date, and offer 2 mornings and 2 afternoons that work for you in the next 2 weeks. Make sure to include your email signature in case a curious person wants to learn a little more about you.
Attend the coffee meeting with a notebook and pen and some questions about their business – Show up early to make sure you get a spot both of you can sit at, and be prepared to ask some good questions about their business and their role in it, some things you CAN’T find out on their website. Ask if you may take notes (it makes some people nervous, that’s why you ask first) and write down key points. This is NOT meant to be a grilling session, so if you bring out your order pad, you are going to scare this person away. Find out what their biggest goal is for this year and think about how you might be able to help them achieve it. Pleasure is WAY more fun than pain if you ask me.
Share something relevant about your business – if the other person is interested – Gauge the other person’s interest and if they are interested in your business, share some about it. Do NOT vomit everything you know about the business. Instead, focus on what you do that fits into their biggest goal. Ask if there are any questions – and SHUT UP.
Respect the other person’s time – At the 25 minute mark (set your phone to vibrate), let the other person know you respect their time and that you’re nearing the 30 minute mark. Ask if there is any way you can help them right now, and stand up. If the conversation went well and you can help them with their biggest problem, ask for another time to meet, in their business if possible. Make this appointment for 90 minutes in 14 days or less. I find that 14 days is just enough time to not be annoying but still enough to stay relevant in their mind.
Follow-up with a handwritten thank you note – and attend the next appointment ready to pay MORE attention and offer what you have if it fits.
So you didn’t add another subscriber to your small business email newsletter. At best, you gained a qualified lead or referral source. At worst, you gained a new friend.
Note from Phil: What follows is a guest post by Alexandra Levit, Author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. This is a fantastic book if you’re looking to move up in corporate America or in life. The myths debunked are ones you’ve likely heard for much of your career. This article is one of the best ways you can improve your career, by making friends with a higher-up.
Anyone who has been in the business world a while knows that your success absolutely depends on who you know, and who’s in your corner.
In addition to cultivating a strong relationship with your manager, it’s also a good move to form solid friendships with other executives. Alerting senior people to your stellar work and results is one way to foster these relationships.
You should also attend company-sponsored events, sign up for volunteer or extra-curricular activities, and organization-wide initiatives that will provide access to people you might not have the opportunity to interact with otherwise.
When meeting an executive, maintain a clean and professional appearance, shake hands firmly, and offer him your business card. Even if you’re nervous, watch that you don’t talk his ear off. Instead, mention one or two points that show that you’ve been keeping up with company developments and/or her career. Learn what he’s working on and brainstorm ways you can contribute. Follow up on all in person meetings with an e-mail the next day so that he remembers you.
Of course, executive blogs and social media sites like Facebook.com, LinkedIn.com, and Twitter.com are goldmines when it comes to establishing high level connections inside and outside your organization. Follow the executives you want to get to know better closely online, provide them with useful links and industry updates, and comment on their posts.
If you learn that an executive is attending or speaking at a third party event, let her know that you’ll see her there. I’ll offer the usual caveat here, however – if you’re going to use social media as a forum for engaging executives, make sure that everything on your profiles speaks to your image as a driven and engaged professional who’s going places.
Want more secrets for getting ahead in a difficult job market and stressful workplace? Check out Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success.
About the author: Alexandra Levit is a nationally recognized author, speaker, and consultant on workplace trends affecting modern employees. Recently named Money Magazine’s Online Career Expert of the Year, Alexandra has published six books and worked with clients around the globe from Microsoft to the Obama administration. www.alexandralevit.com.
NOTE from Phil: What follows is a fun little quiz that will help you understand your networking style so you can be a more effective networker. Have fun!
By Michelle Tillis Lederman, Author of The 11 Laws of Likability: Relationship Networking . . . Because People Do Business with People They Like
1. When you are in a group at a networking event and someone says something that you relate to, what do you do?
a. Say nothing.
b. Say nothing but make a mental note or jot it down on the back of their card.
c. Look for your opportunity to interject the thought into the conversation.
d. Interrupt with enthusiasm over the fact that you have something in common.
2. When a new person wanders over to the group your are speaking with, what do you do?
b. Shift your body to give them room in the circle, make eye contact or smile.
c. Wait for an opportunity to ask them their opinion and bring them into the conversation.
d. Stop the conversation and welcome him/her in.
