The Magic of Networking Networking accounts for approximately 87% of business in the market place today. It is a word that is bandied around in daily newspapers, offices and boardrooms. But how do you know if you are networking effectively or if there is room for improvement with your networking style? Networking is in fact a life skill, not just something we do when we want something from someone we know or from a total stranger. The two major keys There are two main keys to successful networking: Give without expectation. Do things for others. Not just to get something back but rather to help that person achieve their goals or solve their problems. Have an abundance mentality. Firmly believe that there is plenty of opportunities (business and personal) for everyone. This is the basis of great networking. Some die-hard salespeople from the eighties - really struggle with giving without expectation. Why should they do something for someone when they know there is 'nothing in it for them?' Networking is a non traditional style of selling &endash; in fact, it is not selling at all. However, networking can generate more business and career opportunities than any advertising campaign could ever hope to achieve. Great networkers believe in lifting the level of professionalism for their profession or industry. They do this firstly, by constantly exceeding their clients expectations. Secondly, they believe in making the pie bigger for everyone. With an abundance mentality they are encouraged to cross network with competitors and regularly give referrals. Their business card becomes their form of introduction. "Hi, my name is Robyn", as they offer their card to you. Some people may find this a little pushy or maybe even too bold for their personality. However, how will someone ever be able to make contact with you if you don't give them that initial information? Great networkers listen Great networkers are generally great listeners. They believe in having quality conversations not quantity. They don't try to talk to everyone in a crowded networking event. What's the point? The conversations will be shallow, brief and more than likely not memorable for either party. Quality conversations, on the other hand, allow you to get to know a little more about the other person, build rapport and hopefully develop the foundation of trust. And trust, is the glue that keeps networking together. People today want to do business with people they know, like and trust. Without trust, business rarely happens. A suggestion to assist with remembering who you have met and differentiating them from all the business cards in your top drawer is quite simple. Make notes on cards After you meet a person and exchange cards, you may like to make a note on the back of their card. Include the date and place where you met and something that you remember about them. Preferably something you spoke about that was not work related. e.g. golf, grandchildren, tennis. Great networkers attend networking events at least once a week wherever possible. Rather than belong to a lot of networks and go to each of them occasionally, they belong to one or two and attend regularly. In that way, they become known as the 'real estate agent" or "financial planner" for that group. It may take time to generate business however, every time they attend that group, they become more well known and their reputation grows. Tracking separate networks You may start a separate business card holder for each network that you belong to. After attending each meeting and exchanging business cards with a variety of people (making the notes on the back of their cards), you can then place their cards in this specific holder. Then, when you are returning to that network, refresh your memory on who the people are by glancing through your specific holder. In the networking world, it's not who you know, it's who knows you. Hot Tips for Attending Networking Functions Everyday there are an unlimited number of networking breakfasts, lunches, dinners, seminars, workshops you can go to. Your budget probably determines how many of these you can afford to attend. More often than not, your positive mindset determines the outcomes in attending these functions. Many people arrive at these events stressed, angry, basically not wanting to be there. They do themselves a disservice being there, because all they will attract is negative people like themselves. They are guaranteed to have a miserable time. So how can you maximise these opportunities? Here are ten simple tips: 1. Decide why you want to attend. What do you want to get out of this event? Is there a specific person you want to meet? Are you looking for a certain service provider? Or are you simply wanting to network with others in your industry, to share the highs and lows and keep up to date with what is happening in the marketplace? The clearer you are on why you are going, the more chance you will have of achieving your objective. 2. Decide on the logistics. Do I have to block out time in my diary the hour before the function starts, to arrive on time? Will others you know be going? What is the dress code? Will you need to bring a change of clothes to work on the day? 3. Take plenty of business cards. A business card that clearly states your name, what you do and your contact details is imperative for effective networking. In Singapore, business cards are called 'name cards' and it is said your card represent a summary of you. Always treat other people's business cards with respect. Give your business card to the person you are meeting as part of your introduction, "Hi, I'm Robyn Henderson, I'm a global networking specialist." That's as much as you should say about yourself, unless they ask. 4. Have quality conversations Have quality conversations rather than quantity. If there are fifty people at the event, don't expect to speak to all fifty. Be content with a quality conversation with five to seven people, who the next day will look at your card and remember you and what you spoke about. And more importantly remember you the next time they see you. The best networkers are the best listeners. Anyone will speak to you for ten minutes if you are not speaking about yourself. 5. Take along a few ice-breakers If you are a little nervous about what to talk about, listen to the latest news or talk back radio on your way to the event, so that you have a couple of interesting current topics to talk about. The first 60 seconds of any conversation with a complete stranger is the hardest. If you have a question prepared (e.g. what was the highlight of your day/weekend) the conversation will flow. 6. Don't fear pregnant pauses. If there is a pause in the conversation, that's okay. Don't feel that you have to jump in and fill the gaps with trivia. 7. Avoid talking about work. Eighty per cent of the population don't get recognition on the job and don't want to speak about their job at all. Most people become very animated when they speak about their interests outside of work. Often, by revealing a little about yourself, people feel more comfortable sharing their experiences. 8. Always make eye contact. Always make eye contact when you are speaking to someone. Looking over their shoulder for someone better to speak to is not only insulting but very foolish. You never know who knows the person you are speaking to. Take the focus off you, listen more than you talk and you will be surprised at the results. 9. Act like the host. When you sit down with a table of strangers, start the ball rolling by suggesting that you all introduce yourself-your name, the work you do, why you have come to the event. On an average table of ten, three people may think you are pushy (that's okay), while the other six people will be relieved that you had the initiative to make it happen. 10. Finally-have fun. Great networkers have a great time. They know that by having quality conversations with the people they meet and keeping in touch, following up, doing the things they say they will do, they will build trust. The by product of trust is - constantly build a strong and effective network. Remember, every best friend was a perfect stranger at one time! Hot Tips for Attending Seminars & Conferences Corporate organisations are spending thousands of dollars every year attending national and international conventions, seminars and conferences. Could they be missing out on valuable networking opportunities at these events purely through lack of planning? Some of the most valuable networking happens in the most informal situations. So, be prepared! Here are a few tips: Prior to the conference: 1. Remember to take plenty of your business cards. If you are running low on cards, order more now, don't be caught short. Check with the organisers, how many people are attending. Work out how many people you assume you will meet and have a quality conversation with, the number of exhibitors who may ask for your contact details and then allow another ten cards or so, for the unexpected. 