Sunday, April 29, 2012

Breaking into Conversations

Have you ever wanted to speak with someone at an event, but they always seemed to be occupied with other people? You circle around, stand patiently, and speak with other attendees to keep yourself occupied until your intended contact becomes available.

Of course there is considerable tension as you attempt to be considerate. You don’t want to barge in and interrupt as this would likely challenge your fledgling relationship. At the same time, not meeting this valuable contact would be a significant opportunity lost.

So what to you do? Here are few tactics that you can adjust to fit the exact circumstances at a specific event:

  • Big Brother - Ask the host or a group leader to introduce may be easier for them to get the attention of the person who you want to meet
  • Gentle Elbow In - Pass the person you want to meet your card and apologize for interrupting, but let them know that you’d love to chat with them when they’re done
  • Last Resort - Make a note to call them in the your call reference that you were at the same event and that you’d like to learn more about them

However you break in the key is to be courteous and sensitive to the agenda of both your intended contact and the person with whom they are speaking.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guilty as Charged...The Hazards of Premature Discrimination

Figuring out whom to spend time with is one of the most difficult challenges in networking.  We attend events. Maybe we have even had a chance to review the projected attendee list before the event. We look for intriguing company names and people of note. When we get to the event we survey the name tags as we walk through the room and evaluate people’s appearance in the hopes of eliciting a clue as to who to meet. Ultimately, these superficial indicators prove not to be very valuable and we walk right by some of our most valuable connections.

This is the final of three posts that focus on exploring the three most dysfunctional personality types who attend networking events. Not only do we need to be aware of these personalities, but we also must have a plan as to how to deal with them. It is important that these personalities not distract you from your ultimate goal.

While we may not be a bottom feeder or a wander or clinger the personalities profiled in the first two posts of this series, chances are each of us has been a premature discriminator. While some discrimination is important as it allows us to focus our relationship building efforts, premature discrimination causes us to miss some of the most valuable relationships because we “judged the book by its cover.”

So let’s put the shoe on the other foot to see how limiting our choices have been. Would it be fair for someone walking past you at an event to choose not to introduce them self based on your name tag or appearance? Would they be able to tell about your vast background in a variety of industries? Would they know all of the positions that you’ve held or who you are connected to by your name tag? Would they know who you’re married to, who your parents are or who your best friend from high school is? OF COURSE NOT AND NOT MEETING YOU WOULD BE THEIR LOSS!

You can definitely improve your ability to connect to the right people at events by reviewing the projected attendee list and scanning the name badges at the check-in table. Get to the next level of key contacts by using these tactics:

  • Ask the host or tenured members who you should meet - be prepared to guide them if needed, but you may find it best not to limit their thinking
  • Ask your most valuable contacts in the group who else you should meet - these contacts know you and they have a better level of intimacy with some key people in the group who you should meet
  • Make it a habit to introduce yourself to and learn about at least a couple of people at each event who you normally would have by-passed - expanding your comfort zone as well as your perspective is vitally important to your networking success

These tips are geared to help you leverage the knowledge and relationships of the people who you know to help you continue to build a more vibrant and effective network. Look beyond the name tag and appearance. See the person and their rich background.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Navigating Through the Wanders and Clingers...

Have you ever met someone at a networking event who seems to have no purpose? They wander around talking only to their friends. Even worse they somehow get attached to talking with you and it becomes difficult to separate from them. Welcome to the world of wanderers and clingers. Getting stuck with on of these often affable individuals can waste an incredible amount of time.

This is the second of a short series of posts that will focus on exploring the three most dysfunctional personality types who attend networking events. Not only do we need to be aware of these personalities, but we also have to have a plan as to how to deal with them. It is important that these personalities not distract you from your ultimate goal.

Like a ship avoiding flotsam and jetsam, bypassing wanderers and clingers takes successful navigation. Here are some tactics that you may find useful:

  • Be clear in your objectives at each event - remember, know who you want to meet by name or discipline before you enter the room...this will keep you on the right course, focused and productive.
  • When you’re talking to a wanderer or is sometimes unavoidable...ask them, “Who are you hoping to meet at this event?” Chances are they won’t be able to answer the question and you’ll be able to move on without much damage. Additionally, some of your focus may rub off on them and they’ll be better prepared for the next event.
  • This one is a bit tricky, but if you network long enough you see this opportunity arise. Attempt this with great care. You’ve found yourself cornered by a clinger and you’ve learned enough about them to break the conversation and introduce them to another wander or clinger who they would benefit from knowing. Done right you will likely make a very good match as not only have you introduced two people with some common ground, but also they are moving at a similar speed.

Like last weeks discussion of bottom feeders, most wandering and clinging is unintended. These are good people who have become lazy. Guide them, coach them, and connect them with the host for mentoring. Then get right back to meeting the key people who you intended.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Beware the Bottom Feeders...

Business networking has a variety of interesting and dysfunctional personalities that can distract you from your ultimate goal. Not only do we need to be aware of these personalities, but we also have to have a plan as to how to deal with them. Over the next couple of installments we’ll explore this topic.

So what is a bottom feeder? A bottom feeder is someone who uninvited tries to sell you their products or services at a networking event. Often they’ll begin by asking you qualifying questions to see if you are a prospect for their product or service? The worst of these bottom feeders don’t even qualify you they just start selling. Some can be fairly aggressive and they may attempt to corner you and sell their wares. When they find out that you’re not a prospect they move on quickly to the next target.

These bottom dwellers can leave a path of carnage as they disenfranchise event participants. The most important word that you need to learn here is “NO.” You have the power and the obligation to everyone in your network to stop bottom feeders. Say “NO” early and often and they’ll get the message.

Response suggestions:

  • Fundamental - “No, I am not interested in your product or service”
  • Advanced - “No, the purpose of this group is to network not sell. Should I introduce you to the host who will acquaint you with networking fundamentals?”

We can not network in a vacuum. The best networks are strong communities of like minded people. The networking eco-system requires strong leadership and integrity from each of us.

Most bottom feeding is unintended. They are often good people who have become lazy. Guide them, coach them, and connect them with the host for mentoring and you will build the powerful stream that you intend.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Networking Etiquette - Who Have You Been a Jerk too?

It’s not really a question of if, but when. When have you been a networking jerk? It might have been a simple unreturned phone call, an unintentionally unfulfilled promise, an attempt to sell someone when networking, a misunderstanding, or dominating someone’s time at an event. If you don't think that you've been a could be one of the worst offenders.

Whatever your transgression, the long-term cost of being a jerk can be significant. Like throwing a boomerang that will eventually return, a key component of effective networking is to model yourself as the person who you would like to meet.

Have you ever had someone who you helped or that you were kind to become a customer, an advocate, or a great source of information and relationships? Sure you have. Since none of us has a crystal ball to know what challenges and opportunities lie ahead and who will be a key contact at any given moment, treating everyone that you network with great care is essential.

Each of has many competing priorities so the expectation isn’t perfection, but continuous effort and improvement. Your benefits in the networking eco-system are directly proportional to your investments.