3. How often do you eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a different person per week?
a. 0 times per week
b. 1 – 3 times per week
c. 4 – 6 times per week
d. > 7 times per week
4. How many different organizations, groups, or clubs are you an active member in?
b. 1 – 2 organizations
c. 3 – 5 organizations
d. > 6 organizations
5. What percent of the new people you meet do you follow up with?
a. < 25%
b. 26% – 49%
c. 50% – 74%
d. > 75%
6. How quickly do you follow up with a new contact?
a. Within a month, if ever
b. Over a week
c. Within 2 – 4 days
d. Same or next day
7. Which is the most common way you meet new people?
a. They find me.
b. Someone offers to introduce me.
c. I ask friends for warm introductions.
d. I search people out and contact them directly.
8. When are you most likely to reach out to your network?
a. I don’t.
b. When they reach out to me.
c. On a regular basis when there is a reason (i.e. Birthday, job opportunity, change in situation, etc.)
d. On daily basis.
9. You end a conversation with someone when . . .
a. They end it with me
b. The conversation becomes stilted or I think they don’t want to talk anymore.
c. When I know how I will follow up.
d. When I am ready to talk to someone else or see someone I want to talk to.
10. People regularly reach out to you (check all that apply)
a. For a contact
b. For an introduction
c. To ask for a favor
d. To request you speak to a friend
e. To ask for advice
f. To request you or your services on a project
g. To say hello and catch up
h. To invite you to something
Scoring: For questions 1 — 9, score as follows:
A answers — 1 point
B answers — 2 points
C answers — 3 points
D answers — 4 points
For question 10, give yourself 1 point for every answer you circled. Total up your score and read your Networking style below.
9 – 14 points: The Observer.
You tend to hang back in a crowd. You watch what is going on, but don’t get involved. You never initiate and rarely follow up on making new connections. The result, your network is small and you are not in the front of people’s minds as a resource. If you are uncomfortable, make slight changes. Consider making the follow up via email or through social media. If you prefer one on one — invite someone to lunch. If the group is easier at first, then tag along or ask to join a group that has room for one more at the table. Look for situations that match your style and comfort until you get used to joining in.
15 – 24 points: The Reactor.
You are interested in making those new connections but feel more comfortable when someone else takes the lead. You can get stuck keeping a conversation flowing. You are responsive to other’s attempts to connect and follow up more frequently when in response to something specific. You take a subtle approach though sometimes your comfort and confidence may get in your way. You are on the right track. Stretch a little more and you will gain comfort. Set a goal to initiate a conversation once a week and to find a reason to reach out to a new contact. Don’t doubt they want you to — you are not the type that comes on too strong so don’t worry about feeling like a nuisance.
25 – 37 points: The Initiator.
You are actively networking and taking a balanced approach. You seek opportunities, include others in the conversation, and follow up regularly. People think about you for a variety of reasons and you are effectively staying in the front of their minds. Keep doing what’s working.
38 – 44 points: The Director.
You are strategic and methodical about networking. It is high on your priority list and you take a numbers approach. You are involved in many organizations which increases your familiarity since you or your name pops up everywhere. Your approach may feel insincere or over the top for some. Give people some breathing room and use a lighter touch when reaching out. Seek to connect beyond the surface topics that come up in business. Make sure people feel you value the time you are spending with them and not looking for the next or more interesting contact in the room. Don’t pull back too much, simply consider your timing, frequency, and depth of conversation.
© 2011 Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of The 11 Laws of Likability: Relationship Networking . . . Because People Do Business with People They Like
About the author: Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of The 11 Laws of Likability: Relationship Networking . . . Because People Do Business with People They Like, is founder and CEO of Executive Essentials, which provides customized communication and leadership programs. She is an adjunct professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business and a faculty member of the American Management Association. In keeping with her belief that real relationships lead to real results, Lederman specializes in teaching people how to communicate to connect. She has delivered seminars internationally for Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and universities. She is a graduate of Lehigh University and Columbia Business School and lives in South Orange, New Jersey.
NOTE from Phil: What follows is an excerpt from the book The Idea Hunter by Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer with William Bole. It’s an academic look at connections, for all of you who want more proof you should make time to connect with smart people. Enjoy!
For example, repeated studies have shown that the longer a project team stays together without significant changes in its composition, the less likely it is to come up with ideas that lead to innovations. This is largely because members of long-running teams get into the habit of culling their ideas from a narrow band of sources: one another. They’re less likely to communicate with people working on other projects and in other departments, and professionally through other channels outside the organization. They’re less likely to come up with fresh solutions to problems.
People on your team would fall into the category of “strong ties,” meaning that you and they belong to overlapping networks of information and ideas. Someone in a different specialty altogether would count as a “weak tie,” as this personal normally travels in a different set of circles organizationally or professionally. Part of achieving real diversity is to understand “The Strength of Weak Ties,” which is the title of a 1973 paper by the American sociologist Mark Granovetter.