2. Take a small pile of blank cards with you. You will find a number of good contacts who may have forgotten to take their cards or have run out. Don't miss an opportunity to follow up with these people. Give them one of your blank cards to write their contact details, email address, etc. 3. Include a highlight pen in your conference pack. Use this to highlight on your program the breakout sessions you wish to attend, important starting times, etc. If you are fortunate enough to be given a list of attendees, highlight those you wish to make contact with. The clearer you are on the outcomes you want, the more chance you have of achieving them. 4. If it is an international conference, remember your camera. It is far easier to have a photographic reminder of the people you meet, sit with at dinner, attend excursions with, etc., than committing everything to memory. When you do develop the photos, have two for one prints made and send a copy of the photo to the other delegates you have met. Always include your name and contact details(preferably on a sticker) on the back of the photos and date of the event. It is surprising how often these photographs can help to cement an international negotiation. Be seen, get known, move ahead. 1. Remember to change your voice-mail or pager message advising that you will be unavailable for the length of the conference. Leave an urgent venue contact number for anything that is truly urgent. 2. Take a brightly coloured action plan. Aim to write action bullet points as they come to you during the event. If you don't write them down, it is possible you will forget them. At the conference: 1. Where possible, arrive early for all sessions. This will give you an opportunity to plan where you will sit, speak to other delegates prior to the speakers commencing and meet more people.If you arrive just in time, or late, you will have little opportunity to network other than to nod to the person you eventually sit beside. 2. Select a well lit, central location that will become a "meeting place" for interesting people you meet, strangers you want to get to know a little better and a great spot for crowd watching. When you meet new people, you may suggest to them that they join you for a coffee/drink at this meeting place at the end of the session, prior to excursions, etc. Often people wander around aimlessly wishing they had the opportunity to connect with others during the down time/free time at the conference. Basically, act like the host and not the guest! 3. Attend as many of the social events for the conference as possible. Some of the best contacts you will make may happen in the relaxed atmosphere of a cocktail party or barbeque. 4. At conference meal times - aim to sit with a different group at each sitting and preferably people you don't know. Avoid sitting with people from your own organisation at the meal times and during the sessions. Catch up for a 10 minute debrief at the end of the day. . . you have plenty of time to see them back at the office. Move out of your comfort zone. And, finally, enjoy yourself and remember to always follow up with the people you meet. Networking Millennium Style... Making Money for your Clients Leading edge organisations, grow their clients businesses at the same time as their own. In the USA, they call it 'revenue enhancement'. Basically it means making money for your clients as well as yourself. Let me assure you, this is definitely non-traditional selling. However, it has a powerful impact on both your bottom line and your clients'. So, how do you do it and more importantly, why would you bother? The why and how The 'why' is very clear-client revenue enhancement will enable you to stand out from all your competitors and create far greater loyalty than any price cut or special deal ever will. Today, you don't have to be the cheapest. In fact you can charge more for your services, because you are in fact giving more. You are giving referrals to your clients at no extra charge-as well as providing your normal exceptional service. The 'how' is also relatively easy and may just require a little lateral thinking on your part. We all know that the key to business growth is getting customers to buy twice and in fact turning them into a client and ultimately an advocate. Look at your client base-be it 10 clients or 1000 clients-and, if you haven't already done so, grade them into A, B and C clients depending on frequency or volume of orders or whatever your criteria may be. We are wanting to clarify where is our business coming from and what can we do to ensure that we do not lose even one of our major accounts. We may then choose to work from the top client right through to the bottom. People often make the mistake of dismissing small clients, not realising that they may just be one of a number of service providers for that company. But if they were to gain a greater market share of their business, they could become one of their major accounts. Next step, one by one, look at these clients and ask the questions: How well do you really understand their business (not yours) Do you have any idea of the sorts of customers they are looking to do business with? The clearer you are on this one point, the easier the revenue enhancement becomes. If you're unclear, why not phone your key person and ask the specific question: "Describe to me the perfect customer for you". You may choose to explain that part of your client retention program this year will be your intention to refer business to this client. Don't be surprised if they are taken aback with your offer. Record their responses and then start asking yourself the questions: Do I know anyone who fits this description? Do I know anyone who knows anyone who fits this description? Maybe you don't know anyone today, however, you now know what you are looking for. Repeat this process for maybe 10 clients at a time. Without doubt, you will find that you already know people who are potential prospects either in your client base or your associates. Now it is a simple case of connecting two people together. When you do make the initial call, ask the client to send you five of their business cards. When they ask why, explain that this will make it a lot easier for you to refer business to them, if you can just give their business card to the potential prospect. You then create a specific referral business card holder, that would be portable, as well as an electronic record. Add your name Most importantly, before you place their business card in your referral holder, write your name on the back of their card-referred by John Jones. You may decide to work on giving referrals to just ten clients per month and another ten the following month. Energy follows thought-what we think about in our lives, is what we create for ourselves. If our intention is to give referrals to our clients, we will find that this happens. Basically, it's as simple as having their business card available and giving it to a prospect at an appropriate time. Linking people with similar interests, potential business objectives and opportunities is great fun and very satisfying. The by-product will be more business and referrals for you and all it took was a little of your time and a little lateral thinking. And, always remember-what you give out comes back ten fold! What Do I Say, After I Say, "Hello"? There are lots of people out there who have an absolute terror of talking to strangers. This fear however, is generally totally unfounded. Some arrive at a networking function feeling a little nervous, because they don't know many of the people attending. This often causes them to leave their personality at the venue doorstep. They are unable to start or finish conversations and usually have a miserable time. They leave, vowing never to return and to avoid future networking events at all costs. Comfort zones However, back in their comfort zone, they can express opinions on just about anything and rarely allow themselves to feel intimidated by anything or