Category Archives: Networking Tips

The Power of Connecting

EcoStar_LogoThe power of connecting was evidenced last night at the Vancouver Island EcoStar Awards hosted by Jill Doucette of Synergy Enterprises.

I was so inspired by the many businesses in Victoria who are contributing to the sustainability of our beautiful city with their innovation, sustainable practices and operations. During the awards ceremony, I met Christina Robev, co-founder of Studio Robazzo, who were commissioned to design and manufacture the awards for the 16 Vancouver Island EcoStar winners. Constructed using recycled driftwood and marble, they were stunning! Studo Robazzo is a holistic lifestyle design studio focusing on collaborative and sustainable innnovation.

Studio Robazzo have a cool story. After creating the Mayors mayors awardMedal Awards for the City of Victoria, and being present at the awards ceremony, Studio Robazzo networked with Synergy Enterprises who asked them to design the EcoStar Awards. And tonight at the EcoStar Awards they were approached to design another project using some material very synonymous with Victorians (it’s a secret right now). Now that’s the power of networking!

Business networking is a quintessential way to grow your business through relationship building. The power of connection is like a tapestry, each strand interwoven and connected. Attending events, that are aligned with your vision or values, is a great way to connect with like-minded individuals. How can you be of service to those new connections and who do they need to meet to achieve success?. Now get out there, build your network and have fun!

DAlcadinho_Sept15_580x679Deb Alcadinho is the founder of Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She is passionate about helping women in business succeed. She is a business advisor and personal branding maven with Your Brand Power, a community connector, educator, mentor and speaker. She’s married and mom to three handsome young men.

Conversation Skills – Stand Out in a Crowd

Networking is all about building relationships.  When you show up with great conversation skills and are consistent you’ll be memorable.

It’s a process and it takes time. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, ‘People do business with those they know, like and trust’. There’s no better way to build those attributes of ‘know, like and trust’ than by face-to-face networking.  There’s no way to build relationships and have fun at networking than by creating, maintaining and exiting conversations with grace.

Conversation skills

 

Keep The Conversation Going

I know… you’re thinking ‘I’m just getting the conversation started, and you want me to keep it going beyond the initial question!’  It’s easy! What’s the single thing you have in common … the event itself!

Here are some key Conversation Skills to keep things going:

  • “I’m Jane, by the way, nice to meet you…” “So, is this your first time at this event?”
  • “So, how did you hear about this event?”
  • “What a great place for an event? Have you ever been here before?”

After that, try learning more about your new acquaintance. Questions can include:

  • “What line of work are you in?”
  • “Are you from here? Or have you recently moved to ____?”

Keep them talking. The general rule is: People usually like to talk about themselves. So, once they tell you what they do, ask questions. Here are a few:

  • “That’s very interesting…” “What drew you to that line of work?”
  • “What do you like about your job?”
  • “Why are you interested in working in that industry specifically?”

 Exit Strategies

It’s that time, ‘You’re ready to move on, but how do you exit the conversation smoothly?

Even if you are nervous, or your new acquaintance is, remember you are there to mix and mingle – don’t limit yourself to one person all night.  You are not doing yourself, or them any favors.

If you’d like to exit a conversation, try one of these lines:

  • “Alright, I’m going to get some food now that the line has died down a bit. It was great meeting you!”
  • “Have you met Sue yet? She works in your industry as well. I’m sure you both will have plenty to talk about.”  Try to connect the two if you can.
  • “I’d like to mingle with a few others.  It was great meeting you. Can we exchange cards for a follow up?”
  • “Well, I think it’s time for me to meet some others now. I would love to connect with you again. May I have your card/contact information?”

Above all – Have fun and enjoy the process.

The first couple of times are always the hardest. The trick is to keep at it and practice your conversation skills often.  If you come from a place of being authentic, being yourself and practicing the best conversation skill of all – listening – you’ll be a success.

Deb_r2Deb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed. 

Build Your Personal Network

Do you want to stand out against the competition? Is that competition another company in your industry or another individual?