Granovetter laid out a seminal social-networking theory that remains highly influential today. He showed that the most valuable information comes from outside a person’s usual network of contacts, through weak ties. He based his finding on interviews with hundreds of job seekers. They were far more likely to land a job through a “weak” acquaintance than through a friend, relative or coworker with whom they shared the same connections. The strong-tie contacts ordinarily spoke to roughly the same people that the job seekers spoke to, so they had more or less the same leads to offer.
In professional life, some of the best ideas will come from weak-tie individuals, whose conversational networks are different from ours. They may well have an entirely different perspective on a subject, one that expands our supply of knowledge and ideas.
People like that are very important to Idea Hunters. They are customers, acquaintances, and many others—including perfect strangers. They do not fit easily into conventional notions of where and from whom to get “expert” opinions, because they’re not experts. That’s not their function. Their role is to say things you might not otherwise hear, spark thoughts that otherwise might not come to mind. What they provide is not a substitute for expertise; it is a supplement.
For example, if you’re getting into the beer business, you’ll naturally want to learn from beer distributors, wholesalers, marketers, and others in the know. But don’t forget to talk to the guy sitting on the barstool next to you.
That’s what Jim Koch did one day in 1984 after walking into a bar at Faneuil Hall in Boston. “I was doing market research,” Koch recalled—with a laugh, because he had really walked into the establishment in need of a drink. But his thirst did not stand in the way of his Hunt. At the time he was already toying with the notion of starting a small craft brewery—his family had been in the business for a few generations. And so he grabbed a stool and began tuning in to his surroundings. He struck up a conversation with a fellow who was holding a Heineken and asked him why he was drinking that particular brew. “I like imported beer,” the man replied. Then Koch asked him how he liked the taste, and the response was surprising, given his stated preference for imported brands. “It tastes skunky,” was the response.
“Skunky” is a beer term for spoiled. At least at the time, imported beers did not have a fresh taste, only in part because they had to travel long distances to the United States. Most of the imported brands also came in clear or green bottles. (They still do, for marketing appeal.) Bit it was a problem, because hops—the key ingredient—spoils with exposure to light. That is why beer has traditionally come in darker-colored bottles, which shield the light-sensitive hops.
It was not a problem, though, for Koch. It was an incredible opportunity. He describes the conversation at Faneuil Hall as his “wow” moment when he realized that he could succeed in the high-end beer market with a fresh-tasting beer. In other words, he could take on the imports, which accounted for just 5 percent of the American beer market at that time. “Their whole business model was based on selling stale and skunky beer to Americans and trying to cover it up with this old-world imagery,” Koch told us. (As for the domestic brands, they too were often stale by the time they reached consumers, at least partly because they spent too much time in warehouses.)
The stranger at Faneuil Hall (a “weak-tie” contact) was a case in point. Evidently he was drinking Heineken for the image and prestige, even while thinking it had a spoiled taste. Talking to that man in that place, not to a wholesaler in a warehouse, was the spark of insight for Koch. He still had much to do along the way to developing his high-end product and carving out a market for it. And he would have to educate the public on the basic fact that beer is a highly perishable product. But he was well on his way. A year after the barroom conversation, Koch launched the Boston Beer Company, which is now by far the largest craft brewery in the United States.
Excerpted from THE IDEA HUNTER: How to Find the Best Ideas and Make Them Happen (Jossey-Bass; April 2011) by Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer with William Bole.
Pick up your copy of The Idea Hunter and learn more about weak ties and more!
I use LinkedIn almost every day for a variety of things. I am always looking for new ways to use it more effectively, and when I find tips, I like to share them.
Here are a sampling of 5 of the tips to help you use LinkedIn More Effectively from an article over at MSN’s Business On Main:
- Hand Out Baseball Cards
- Build the Largest Network Possible
- Reinforce Your Network
- Utilize Your Tagline
- Submit and Participate
Read how to implement these 5 tips and more so you can use LinkedIn more effectively.
Or connect with me on LinkedIn to build your network larger!
My blog is a part of an online influencer network for Business on Main. I receive incentives to share my views on a monthly basis.
Note from Phil: What follows is an outstanding post from my friend and insightful entrepreneur Jack Hayhow. I was first introduced to Jack when he sent me a copy of The Wisdom of the Flying Pig along with an actual flying pig! Since then, we’ve hung out in person and shared many e-mails and insights back and forth. This article was written just for you dear readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
It’s Lonely at the Top, But It Doesn’t Have to Be
It was a beautiful autumn morning in Kansas City. When I wandered out to fetch the newspapers a little after 5 a.m., the air was crisp, and the stars were bright. I usually don’t get on my way quite this early, but this was a special day, the opening of a new Roasterie Café. The café didn’t officially open until 6 a.m., but several of us had slipped in a little early in support of the owners, our friends, Danny and Carla O’Neill.