anyone. So, we may surmise that it is actually our nerves and fear of meeting strangers that sometimes gets the better of us at these events. Therefore, to improve your networking skills, it will help dramatically if you work on improving your conversation skills. Think about some of the better communicators in your networks - what makes them different? Is it that they do any or all of the following: listen to your answer allow you to finish your response without interrupting make eye contact genuinely act as if they do care about your answer somehow make you feel special follow up when they say they will offer helpful suggestions remember snippets of previous conversations you may have had. The one thing each of these great communicators do, is make a heart to heart connection with you. This is not in a romantic sense. Rather the listener focuses on you and the conversation you are having together. Whether there are one or five people in the group, they are focussed on the general conversation. They are not distracted. They are "in the moment" or "in the now". When we speak from our heads, we often become flustered and nervous, stumbling over words. We are so worried about what we are going to say next or what a word means or whether we are wearing the right clothes, etc., etc. With all this head stuff happening, anyone having a conversation with us, just thinks we are uninterested in their answers and distracted. When we make that heart to heart connection, we listen actively to the conversation. We don't have to worry about what we are going to say next, because when we are listening, we receive lots of cues for responses or more questions. If we are quiet long enough, we can even learn lots of things. Think for a moment of the last time you had a conversation with someone over the phone and you knew, possibly by the background noise or by their distracted manner, that they were not listening to you. Their mind was elsewhere - they were definitely not in the "now". Then, think about a phone conver-sation with someone who was in the now and listened actively and with a focus. More often than not, the conver-sation was quality not quantity. You both kept to the point, said what you had to say, and agreed on an outcome. Conversations at networking events are no different to phone conversations, we want to feel that the person we are speaking to is in fact listening. Effective networkers have a belief system that every single person they meet is incredibly interesting and has much to contribute to any conversation. Key to making connection When you focus on that heart to heart connection, once the conversation starts, it generally flows. The key to making the connection is basically you are treating people the way you would like to be treated yourself. If you knew everyone in the room and a stranger walked into the room, what would they be hoping someone in the room would do? Befriend them of course, just as they would do if positions were reversed. So, the next time you see a person standing alone and looking a little nervous or out of place, talk to them. Say, "Hi, my name is…, mind if I join you?" Or, even better, catch their eye and invite them to join your group. If by chance you befriend someone who does not want to join in your conversation, that's okay. At least you extended the hand of friendship to them. Good networkers usually have a couple of open ended questions prepared. Here are a few examples: What was the highlight of your weekend/day/holiday? What tips would you give someone, who has never attended one of these events? I may already know someone who could do business with you, what would your ideal client look like? What's your opinion on…? What's your favourite…? restaurant, movie, sport, etc. Your… looks great, where did you buy your…(jacket, tie, etc.)? What do you like most about your…job, home, living in…? SEVEN KEYS TO DEVELOPING STRATEGIC ALLIANCES Whether you operate or are employed by a small or medium sized business, forming strategic alliances can help you get the edge in todays competitive marketplace. So where do we start. How to we take out business from small to medium sized and with whom or to which marketplaces? Some of you may think its all too hard, but that is not necessarily the case. To develop strategic alliances, it pays to consider the following seven keys: SELECT YOUR PARTNERS CAREFULLY Make sure you attract like minded people with similiar values and ethics. Today there are still many "cowboys" in the marketplace. People who ride into town, with lots of fanfare making lots of noise and hollow promises. And yes they do attract business and even take a few prisoners. Customers who are snapped up, taken on a whirlwind ride and left a few stations down the track - bewildered and disenchanted, and usually out of pocket. This approach does work for some, depending on their product. However, if you are looking for a long term relationship with your clients, don't network with the cowboys, or you are sure to have a stormy ride. You may consider looking at your peers and competitors and identifying who does think like you, run their businesses along the same ethical lines and basically have a good business name. If you are going to tackle the global market, your possible business partner may already have contacts in this region, but lack the product knowledge - this is where you may fill that need and vice versa. BE CLEAR ON YOUR DESIRED OUTCOME: be as specific as possible. Identify exactly: how big you want your connection to grow the turnover you anticipate the number of hours you can commit to the project any other commitments that may affect your financial situation any fears you may have about the business relationship identify exactly how many widgits you want to product and by when and by whom how much you can afford to invest and lose, should your partnership fail. NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING Many business partnerships fail because of poor communication - partners assumed major items. Because of the assumption, many things were never discussed. Some partners think everything that needs to be discussed is covered once the $$ are finalised but this is far from reality. Clarify everything, don't be afraid to state the obvious. What is obvious to you , may be totally unknown by your partner. Put everything in writing as soon as possible after your meetings. Take notes during the meeting or have the meeting and minutes recorded for you. If there is action to be taken, agree on who does what and document this also. Get commitment from all partners involved. SET SPECIFIC TIME LINES AS WELL AS TRIAL TIME FRAMES. Many people agree in principal to something and then find that due to prior commitments or unexpected events, they cannot honour their agreement. By setting trial time frames, you can get an idea of your partners management style, attention to detail and their actual investment in the project. Remember to always include a time frame when things need to be completed by - you may call it stage one. Based on the results of stage one, you then proceed to stage two. Avoid the temptation to take the project beyond stage one, until you have seen and realised your partners true commitment. If they miss the first deadline, how will they ever achieve future deadliness. ALLOW FOR EXIT CLAUSES Better to lose a partner in the early stages, than lose your good name in the marketplace. Sometimes the different styles of management and leadership create disharmony. Something that seemed like a small annoyance may become a huge irritation down the track. e.g. you may form a partnership with someone who always runs at least forty minutes late for every meeting. You on the other hand are always ten minutes early. You may initially laugh this habit away, however, after a few months of being kept waiting, you may not see the humour anymore. You may like to place a "trial time frame" e.g. lets review this in 30 days and see how we are travelling. If things are not working out by then, we can dissolve the partnership without any hard feelings. This one point will ensure clean breaks if required. AIM TO ALWAYS WORK WIN-WIN Brainstorm possible best and worst case scenarios regarding this strategic alliance. What is the worst thing that can happen and can you cope with that outcome? If you can, then you have absolutely nothing to lose. If you can't cope with that outcome, you may like to review the situation or review the guidelines. If the alliance is based on