Your personal network is crucial, an established relationship can help you stand out against your competitor.

personal network

Some might consider social media ‘the key to networking’. But just the other day I was having a conversation with my 24 year old son, who although very active in social media, recognizes the craving for face-to-face interaction. As human beings our physical and emotional needs cannot be met with technology alone. We have an innate need to connect both personally and professionally, in person, face to face. Personal networking, known as ‘in person networking’ or ‘offline networking’ is still the best form of relationship building and the best way to build your personal network. Certainly complement or augment the face to face with other forms of on-line marketing for a well rounded networking platform.

Networking can be defined as building relationships BEFORE you need them. The world can be a daunting place when you immediately need something and have no idea who to call. Consider the idea of having a few friends, colleagues or friends in business that you could call for their advice, recommendations or suggestions. This personal network makes the NEED so much easier to handle. Facebook and LinkedIn have become a great tool to ask for a broad recommendation from your ‘friends’. But if mastered correctly, building your personal network can make the difference between a good recommendation and a great recommendation. We’ve all heard the term, people do business with people they know, like and trust.

The term ‘networking’ might be a buzz word, but we’ve been doing it for centuries. We listened to our fathers who, when presented by a friend’s dilemma to source a good roofer, painter or  hardware item, were happy to set up their friend with ‘Bob’, who would take care of them. Their personal network was established and grew by the friends and acquaintances they knew who could help each other.

We’ve done it ourselves, we recommend a good hairdresser, seamstress, Sally at the clothing store we love, Sue at the shoe store we love.

You build a personal network without thinking. Think a bit more strategically about how you can build your personal network. Your personal network should be a win/win for both of you – think about ways you can help others and how others might help you.

It’s time consuming to compile your databases but it’s worth it. It will help you streamline and target your approach to those you want to reach out to. Put your contacts into categories to help you streamline. MS Excel works great for this.

Here are 4 categories you might want to consider:

Your Entire Database: your entire reach – everyone you’ve had contact with – your Rolodex (for those of us old enough to know what a Rolodex is!), Twitter, Facebook, email, people we’ve met, phone, etc)

Your Personal Network: your business network, friends and family, or specific groups. But be careful, this list should not be over a few hundred; the determining factor is “would they immediately return your phone call”.

Your Inner Circle: who would give you honest feedback without fear of offending you. Might be in the range of 20-50 people depending on how big your personal network is.

Your Advisory Board: these are your go-to people. A small group of 5+ people. You are particularly close to these people and they will give you honest advice, opinions and clarity when asked.

At the end of the day, you feel most comfortable interacting with people you like, who make you feel good, make you feel comfortable and are fun to be with. Not everyone can be THAT person, it takes practice… but try to be that person for others who are feeling uncomfortable with networking.

Build your personal network, be strategic. Remember that others are trying to be build their personal networks too and be courteous in their exploration of you. Enjoy the process.

Deb_r2Deb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed. 

Top 10 Networking Essentials

Top 10 Networking Essentials

Before we can look at strategies to make you feel more comfortable there are a few essentials you need to know about the ‘art of networking’:

Recognize that working ON your business is just as important as working IN your business.

246585_448307518527475_2034053102_nIf you are always working IN your business and never get out there to meet new customers, you may not experience the growth you are looking for. Your customers need to know the ‘face’ behind the ‘brand’ and will relate to your business, products and service better if know who you are.

#1. Networking is a very effective and cost effective way of advertising. You are controlling the message. Networking advertises you, your personal brand and your company. But be careful you don’t attend networking events to sell, sell, sell.

#2. Networking is not about selling, it’s about building relationships. If you push your products and services on others you will turn them off and they will tune you out or avoid you altogether.

#3. You network to be an effective listener and learn about others. You can’t focus on the benefits you can provide to others before having a true sense of their needs. When you focus on others, and come from the place of giving, rather than the place of taking, your personal network will grow.

#4. Be authentic & Get Real. By creating ‘real conversation’ and not pushy sales talk, and by genuinely being interested in others, people will want to connect with you.

#5. You have so much to give in the form of your industry knowledge, wisdom and expertise. Be the knowledgeable, wise person.  Share tips and tricks that you might have used that helped you overcome a challenge, realize success in a certain area of your business or offer connections with others who helped you.