There seems to be a special bond among successful business owners. Perhaps it’s the common experience, or the inevitable loneliness of ownership. Maybe it’s the fact that we all need a shoulder to lean on from time to time that binds us together. Whatever it is, for me, it’s one of the most satisfying and rewarding parts of my life. In times when it feels like running a business is just too hard, I draw strength from my business owner friends. When I don’t know what to do, they offer the benefit of their practical wisdom. And when I succeed, they are an integral part of the celebration.
In the process of writing Breaking Through the Barrier – What Companies That Grow Do Differently, I discovered what I consider to be a profound truth. Leaders who are successful at growing their businesses are quick to associate with other business owners. Put the owners of 10 rapidly growing businesses in a room and you’ll find that nine of them have strong, active relationships with a network of other business owners. But in a group of 10 owners whose businesses are struggling, you’re likely to find only one or two who have any kind of a significant peer support.
Successful leaders seem to have a visceral understanding that they need help. Time after time we’ve heard successful leaders talk about their quest for relationship and knowledge and understanding. Joe Lieberman, owner of the web development firm Spidertel expressed it well:
“Magic things happen when you put yourself out there, and you’re earnest, and you really want to learn. I took advantage of support wherever I could find it … I went around to places like the SBA and SCORE and community colleges and talked with counselors and teachers and people who are there to foster entrepreneurism …”
Joe started reaching out his very first day in business. Other owners come to embrace the need for connection a bit more slowly, with trepidation or even reticence. But time after time our research has shown us that if an owner remains isolated, if he refuses connect with other business owners, if he shuns outside help, he cripples his potential for growth. There are exceptions, of course, but these exceptions are rare.
Reaching out is hard. It takes time – time that we tell ourselves we just don’t have. And for many of us, it’s uncomfortable. But it’s one of the things that the owners of growing companies find a way to do.
About the author: Jack Hayhow is an entrepreneur, author and speaker (www.JackHayhow.com). His company, Opus, (www.opuskc.com) provides a variety of training, tools and techniques to help owners build their business.
I’m on my way to one of my favorite conferences I attend each year, HDI 2011. I’m doing a pre-conference workshop on social media (details at http://bit.ly/gvrypQ) and a 1 hour session on Customer Service for the Microwave Generation. This is the 6th or 7th time I’m attending this conference, and it’s probably my 50th conference I’ve attended.
What follows are my best tips for making the most of the HDI 2011 Conference and Expo…or any other conference you may be attending.
1) Look up and engage – Believe it or not, the other conference attendees are often as smart (or smarter) than anyone presenting at a conference. And they’re definitely more immediate than staring at your phone for new e-mails/Tweets/Facebook status updates, so pay attention, because you never know who you’ll run into.
One year I got to spend a few minutes talking to Dennis Miller because I was paying attention. Another time I got to meet the famous Coach Ken Carter, again because I wasn’t looking down at my phone. Friends of mine have gotten to go backstage, connect with Frank Oz (the man inside Yoda), and more, all because they were looking up instead of looking down.
2) Attend ALL the keynote speeches – This year, we get to hear from Garrison Wynn, Steve Farber, Jackie Pflug, Scott Klosowsky, Ruben Gonzales AND Les Brown. For FREE! This is all part of the conference package, and this is where I go to fill my bucket and get turbo charged until the next conference. I expect to learn a new way of looking at my life and my business and often these offer some things to look back on throughout the year.
3) Spend some time in the hallways (instead of only the breakout sessions) to deepen the conversation of a particularly awesome session you attended. Some of the best times I have at any conference are in the hallway. Pick someone you see who’s paying a ton of attention in a session and ask them if they’d mind talking in more in depth about the conversation. Sometimes you can even convince the presenter to stay behind and answer questions, but don’t count on it.
4) Follow the conference hashtag on Twitter for some insider info – #HDI2011 is this year’s hashtag, and (after 5 years of talking about how social media will change the fabric of this conference) we’ll really be using the hashtag to track the conference. Many of the staff is on Twitter now, as are many attendees. I know I’ll be sharing some inside info that won’t be on the usual calendar, inside info on people, on events, and anything else I can find out.
5) Develop a plan to integrate ONE new thing into your work and set a date for implementation – The first time I attended a conference, I tried to integrate everything into my work. And I failed miserably. The last time I went to a conference, I realized if I took even 1 tip back that I actually implemented, I’d be WAY ahead of where I was if I tried to do everything and failed.
The key was deciding which 1 thing I wanted to do, and then putting a firm implementation date on my calendar.
And one more tip that’s worked GREAT for me!:
6) Attend as many evening parties as you can - but drink water with a lime – Again, I learned this one the hard way, as I tried to consume as much free booze as I could. BAD IDEA! Instead, drink water with a lime, and you’ll stay hydrated and avoid the dreaded conference hangover.
What are YOUR best tips for making the most of a conference?
From Phil: What follows is a guest post from my friend Kevin Eikenberry, author of the insightful new book From Bud to Boss (along with Guy Harris). If anyone is great at making an amazing first impression, it’s Kevin. My first “meeting” with him was when he sent me a personally autographed copy of his book, along with a personal note to let me know how much he was looking forward to meeting me in person. Though it took a few years, when we finally did meet (for a 6 AM breakfast), he didn’t disappoint and showed up for our meeting in a snappy suit and matching suspenders, and he followed ALL his suggestions to the T. Enough from me. Enjoy the article!
We all meet new people, in all phases of our lives. In some of those situations we may not be consciously thinking about the importance of making a good first impression; however, conscious or not, we are always making an impression.
Sometimes – be it the person we are meeting, the situation we are in or just that we are more consciously aware – we want to more than just make an impression, we want to make a great one.
The good news is there are things you can do to make great first impressions happen regularly and almost predictably. The surprising news is these suggestions may not be all the things you have thought or been taught.
Remember, since the impression is actually formed by the other person, in the end, what they ultimately think is out of your control.
Even so, using these ideas will give you a greater chance to create impressions that lead to further conversations, goodwill, new relationships, additional business, greater job and life satisfaction and greater success.
With those benefits in mind, let’s get on with the suggestions!
Relax. This comes first, especially if the situation is one where you feel you need to make a great first impression. You want the new client, you want the job, you want the date – whatever the situation is, take the pressure off of yourself! Relax and just be yourself. Think about it, you can tell when people are anxious or nervous, right? Does it make you more attracted to them? Your answer is the same as everyone else’s. Relax.
Smile! Few things are more attractive than a real smile – it doesn’t matter if you are young or old, smiles make a difference. Whether you’ve spent thousands on your pearly whites doesn’t matter. Let people know you are happy to meet them before a word is said. The best way to do that is with a smile. The old line that “smiles increase your face value” is an old line because it’s true.
Use a good handshake. While I grew up taking this for granted, and have written about it in more detail, this one simply can’t be overlooked. A good handshake says things about you that words never can. Learn to give a great handshake. Practice it. Make it your habit.
Make eye contact. In most parts of the world, this is incredibly important. Everyone has heard it, everyone “knows” it, but far too many people do it. This actually is good news for you – because when you do make eye contact consistently – you will stand out.
Be genuine and real. Be . . . yourself. Be . . . natural. After all, you want their impression to be of who you really are not some mask you have created, right? Enough said.
Be interested, not interesting. This turn of words is very powerful. Often making a great first impression is equated with impressing people. While that is true, most think about impressing people as being about showing what we know, who we know or what we’ve done. You will make a more powerful and lasting impression when you don’t try so hard. Which brings me to . . .
Ask more, say less. You will show your interest in the other person by asking more questions and talking less. When you ask you are signaling your interest. Asking helps you learn about the other person, and who doesn’t like it when people want to know more about them?
Be confident. Being confident coupled with being relaxed leads to a projected self-assurance that is both interesting and attractive. Don’t try too hard, and don’t take confidence as your lone tip (notice this doesn’t say over-confident or cocky) – but when coupled with the other ideas on this list you will not only be more confident, but your confidence will work well.
Be present. Being present means not looking for the next hand to shake, not thinking about your own issues or deciding how to move on. It is about being with the person you are meeting, for however long you are engaged with them in conversation. Many of the other tips on this list will happen naturally when you are truly in the moment with the person.
Remember it isn’t about you. Make the encounter as much about the other person as possible, and you will make great first impressions most of the time. If you are especially nervous in networking situations or if you are reading these tips before an especially important meeting, remember this tip and apply it. It is all about the other person. As paradoxical as it may seem, making a good impression will come easiest when you focus not on yourself, but on the other person.
What’s YOUR best tip for making a great first impression?
About the author: Kevin Eikenberry is a author, speaker, trainer, consultant, and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group . His new book, co-authored with Guy Harris, From Bud to Boss – Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership (http://FromBudtoBoss.com) publishes TODAY (February 15th, 2011) and the Free Bud to Boss Community is open and available now!