a win-lose basis - it rarely works. One partner becomes annoyed, reluctant and eventually gets tired of constantly being the underdog. On the other hand though, if your partner can introduce you to a marketplace that you would never have got into without them, then maybe it is worth experiencing a win-lose situation as long as there is a specific time frame for this to happen. REMEMBER TO CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESSES In life, some people are so busy doing, doing, doing, that they forgot to stop and smell the roses. When there are budgetary restraints, we often think that we can't afford to celebrate as lavishly as we would like, so we won't do anything at all. To maintain your and your partners motivation, its important to record the milestones in your alliance. Your first order or contract, your first payment in excess of $x - milestones that you will soon overtake. However, at the start you wonder if you will ever achieve them. Acknowledge these wins regularly. If you don't give yourself recognition, why would you expect others to give it to you? IF YOU NEVER ASK THE QUESTION, THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS NO!! Imagine out of all the people you know personally, have read about in books, magazines or seen in the media, which two people would be the perfect people to form a strategic alliance with. You may have to dig a little to find their contact details (if they are strangers) - however make the effort. Do your homework, prepare your business plan, do a SWOT analysis highlighting the positives and the negatives of a joint alliance. Prepare all the information that you consider your potential partner would need to know before they could comfortably make a decision about forming an alliance with you. Make the phone call, send a fax, email, whatever is approach - make contact with these two people. Ask for six minutes of their time? And talk fast - let your passion and enthusiasm sell your idea. Whats the worst thing that can happen - rejection. You can live with that, they are not rejecting you. Today they are rejecting your product, service or a specific opportunity. Tomorrow, they may change their mind, or better still, they may introduce you to a person they consider to be your ideal strategic alliance partner. And they may be right. We can find excuses every day to stay in our comfort zone and not approach others, who can help us to grow our businesses and our careers. Yet if we have courage, face our fears and make our dreams, goals and targets greater than our fears - we can have whatever we want in life. Dream big dreams. . . . CAN YOU MAKE THE TOUGH DECISIONS? It's okay to make a mistake. Successful people make lots of mistakes - that's why they're successful. Being able to make a decision quickly and comfortably is one of the keys to great leadership and effective networking. Picture yourself at a networking business function, having a conversation with someone who you consider to be "well connected". Spontaneously you are invited to attend a social sailing day, with only a limited number of people invited on the boat. If you are a confident decision maker you possibly asked a few key questions e.g. time of departure and expected return time, would it matter that you weren't a yachtie and really ranked yourself as a beginner (its better to under promise and over deliver than vice versa). Based on those key points, you probably accepted or declined on the spot. Or did you hesitate? If decision making does not come easily to you, you asked a few questions and then had a major or minor stress attack trying to decide whether to go or not. In the end, you may have asked if you could get back to them in 24 hours. Too late, unfortunately, the boat was filled before the function ended. Another missed opportunity for you. Who knows what may have happened on that boat or who you may have met. When the need arises to make a quick decision always consider, what is the worst thing that can happen. Once this is identified, then ask yourself, can you cope with that? If you can, then go for it. If not, it may be best to decline. In the yachting scenario, the worst thing that could have happened , may be that you had to reschedule an meeting, so you could attend and possibly make a fool of yourself on the boat. Big deal, you will never become good at networking (or sailing) or management if you are not prepared to make a few mistakes along the way. Is fear your problem? At times FEAR is the thing that stops us from making a decision. You may recall times when fear has frozen you in your tracks. Some of the FEARS or False Evidence Appearing Real that regularly occur for some people are: Fear of making a mistake Fear of failing Fear of looking or feeling stupid Fear of rejection Fear of losing friends Fear of not being liked These fears are usually totally unfounded. Maybe you're a worrier? Worriers worry about things that may never happen. What a waste of energy! This is not to dismiss these fears, because at the time they are incredibly real. Any of the above fears can actually manifest into headaches, pain, stress or a multitude of physical ailments. However, if we look at the real reason these symptoms appeared, it is sometimes started by an imagined fear, similar to those listed above. The more we stay in the moment and stop the endless chatter in our heads, the more clarity we have around decision making. With networking opportunities, not only act like the host rather than the guest, but also think like the host. If you asked people to a special event and they all declined without explaining, how would you feel? Clear communication is always appreciated, even if at times it means you have to swallow your pride. With the sailing invitation above, what if you were actually brave enough to thank the host for their invitation and explain that you have never been sailing before and may feel you would let the team down. The host would rather your honesty than your silence. Making the big decisions With large decision making, a technique I have found to be useful is: 1. State the problem-or situation What is the obvious problem, or what are people implying the problem is 2. State the facts From a total outsiders point of view, what are the actual facts 3. State the real problem Based on the facts, is it necessary to restate the problem or situation (with the yachting invitation, was it basically the invitee had not been sailing previously and was afraid of making a fool of themselves) 4. List the options Both outrageous and mainstream. An outrageous option would have been that the person take a crash course in sailing before the appointed date with the key player and pretend they were a seasoned yachtie. A mainstream option may have been that the invitee made a phone call the next day, just to clarify that they were not a competent sailor and did not want to hold the others back on the day and seek the okay on attending on that basis 5. Pick the best option Pick the option with the best outcome, based on the facts you have. Its okay to make a mistake. Based on the facts you had at that time the decision was made. Time will tell whether it was a right or wrong decision. If you did make a mistake- that's okay. Things are rarely irreversible - from every mistake you will learn, how not to do it next time. Often the problem we think we have to fix is not the real problem. A company recently spent a large amount of money replacing an air conditioning unit. It was identified that staff absenteeism was caused by the faulty air conditioner - so it was replaced. The absenteeism continued until the real problem was identified - the new supervisor's different style of management was alienating the workforce. The supervisor had been promoted from within and had previously got along well with the staff. Digging deeper it was found ,that the supervisor was experiencing a serious health problem and did not want to take sick leave because it was a new job and he thought it would not look good to management. There were unlimited options available. However, the one that was chosen had definitely the best outcome. A meeting for all employees and management was called. The supervisor bravely revealed his health situation and apologised for his unrealistic demands on the staff. Management agreed to the supervisor taking extending paid sick leave and an assurance that the supervisors job would be held for him. The staff unanimously agreed on a replacement supervisor (from their