#6. Treat networking as a learning opportunity to discover the business needs of others and how you can help them.

#7. Treat networking as an extension of your business day. You are there to work – net-work; you are not there to spend time with only those people you already know. Of course you’ll say hi and have a quick chat with your current connections, but let’s face it, you’re there to meet new people.

#8. Instead of your standard 30 second or 1 minute elevator pitch, try this instead:

  1. At the point of introduction, say your name and business – stop there – don’t give your elevator pitch!  Say your tagline only.
  2. Once your company tagline is presented, engage in conversation by asking them questions about their business and then be strategic about how you might be able to help them – if you can. Can you refer them to others who might be able to help in their challenge? Can you provide a tip or resource that you’ve found helpful when faced with a similar challenge?

#9. Networking fees, along with your professional association dues, are allowable business expenses. Save your receipts for tax purposes.

#10. Ensure you have a signature line on your emails and a friendly professional voicemail.

Have fun and enjoy the process. Relax. Chances are the other guests have apprehension, just like you.

Deb_r2Deb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed. 

Effective Business Networking at Trade Shows

Maximize Opportunities

Networking can be practiced and refined in so many areas of your life, from the boardroom to the baseball game, from the office to your child’s school and sports activities. We all know the benefits of networking, but do you take advantage of every opportunity?

So you’re going to exhibit in a trade show – great news – let’s look at some ways to maximize your business networking opportunities.

Yes you are there as an exhibitor and your time will be busy with set up, engaging with your booth customers and of course booth tear down, but let’s not forget the importance of business networking during the event.

Some of the best connections I’ve made and the most help I’ve been able to give is at trade shows.

Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing stories of people you’ve met along the way, who had a similar challenge to what this exhibitor may be having and sharing insight can be extremely helpful. You know what it’s like – you get wrapped up in your own challenges and sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees and a clear solution is not evident. And then someone comes along and shares a story and then the solution is so apparent.

Strategic business networking is helping everyone you meet connect with someone who will benefit from that introduction.

When you meet someone new, approach the interaction as a ‘giver not a getter’. Business networking is not about selling and what you will get out of the meeting or conversation – but rather how you can connect this new person with who you might know to help them. You will be remembered far more and people will be more willing to help you, if you help others first. Practice the law of reciprocity. It all comes back tenfold in the end.

Effective business networking is marketing you – your personal brand and your company brand – but not in a pushy, salesy manner.

Think of networking like the most beautiful chain you own. Its links are connected. Business networking is similar in many ways to that beautiful chain.

  • Networking creates connections
  • Connections form relationships
  • Relationships provide opportunities for business growth and success.

To network effectively and run an effective booth at your tradeshow, you need to be prepared:

  1. Your booth presentation– do a mock up to size with the booth space taped on your floor and design your booth so there are no surprises during set up.
  2. Your supplies– this goes without saying.
  3. Your personal appearance– first impressions matter. You are representing your company           brand and your personal brand so make sure it’s impressive and authentic.

If you’re well prepared and set up early, consider giving your booth next to you a helping hand. It gives you an opportunity to create a connection and many hands make light work.  Business networking during the show can be frowned upon, you are there to connect with your customers more than exhibitors, but when it’s slow or before and after the event day, take advantage of the time. If you have an onsite eating area, connect with your fellow exhibitors over lunch.

The questionnaire

 

The following checklist will help you maximize your business networking effectiveness at the trade show and ensure you‘re prepared and presenting yourself and your company in the best possible light:

  1. Have an abundant supply of business cards (order a couple of fresh boxes, you don’t want to run out!).  Your cards represent and reinforce you company brand. Ensure they have your full contact information including all social media links. If you’re in business you should absolutely have a completed LinkedIn profile. Your picture will help make you memorable.
  2. Work on your handshake; it says a lot about you. If in doubt, practise it with people you know and ask their opinion. Wimpy handshakes have no place in business and women should           shake as firmly as a man.
  3. Perfect your pitch. Do you have a one minute elevator pitch nailed down? If not, get one, and keep it succinct, authentic and personal.
  4. Don’t eat at your booth. It’s distasteful and looks unprofessional. Arrange for some relief so you can take a break and get away from your booth to refuel and freshen up.
  5. Have some good lead questions in your back pocket. Unsure or uncomfortable about starting  or exiting conversations? Visit www.wwbnvictoria.com/blog for tips.
  6. Set networking goals for yourself; ie. Aim to meet, chat and exchange cards with at least 10  exhibitors and 100 booth attendees.
  7. Make notes on the back of the business cards about your conversations to jog your memory and any follow up required.
  8. If you are capturing leads through business cards in the fish bowl or email sign ups, ensure you CASL compliant for the new Canadian anti-spam laws.
  9. Create a one page introductory sheet about yourself and your business for any truly interested exhibitors and connections that you’d like to have further dialogue with.
  10. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date – guaranteed business people will check it!
  11. Ensure your website is up to date and your About page is fresh and current.

Networking is an essential part of business and is all about building relationships. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, ‘People do business with those they know, like and trust’. There’s no better way to build those attributes of ‘know, like and trust’ than by face-to-face business networking.  Enjoy your trade show experience!

Deb_r2Deb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed. 

 

Networking… For the Shy or Newbie

Uncomfortable attending events with large number of people and be expected to mix and mingle? You’re not alone. With a few strategies and tips you’ll be on your way to networking success.

Networking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few strategies to help overcome your anxiety.

  1. Focus on meeting a few people, not everyone in the room.
  2. If it’s a large group, break the room into visual sectors and focus on one part of the room – the left corner, the right corner.
  3. If you find someone that’s shy, a newbie, or someone who appears uncomfortable – go have a chat. Once introduced to each other, approach a group of people together and engage in their conversation. “Can we join you?”   There’s safety in numbers and having a new found networking colleague to help you with introductions can help alleviate anxiety.
  4. Be authentic, be real. If you’re nervous or it’s your first time attending, don’t be afraid to say so. If the person is comfortable they will help you feel more comfortable; if they are nervous you’ve immediately created an alliance of assimilation.
  5. Listen, listen, listen. Sometimes when we’re nervous we talk a lot. Learn to zip it and open your ears instead.
  6. Reciprocate and learn the art of giving. How can you help others? During the listening process you may learn a challenge they have, a need or a connection that would benefit them. The more you network, the bigger your personal network will become and the more people you will have to refer to others. Be a connector! Help people as often as you can.
  7. Practise your handshake. There’s nothing worse than a wimpy handshake. Men should not assume that women want a soft handshake. If you are in business, your handshake says a lot about you. A nice firm shake is best. Having said that, know your audience – if you are networking with seniors be mindful that they may suffer from arthritis and a firm handshake might cause them pain.
  8. Practise a little blurb about yourself and your company. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. If you ramble you won’t leave any time to hear from the other person. 30 seconds to 1 minute is perfect.
  9. Follow up with your new acquaintances. An email, a handwritten note or a phone are all effective ways to follow up and say “It was great meeting you”. If you promised to provide some details, then so quickly.  If you’d like to get to know them better, why not suggest a coffee date or ‘get to know you coffee’. These one-on-one meetings are often more comfortable for shy people, rather than large groups. Coffee dates are a great way to learn more about the person and their business, than you would generally learn in a quick conversation at a networking event. You just never know where a coffee date will produce; if you don’t need their product or service, you likely know someone who would benefit from an introduction and connection.

Have a couple of phrases in your back pocket to open up dialogue:

a)      How are things in the past month with your business? (you could be specific if there is a world          event that might have caused an upset in their business/industry).

b)      Have you had a great success that you’d like to share? (You can tailor this to something                  specific like branding, social media, marketing, etc.).

c)       What’s your biggest challenge right now?

These questions, no matter how different your two industries might be, could help you realize there are others with the same challenges as you. It also allows the other person to receive dialogue from ‘fresh eyes’ – someone from a completely different industry with a different perspective.

Have fun and enjoy the process.  The first couple of times are always the hardest.

If you come from a place of being authentic, being yourself and practicing the best skill of all – listening – you’ll be a networking rock star.

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Deb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed.