Tag Archives: Networking Tips

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. 

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. 

 

Best Conversation Starters

The best thing about conversation, and feedback, is that it enables the other person to gain a fresh perspective through ‘fresh eyes’.  You never know who you will meet at a networking event, what new things you might learn and how you might be able to help someone.

These questions will give you a great starting point as you venture into feeling more comfortable starting conversations. Remember… conversation (and networking for that matter) is like a muscle… the more you exercise it the stronger it becomes.

Best Conversation Starters

  1. How did you get started in your business?  Everyone loves to talk about their baby – their business baby that is.
  2. Who’s your ideal client?  If they haven’t nailed down who they really want to serve, their avatar, then this question will make them think.
  3. Who do you need to connect with?  Everyone needs to meet someone. 
  4. What aspect of your business are you most proud of?  There might be a certain sector, division, project, idea or concept that is performing really well and they might like to talk about it. 
  5. How can I help you grow your business?  Similar to question #3, but the answer may be broader than just who they need to connect with?
  6. What makes your approach to the industry different?  This is where a little bragging comes in to play.
  7. What’s your biggest challenge? Is there someone I know that might be able to help you with that?  The second part of the question is obvious, that’s why you are asking it. Sometimes just stating that you are willing to connect them with someone who might be able to help, shows that you care enough to help and that you are a true connector. 
  8. What advice would you give someone just starting in your business?  Everyone wants to feel as though their knowledge and wisdom matter; in fact it does. Many people have a great deal of tips in their toolkit that will benefit others.
  9. What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?  This question is a loaded one – one that people will take a moment to ponder before answering. It’s every person’s dream!
  10.  Describe the strangest or funniest incident you’ve experienced in your business.  A little humor is a good thing and these stories are often ones you can share! Everyone has a war story.
  11. What do you enjoy most about your profession?  This question elicits a good, positive feeling.
  12. What significant changes have you seen in your industry through the years?  For a seasoned professional, who has the battle scars to prove it, this is their question.
  13. What do you see as the coming trends in your industry?  I love this question. It elicits great responses from new and seasoned business people alike.
  14. What have you found to be the most effective ways to promote your business?  This is such a positive question. They are not likely to share their secrets but sage advice that you can likely share with others.
  15. What advice would you give another entrepreneur? From one entrepreneur to another, there is usually some sage advice to pass on.  It’s one of those ‘If I knew then what I know now’ type of questions.

BONUS QUESTIONS

  1. What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?This can be a tough question to answer and one that may require some thought. They will likely stop and think really hard before answering this question.  Not a typical question, but one that is worth its weight in gold – for both of you! 
  1. What activities do you like to do outside of work?  This opens up a tonne of conversation, from travel, to sports, to recreation and more.

Networking and the art of conversation is a journey. Like I said earlier, conversation and networking are like muscles you use in exercising, the more you use them the easier it gets. Have fun and don’t forget to leave your comments. What’s your favorite conversation starter question and why? What’s your biggest challenge in starting conversations?

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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. 

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.

deb7257 (2) (457x640)

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. 

 

What is “A Network”?

Why you need a network and why you should care

First, understand: everyone needs “a network”. The type of network is as individual as the person who creates one, whether it is a personal network or a business network. On any level, however, it is your circle of influence, a group of advisors or mentors. We build networks to create connections and to build relationships.

A network

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Success in any field, but especially in business is about working with people, not against them.”

― Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone

He believes that everything you achieve is WITH or THROUGH your relationships. And that our success is tied to those we know.

You should care whether or not you have a network because it can mean the difference between your success or failure.

Building a network

Start with your immediate need. Do you need a personal network or a business network? What kind of relationships do you need to build and what type of connections do you need to make?

Determine your need first, then define it.

Defining your network

Personal networks would be useful to build if:

  • You moved to a new city and you need to establish your personal connections.
  • Many of your friends have moved away.
  • You wish to have personal connections in new circles of influence.
  • You need a referral base of friends who can help with an apartment, a realtor, a doctor, a lawyer.

Most people already have a good established personal network—it’s your friends; the ones who “have your back”. You can call them for advice or referral to someone you need, like a realtor or doctor, and they are the ones you socialize with. Some contacts may be on the next outward level of connections—parents of your kids’ friends, kids’ coaches, your coach or personal development coach, etc. These are the broader personal contacts.

How big your personal network is and the levels of your network are very individual. You might expand your personal network by joining some groups where you share a similar interest, i.e. photography or running. Or start attending regular events of interest, i.e. opera, symphony, arts or cultural events, sports events. Try clubs with similar interests: wine clubs, book clubs or centres with other age or interest similarities, i.e. community centres, athletic gyms.

Business networks are useful to build if:

  • You have established who your avatar is, your ideal client, and you need to put yourself and your business in front of that demographic.
  • You are establishing a new business and seeking new clients, customers, suppliers or contacts.
  • You are in an existing business and are seeking new clients, customers or contacts.
  • You want to get out from behind your brand and start meeting people face to face.
  • You are looking for a new job.
  • You want to build an advisory team for your business.
  • You recognize the need to get out and meet new people to expand your business.

Many people have a small or reasonably sized business network. If you are looking to expand your business connections, you’ve got to “get out there” and network to meet new people in new businesses and industries.

Networking groups are a great way to increase your connections. Many groups will have their niche, so look at your need first (personal or business). For many people, business networking feels the most daunting and cumbersome, but it doesn’t have to be with a few strategies under your belt.

First look at your ideal client, if you’re not clear on this, networking could prove more challenging. By knowing who you want to meet, you’ve already overcome a major hurdle.

So put yourself out there, get connecting with others to build your personal or business network. The key is consistency in your attendance. Expect to make the commitment to yourself and others to build strong relationships, strong connections, and networks that will serve your needs and the needs of others.

Networking is the Art of Creating Connections AND Building Relationships

deb alcadinhoDeb 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.