ranks) and agreed to give them 100% support. Absenteeism disappeared, productivity increased - everyone was happy. Author, Sergio Bambaren tells us "Most of us are not prepared to overcome our failures, and because of this we are not able to fulfil our gifts. It is easy to stand for something that does not carry a risk." Networking is about risk. An about making mistakes, feeling stupid at times, constantly moving out of your comfort zone and making choices. May your decisions always be wise ones and your networking always lots of fun. Are You an Interesting Person? Off the top of your head, you can probably list the names of 20 people you consider to be interesting... Maybe you could fill a page with names, if you really gave it some thought. What are the characteristics of interesting or charismatic people? Is there any advantage in becoming more interesting? From a networkers perspective, the answer is a most resounding - yes! We all know that people do business with people they know, like and trust. Ask yourself, would you want to spend time with someone who you find interesting or someone who bores you stupid? The answer is obvious. An interesting person attracts people to them and most likely expends a lot less effort promoting and selling their product or services or fast-tracking their career. Think about the last networking and/or social function you attended. What people do you recall having a conversation with? More importantly, what do you remember about those conversations? Many interesting people basically repeat little pieces of trivia - things they found interesting and assume others will, too. Basically they teach what they learn. This doesn't include gossip, of course, only good news stories. Gifted story-tellers Interesting people are often gifted at telling stories. Unfortunately, at social and networking functions, you often have to give a shortened version of an event and this may take practice. We all know people who can embellish a story and stretch the truth. In the networking world, stretching the truth is totally unnecessary and very often backfires. More often than not, it's a great story just as it happened. It's the storyteller that makes the story come alive with passion and enthusiasm. If you are really serious about improving your personal skills including your communication or social skills, lets consider story telling. Would you agree that people recall stories, especially when they are positive, entertaining and trigger emotions - happy or sad. By the way, if sadness has been triggered, the great storyteller has a way of turning a negative into a positive, even if it is just to state how lucky we are at that moment. So lets look at simple strategies that you may consider introducing into your life to become a more interesting person. ( The basic reason for doing this would be for you to have a more interesting life, more fulfilment and a broader circle of friends. Once trust is built, who knows how many of those people may be interested in furthering your career ). Always be sincere and give without expectation. People can intuitively sense a fraud a mile away. We all know those people who are just being nice to you because they want something. They are rarely interesting - basically because they are only interested in themselves and what they can take, not in what they can give. In today's competitive marketplace, many employees get caught up in the - work long hours, go home, crash - work long hours, go home, crash - cycle. When they do get a day off, its all they can do to drag themselves out of bed and many have to really force themselves to go out and do something remotely social. Life is like exercise, once you are actually at the gym, you feel great. It's just getting there that takes the effort. Research your interests The Internet has opened up the information world. All we have to do is know how to access that information. Search engines make that incredibly easy for us. In particular, you may like to visit Ask Jeeves - www.aj.com. You will find that Jeeves can answer just about any question you can create, no matter how obscure - and all in the space of nanoseconds. I have an interest in taking photos of sunsets and sunrises and as I travel, I get to see many examples of nature's magni-ficence. One night, I collected a batch of photos and was a little disappointed with them. Other than doing a photography course, I wondered if, "Ask Jeeves" might have a suggestion for me. Sure enough, after typing in a query, "where would I learn to take better photos of sunrises and sunsets"- I was directed to an article: 'How to take better photos of sunrises.' I kid you not! Ask Jeeves is definitely worth a visit. Get focussed Take a few moments now and write a list of 20 things that you would be interested in doing if you had a month off and an unlimited budget. Really let your imagination take hold. Your list may include some old hobbies, new interests, maybe even more of what you are currently doing. Move out of your comfort Zone Many people sit back and wait for life to happen - they wait a long time! Proactive people are the ones who make life happen. Attend a special course So many people think that networking has to be work related. In actual fact, some of the best contacts you will make, will be in a social or special interest situation. Time poor people may be reluctant to commit to long-term studies. However, many colleges regularly have short-term special interest courses to suit our restricted availability. What a great way to network! You are learning something new, improving your skill, making new friends and the by product is - you are becoming more interesting. John Lennon summed it up with his quote: "Life is what happens while you are making other plans." Interesting people are not born. You won't find 'interesting person' listed in the newspaper birth notices. However, they are easy to spot at networking functions. They are the ones that everyone wants to be around. Happy networking Are You an Interesting Person? Off the top of your head, you can probably list the names of 20 people you consider to be interesting... Maybe you could fill a page with names, if you really gave it some thought. What are the characteristics of interesting or charismatic people? Is there any advantage in becoming more interesting? From a networkers perspective, the answer is a most resounding - yes! We all know that people do business with people they know, like and trust. Ask yourself, would you want to spend time with someone who you find interesting or someone who bores you stupid? The answer is obvious. An interesting person attracts people to them and most likely expends a lot less effort promoting and selling their product or services or fast-tracking their career. Think about the last networking and/or social function you attended. What people do you recall having a conversation with? More importantly, what do you remember about those conversations? Many interesting people basically repeat little pieces of trivia - things they found interesting and assume others will, too. Basically they teach what they learn. This doesn't include gossip, of course, only good news stories. Gifted story-tellers Interesting people are often gifted at telling stories. Unfortunately, at social and networking functions, you often have to give a shortened version of an event and this may take practice. We all know people who can embellish a story and stretch the truth. In the networking world, stretching the truth is totally unnecessary and very often backfires. More often than not, it's a great story just as it happened. It's the storyteller that makes the story come alive with passion and enthusiasm. If you are really serious about improving your personal skills including your communication or social skills, lets consider story telling. Would you agree that people recall stories, especially when they are positive, entertaining and trigger emotions - happy or sad. By the way, if sadness has been triggered, the great storyteller has a way of turning a negative into a positive, even if it is just to state how lucky we are at that moment. So lets look at simple strategies that you may consider introducing into your life to become a more interesting person. ( The basic reason for doing this would be for you to have a more interesting life, more fulfilment and a broader circle of friends. Once trust is built, who knows how many of those people may be interested in furthering your career ). Always be sincere and give without expectation. People can intuitively sense a fraud a mile away. We all know those people who are just being nice to you because they want something. They are rarely interesting - basically because they are only interested in themselves and what they can take, not in what they can give. In today's competitive marketplace, many employees get caught up in the - work long hours, go home, crash - work long hours, go home, crash - cycle. When they do get a day off, its all they can do to drag themselves out of bed and many have to really force themselves to go out and do something remotely social. Life is like exercise, once you are actually at the gym, you feel great. It's just getting there that takes the effort. Research your interests The Internet has opened up the information world. All we have to do is know how to access that information. Search engines make that incredibly easy for us. In particular, you may like to visit Ask Jeeves - www.aj.com. You will find that Jeeves can answer just about any question you can create, no matter how obscure - and all in the space of nanoseconds. I have an interest in taking photos of sunsets and sunrises and as I travel, I get to see many examples of nature's magni-ficence. One night, I collected a batch of photos and was a little disappointed with them. Other than doing a photography course, I wondered if, "Ask Jeeves" might have a suggestion for me. Sure enough, after typing in a query, "where would I learn to take better photos of sunrises and sunsets"- I was directed to an article: 'How to take better photos of sunrises.' I kid you not! Ask Jeeves is definitely worth a visit. Get focussed Take a few moments now and write a list of 20 things that you would be interested in doing if you had a month off and an unlimited budget. Really let your imagination take hold. Your list may include some old hobbies, new interests, maybe even more of what you are currently doing. Move out of your comfort Zone Many people sit back and wait for life to happen - they wait a long time! Proactive people are the ones who make life happen. Attend a special course So many people think that networking has to be work related. In actual fact, some of the best contacts you will make, will be in a social or special interest situation. Time poor people may be reluctant to commit to long-term studies. However, many colleges regularly have short-term special interest courses to suit our restricted availability. What a great way to network! You are learning something new, improving your skill, making new friends and the by product is - you are becoming more interesting. John Lennon summed it up with his quote: "Life is what happens while you are making other plans." Interesting people are not born. You won't find 'interesting person' listed in the newspaper birth notices. However, they are easy to spot at networking functions. They are the ones that everyone wants to be around. Happy networking Walking the talk Robyn Henderson has a passion for building relationships and connecting people and with five books under her belt and recognition from the speaking industry she is firmly established as Australia's networking guru. From a background in the hospitality industry and sales, Robyn's speaking career evolved in the early 90s when Robyn worked for a couple of unethical companies who 'over promised and under delivered'. "I realised there was a better way of doing business in the community and thought as a speaker, I could show companies how to do it a better way. " Robyn was holding onto a sales manager job four days a week and speaking about goal setting on the fifth day to whatever audience she could get, when she heard speaker Lisa McGuinness Smith talk about walking your talk. "I realised if I was walking my talk, I should leave my job and believe in my dreams. So I resigned and became a speaker," says Robyn. Robyn had honed her speaking skills in previous years as a sales executive when she had joined Toastmasters International so she could make a presentation without 'stuttering and stumbling. As her confidence and her passion for speaking increased she joined and became heavily involved with the National Speakers Association of Australia. Robyn attended the Associations conferences in the US to be inspired by the best of the best in the world, and gauge how she compared. " realised I had a long way to go, but I could make a living as a speaker as long as I always spoke about something I was passionate about," says Robyn. Like any business, staying afloat long enough to get known was tough and in the speaking industry most presentations are freebies while establishing a profile. "I certainly had ups and downs with cash flow in the early days but I was determined to make it work. I took lots of risks developing products and running public seminars. Some ideas worked and some didn't - I learned as I went," says Robyn. Robyn's main topic as a guest speaker is mastering the art of networking - everything from talking to strangers and generating referrals through to building relationships. "Being authentic and setting realistic targets for my audience is very important to me. Its no good inspiring people and then leaving them with a game plan that they can never hope to achieve. I encourage people to implement small changes into their lives, to introduce networking as a life skill. I want people to think 'If she can do it, I can do it too'," says Robyn. Robyn's speaking career blossomed and she was invited to speak overseas, firstly in New Zealand in 1994 and Singapore in 1995, which lead to speaking engagements in Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Jakarta, Bahrain, Japan and the US. "I haven't exactly sought overseas engagements, they just happened," says Robyn. Robyn speaks to a diverse range of organisations especially in the banking and finance area as well as law firms, small businesses, direct selling companies, real estate groups, government departments and associations. "Probably one of the most diverse groups was the Arabian Society of Human Resources Management in Bahrain in 1998," says Robyn. "I spoke to 500 Arabs - 480 men in their long white robes and only 20 women. I was terrified initially, but the session was a great success, so much so that I was invited back in 1999. " During 1995-6 Robyn was giving over 200 presentations a year and during 1996-7 Robyn spent around 170 nights out of Sydney, half of those being international trips. Robyn has since halved the number of speaking engagements as she becomes more aware of creating a balance in her life. "I consciously decided in 1999, after my fathers death, to get a life and give myself more time out," says Robyn. "I have been working consciously for the last 18 months on getting healthier and fitter and go to the gym regularly - a great network itself! - , meditate twice a day, massage every week, and spend time appreciating nature too. I like to take photos of sunrises, sunsets and trees, and make time each week to catch up with positive, like-minded friends. "My focus now is on working just in New Zealand and Australia, because I love both countries and I find the audiences very receptive, lots of fun and keen to try new ideas." Robyn's career within the speaking industry is firmly established. She is a Certified Speaking Professional with the NSAA, which means she has achieved a certain level of income, number of clients, a n d presentations over a number of years. Only nine women in Australia and 104 women globally share this accreditation. Robyn was recently awarded the prestigious 2000 Nevin Award from the National Speakers Association of Australia. The award is awarded annually to the member whose accomplishments reflect outstanding credit, respect, honour and, admiration of NSAA and the entire speaking profession. Robyn is only the third woman in Australia to receive the award. "it was an honour to receive the award - it was the culmination and certainly the highlight of my eight year speaking career," says Robyn. Robyn has also authored five books, including 'How to Master Networking, 'Networking Magic - 366 Hot Networking tips', 'Be Seen, Get Known, Move Ahead' and 'Are You the VIP in your Life?' "I decided to write my first book after attending my first National Speakers of America conference," says Robyn. "I saw that most of the speakers on the platform had books or tapes, and realised I had better write a book if I was planning to be up there one day." Most of Robyn's books are self published because it was the quickest way to get a book out when she was keen to establish herself as a 'networking expert'. "Initially I was a speaker who wrote and now I see myself as an author who speaks - it is only a slight shift, but creates a different focus." Robyn's inspiration for her books comes from her audiences and her life. "I think I represent the typical single businesswoman who has plenty of balls in the air and at times drops a few..." says Robyn. Robyn is currently writing a book called 'The Self Love Diet for Women' - nothing to do with eating, but all about self esteem and confidence building, "It will also have a spiritual focus as I see many people today who are searching for answers and are spiritually bankrupt. With a combination of meditation, affirmations, and a variety of spiritual practices we can learn to value ourselves as much as we value others. And it's important to look within for answers rather than constantly searching outside for things to make us happy," says Robyn. "I really encourage people to write books on topics that they are passionate about. I love reading and think I am privileged to read in an hour or two, many years of experiences, mistakes and lessons from someone else," says Robyn. "And authoring a book is a great way to build your profile and gain credibility." And what's the secret to writing a book for any budding authors? "I don't write every day. When I decide to write a book, I work on that project and complete it quite quickly. I think the frame of mind you are in helps enormously when you write and I have a ritual of aromatherapy oils, soft music, no distractions, total focus - and the words just flow," says Robyn. As a networker and speaker to everyone from high profile organisations through to small businesses, Robyn has her finger on the pulse when it comes to current challenges in the workplace. "The main problems are caused by accountability to shareholders and major stakeholders," says Robyn. "The enlightened companies are becoming more conscious of the three P's - People, Profits and the Planet. They realise that investing in their people as well as giving back to the community and caring for the planet actually transfers to profits. "The key to growing a small business into a larger business is to form strategic alliances with like-minded people. It's very hard for small businesses to make the connections they need without networking. They need to get out there and meet people and be proud of promoting the product or service they provide. " In recent years Robyn has developed a strong interest in spirituality and where it fits in the business world and is now an a accredited Angel Therapy Practitioner. "I am now doing one on one angel sessions showing people how to connect with their angels, how to tap their intuition and their inner knowing." Robyn upskills herself by sitting in on, and learning from, other guest speakers during a conference where she is also a guest speaker. "I also believe in paying professionals to teach me what I don't know - whether that's coaching in voice, presentation skills, or computer skills. Learn from the best, or the best that you can afford," says Robyn. To keep herself motivated Robyn revises her goals each year and decides what she wants in her life and what she has to do to get it, who she could bring in to the loop to work with her and who she can help along the way. "I then basically work project by project," says Robyn. Robyn is also involved with community work - works she says is incredibly humbling and very grounding. "Two years ago after a radio interview I was contacted by a half way house in inner Sydney, which lead to monthly sessions at the centre with young men who had been in prison, on drugs or recovering from alcohol or gambling addiction. We do everything from goal setting, self esteem building and numerology to affirmations," says Robyn. "I have learned so much from these guys about life and about overcoming adversity. It's quite extraordinary what belief in someone can do to change their behaviour. I am incredibly grateful each time I drive home from these sessions that I have such a blessed life, and that I have the opportunity to do work with these guys and share the learning." Robyn's latest project is her involvement as a contributing author to the book 'Masters of Networking'. The book was released in the US in October and is currently number three on the New York Times list. Other authors who share networking ideas and tips include Mark Victor Hansen, Bill Gates, Harvey Mackey, Colin Powell, and Deepak Chopra. Robyn has also secured the rights with Business Network International Australia to publish Masters of Networking in Australia. (The book is available in bookstores early March, retailing at $27.50 including GST.) Robyn is looking forward to semiretirement in Kingscliff in a couple of years, to travel and write at leisure. "I realise that quality of life is far more precious than dollars in the bank - you are a long time dead," says Robin. "I also want to develop the angel work and create a network of lightworkers in Australia that can teach others how to tap into their inner strength and intuition." And of course there'll be more books, both fiction and non fiction, and even a television show interviewing people who are out there doing great things. Finally, Robyn shares her best networking tip; "Have heart to heart conversations with people - that doesn't mean sharing your deepest darkest secret. Rather, it is being in the moment, focusing on the person you are speaking to and listening attentively. Have quality not quantity conversations and you will remember things more easily. Listen with your heart as well as your ears. Passion: Networking - connecting like minded people together and seeing what happens. Currently reading: -The Indigo children by Lee Carroll and Jan Tober -The Lightworkers Way - (awakening your spiritual power to know and heal) by Doreen Virtue Role model: -Tina Turner for her fantastic body. Buddhist religion practice, love of life and no plastic surgery -Nelson Mandela - for his calmness, humility and perseverance -Oprah Winfrey - for her positive influence on the media and courage to change television as we know it Power food: Protein (nuts, seafood, stone fuit) - not chocolate.... Best advice ever received: My father said be prepared to walk away in negotiations, rather than going lower than you originally were prepared to go. Personal motto: Energy follows thought - what you think about is what you create in your life. B2B – Beyond Business Cards to Actual Business The number one reason many people don’t convert business cards into business is – they never follow up! Effective systems make or break good networkers. Master networking goes way beyond just giving out business cards. Granted this is one of the first steps in actually making new contacts – but returning to your office with 15 business cards after attending a Chamber of Commerce meeting, is totally useless unless you do something with them. Consider the cost, door to door, for you to attend this event. Calculate the number of hours from when you left your office or home to the actual time you returned. Yes, you may have only been at the function for two hours but door to door may in fact be closer to four or five hours. Now, consider your charge out rate for five hours – almost a full day. Include the cost of your ticket and any parking charges and you have now come up with the actual cost for attending that event. Conservatively lets say that your charge out rate is $100 per hour, the parking another $25 and the cost to attend say $75. The total is now $600. Then if we allow another hour for follow up after the event, (be it sending information or just recording the contacts), we are now looking at an investment of $700. And if your charge out is more than $100 per hour – well you do the maths. For the self employed person this equates to a considerable cost. For the employed, it’s another cost to be absorbed by your employer. No wonder they expect results! So, it’s important we get more value out of attending networking events. Here are some tips to help you do that: 1. Prepare before the event. What outcomes are you wanting ? Who would you like to meet? If you meet the ideal prospect, have you remembered your business cards. At least one third of people attending networking events for the sole purpose of doing business – forget to bring their business cards! 2. Change your focus Rather than thinking you stop work and then go to the networking event – consider the networking event is in fact an extension of your workday – you are just changing locations. Conversely, if you were attending a breakfast function, you in fact started work at 7 a.m. today. With a work focus at this event, your priorities will be quite different. Basically you are building trust through communication. If you don’t talk to people, you cannot build trust and rapport with them. 3. Become a connector At networking functions – practice linking people together. Asking questions like, “What were you hoping to achieve from tonight’s function?” or “Did you have a specific objective for attending tonight?” Get people talking about why they are there and then, if possible, connect them with the people they are looking for or if that is not possible, at least someone who may know someone. This is a really valuable skill to master and in this information age when information is currency, your role as a connector becomes invaluable – during and post any event. 4. Don’t over-commit. If you commit to forward information post event, don’t over-commit. Be honest, if you have a full schedule that week, indicate that it may be 4-5 days before you can forward the information and check if that is okay. Most people are quite okay with this. It’s when you say you will do something and don’t do it that you can lose credibility. 5. Develop a post event system This may include having a specific business cards holder for that network, where you place all the cards from the people you meet at this event. Prior to putting them in the folder, make a note on the back of the card with the date and place you met the person and something you remember about them – ideally something they are interested in outside of work. Prior to going to the next event at that network, you browse through the cards to remind yourself who you met. You may also enter the contact details from the card of key prospects in your electronic database and make a note to reconnect with them in 30 to 45 days time. Remember you are building trust and earning the right to gain business, as well as aiming to be remembered positively – without being pushy. 6. Pass it on One of the easy ways of making contact with people post event, is to send them a copy of an invitation to another event they may be interested in attending. An email or fax: “Hi Joe, enjoyed our conversation at the Chamber of Commerce, here is the invitation I mentioned. Hope to connect with you again.” Another may be sending an article that is relevant to the person’s business or profession. You may in fact collect a file full of these and forward them on as required. For your reference, www.corporatetrends.com.au has a large selection of appropriate articles on a variety of business subjects. 7. Send an electronic postcard. Visit www.networkingtowin.com.au and click on send a postcard. You will find a variety of designs that are different, easy to send and download quickly. The key point is that you follow up – otherwise that $700 investment of time, money and effort has gone down the drain. If you see attending networking events as a three part process, preparation before you go, connecting with people at the function and most importantly follow up after the event, you will really start to see reward for your effort. Always remember small but significant help can be extremely powerful and memorable. Happy networking Selling yourself well makes good business sense Article by Pam Kershaw (The Sydney Morning Herald) It's a familiar scenario in small business right now - clients cutting budgets, canceling orders, pruning back projects. You need to find new business, but where do you start? Cold calling and cold emailing area waste of time, according to networking specialist Robyn Henderson, of Networking to Win. A better strategy is to build your visibility, create alliances and generate referral opportunities by sharpening your networking skills. But networking is not about attending an industry event with "D for desperate" stamped on your forehead, nor scanning name tags so you can immediately target potential clients. It's about building trust, giving referrals rather than expecting them and realising business may come from people who are one or two removed from your immediate contacts. By way of example, Henderson recalls being bailed up for 30 minutes by a Japanese woman at the Bangkok launch and signing of her book, Networking to Win. Henderson was puzzled by her persistent questioning, but the next day the president of the Japan Secretaries Club approached her and said the club would like to translate the book into Japanese. The president's colleague, whose role it was to seek out new opportunities for the club, was the woman who had occupied Henderson's time the previous day. A contract was signed for 1,000 copies of the book, Henderson made a few thousand dollars on the deal and, when the book was launched in Japan, tied in a speaking engagement at Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) conference. "The book launch gave me immense credibility at the PATA event," she says. Contracts were also made that could lead to future business. Henderson, who has a background in sales and hospitality, has spent the past 10 years conducting seminars on networking, speaking at conferences, writing five books and collaborating on a sixth. "I saw networking was the way globally that things would happen," she says. "People could not continue to churn and burn customers. They were not building long term relationships or clients for life." Henderson relies on her own networking skills to generate about 150 speaking engagements a year. She does not advertise, but her books and Web site also help build business that sees her diary booked 90 days ahead. She recommends small business owners join their own industry or professional association and at least one general networking group such as Business Referral Group or the Australian American Chamber of Commerce. A minimum monthly budget of $100 should be allocated to cover function costs, and two meetings of a group attended before you make a decision on whether or not to join. "People are out of their comfort zone the first time, and may not necessarily get the right impression of the group," she says. You should decide on clear and realistic outcomes you would like from meetings; the more specific these are, the more chance you have of achieving them. While hoping to meet a key executive who will hand you a million-dollar contract is not a realistic outcome, targeting two people from a specific industry that may hold new opportunities is realistic, as is networking with the "everyday people" in an organisation who could help you reach key executives. You should take plenty of business cards (this is elementary, but Henderson says a third of people do not), arrive early and leave late so you can have quality conversations with five to seven people rather than working the whole room. Learn to introduce yourself effectively, mentioning any business area in which you specialise. "Get it down pat so you can say it under 10 seconds," Henderson says. "Don't be vague, because most people either undersell themselves or confuse people." If you meet someone who is a potential client, don't occupy his/her time for more that 15 minutes. These people may be prime prospects, but they are also there to network for their own business. Henderson says networking is a life skill, and good networkers build their profile through being helpful to others rather than simply focusing on potential opportunities. "It's not something you just do at these events, it's a way of lateral thinking," she says. Good networkers also understand three universal laws: reciprocity, abundance and giving without expectation. While this may sound like it's straight off the American talk circuit, it means concentrating on making the pie bigger for everyone rather than worrying about the competition, giving referrals rather than seeking them, and believing opportunities will open up because of the chance meetings. Once you have made a contact, follow it up. Good networkers spend 15 minutes a day following it up, and ensure they contact their client network at least once every 90 days in what Henderson calls the "law of recency". Let them know you're still out there," she says. "I am loyal to suppliers who keep in touch with me, as it builds trust."
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