7 Awesome Things You Can Learn from Studying Business Networking!
Do you, like me, love networking? Over the years I have met lots of interesting people and had numerous pleasant conversations. Looking back, I suppose I’ve learnt some very interesting things by being involved and I’d say in studying business networking.
What do I mean by studying business networking? Well, giving thought to how people communicate and interact with each other in a networking environment. What skills you develop, the body language aspects and what ideas it might bring, it’s not only fun and interesting it can give you lots of valuable life lessons too.
Below is my take on the lessons I have learnt during my time business networking.
‘Never judge a book by its cover’ – oh, how true this old saying is and in my early days of networking on a number of occasions I did exactly this, much to my embarrassment and shame. I’m sure you have done it too, we all do at some point. Met someone and perhaps thought I’m not keen on this person, for whatever reason or not really worth me talking to etc. I’m sure on numerous occasions I have made the wrong assumption about someone, rather than the right one. Okay, maybe on occasions I was right, but not in the majority of cases.
Lesson to be learnt, all it takes is to ignore your first impression, keep an open mind and have a conversation.
‘You never get a second chance to create a first impression’ – Again, what another great saying and again so much truth in it don’t you think? Do you create the right impression? It’s all about how you present yourself to the world, and not just how you look or dress, (which of course is important and goes a long way towards creating a good impression!) but maybe more the manner in which you present yourself, or how you want to ‘come across’ to people. If you are a negative person, then usually that’s how you will be perceived and how they will see or think of you. The flip side is, if you are positive person, then the likelihood is that you will be seen as a positive person.
Lesson to be learnt, create the right impression in the way you look and how you present yourself to the world, have a positive outlook on life.
‘Communication must be HOT – That’s Honest, Open and Two-way’ (Dan Oswald)…
I like this saying and I believe good communication is an art and it takes practise to do it properly. Communication skills have got to be one of the biggest factors in succeeding in both business and life. I think to a degree the art of communication like most things can be learnt. If you think how amazing is it that we have language, where we can share ideas, create wonderous things, tell stories etc. Then isn’t it worth trying to do it to the best of your ability. So, in all your communications make sure you are honest, true to yourself, keep your word and be open and remember it’s definitely a two-way process. Which means of course spend more time listening when in a conversation than speaking. Always show interest in what the other person has to say. It’s not just the words that we speak though, it’s also our body language. The eye contact we make, our gestures, our smile, how we walk, posture and the tone of our voice etc. Think about helping others achieve their goals, think about what you can do for them. As the old saying goes ‘what goes around, comes around’. In fact, this is probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt through networking.
Lesson learnt, give people your undivided attention, smile, and when in a conversation spend more time listening than speaking, offer to help them in some way if you can. You will be amazed at the excellent conversations you will have, friends you will make and information and knowledge you will acquire.
Managing your time
Why managing your time and what lessons can be learnt by networking? Well it’s simple basically all you need to do is make sure that you’re not continually running from one networking event to the other. Use your time wisely by planning which events you will attend, when you will attend them and work out if they are going to be of value to you in some way. We can all be ‘busy fools’ going from one thing to another. Know who you are going to speak to by thinking about who might be a referral partner, client or supplier who could benefit you in your business. Apparently, on average you have only around 27,375 days to live. If you calculate your age and multiply by 365 and then subtract 27,375, this gives you an indication of many days you have left! Do the math, it’s quite sobering!
Lesson learnt, prioritise your time, know your goals in life – make sure you keep sight of the important things in life – Don’t waste your days!
This is so important! In fact, it is extremely important! Why important? I realised quite early on in my pursuit of meeting people at different business networking events I had no objectives, no goals. What did this mean? At most events I attended I wasted my time, I didn’t know who I wanted to speak to, who might be a good referral partner, how many people I wanted to meet, why I wanted to meet etc. I’m sure like most people you’ve heard of the set yourself ‘SMART’ goals, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound? This works extremely well for business networking events. Know the kind/type of person, business your looking to connect with, set yourself a target of the number of people, decide if its realistic (don’t try and shove your business card under as many noses as possible!). Can you achieve it? Does the number of people at the event enable you to achieve it, are you being realistic? Finally, timebound, make sure you set a time when you will follow up with people you have met at the event. Ideally the day after the event while it is still fresh in their minds of where they met you when you follow up.
Lesson learnt, if you don’t set goals in your life, then you have no direction. You need a start point and an end point. Set goals for everything you want to achieve, know where you are going in life!
Now I hear you ask why would you include team working in business networking? Simple, if you are part of a good networking group, a group of people who meet on a regular basis, you get to know, like and trust them. These people will work with you to help you meet potential new clients, maybe help you identify opportunities you hadn’t thought of yourself or give you advice or information that will benefit you or your business. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have helped someone and you become a team, working together looking out for each other. If you think about it, being part of something like this means you communicate well, you trust each other and you show commitment. Within a networking group you have diversity, lots of different skills and lots of different capabilities. All of which goes together to make a great team of people, with a common purpose, just to help and support each other.
Lesson learnt, good teams are based on communication, willingness to help and support each other, commitment and diversity of skills all working to a common goal or objective.
Another really useful skill to have for both business and life. Over my many years and lots of time spent at various networking events, I’ve found that being able to present one’s self and your business is vital. Being able to present information clearly and effectively is important in getting your message or opinion across, especially today, these skills are required in almost every field and walk of life. When you are involved in business networking it’s a given that you get your message about you or your business across as succinctly as possible. For example, I am a member of a BNI (Business Networking International) group (which by the way I think is brilliant!) and as part of what you have to do at a meeting is present yourself and your business in sixty seconds. Its, more commonly known as an elevator pitch. This really makes you think carefully about what you want to say within those sixty seconds. You also get the chance every so often to present to the group for ten minutes. Of course, the first few times you do this, it is extremely nerve racking and if you’re not used to it, it takes you completely out of your comfort Zone. A great thing about both the sixty second and the ten-minute presentation is that it helps to improve your confidence when speaking to a large audience and the networking gives you confidence when speaking to individuals. It also teaches you to prepare, plan and organise so that you can present in the best possible way. An excellent way to get your message across is of course to tell stories. People love a story, it keeps you engaged, entertained and makes the message memorable!
Its important to be able to present yourself or your business. In both business and life on occasion you will be called upon to make a presentation of some sort. Show passion about your subject or topic, make eye contact, smile (very important), plan but most importantly tell stories. As human beings we are programmed to respond to good stories!
Call me old fashioned, but I do miss the simplicity of the days when we could just have a good old conversation. As I look around the restaurant I’m sitting in, I’m startled to see that EVERY SINGLE PERSON is silently tapping away on their mobile phones, instead of engaging with the people sitting around their tables. And yes, I realise I myself am tapping away working on this blog post. I’ve also just sent my partner a text message and checked to see if I’ve had an email from my daughter. All this has got me wondering; are we losing the art of conversation? Will people begin to shy away from face to face interaction?
As people in business, we need to ensure that we cling to this dying art with all our might, because even now it’s still the most effective way of gaining new clients. Despite the rapidly growing world of social media, recommendations from people we trust are still the most likely to result in a purchase. And so we need to make sure we keep having conversations, keep building relationships and keep building that trust.
When it comes to attending events, your preparation should include giving some forethought to conversation starters. Questions are always a great way to break the ice and get someone engaged in conversation. Try asking if they have attended these events before, or how they heard about the event. If they are wearing a name badge with their company name, ask them about what they do or what it’s like working for that company. Once you’ve initiated the conversation, the rest usually comes naturally.
So what should you be doing to have a great conversation once you’ve got one started? It’s probably said most often, but listen. And I mean really listen. Most people’s favourite topic is themselves, so by listening, you can ask genuine questions and be interested in what that person has to say. Don’t be tempted to interrupt or try to go one better; the person who is always trying to get “one up” is never popular!
I hope we keep exercising our conversational skills in future; even though we increasingly interact through our mobile devices, I think the world of business (and indeed, the world in general!) still needs us to sit down together and have a good face to face discussion as often as we can.
It would be great to hear your thoughts. Are we losing our conversational abilities? Do mobile devices make the world a smaller place, or make the spaces bigger between us all? How crucial do you believe face to face interaction will be for business going forward?
Having recently attended a very informative presentation on recruitment by Mark Gill of Headway Recruitment, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on this subject.
Hiring and firing is a very powerful position to be in, just look at Alan Sugar! And as they say ‘with great power comes great responsibility'(Voltaire).
If you hire a great candidate, the benefit to your company will be immense whereas hiring the wrong candidate can cost you dearly.
Ok, let me explain……..
The right person for the job, depends on a lot of things such as, suitability for the role, qualifications, experience, commitment, attitude. Even their reason for wanting the job can be an influence as to whether you take them on or not.
For example, on paper a candidate might have all the qualifications you are looking for, but during the interview process it could become apparent that their attitude to work or the reason they applied for the job may not be what you expected.
If you are looking for someone to be part of a team, it is your responsibility to consider the other members of that team and whether the new employee will fit in. Sounds obvious, but if the new team member isn’t a good fit then the original team members might feel intimidated, inadequate, aggrieved, over-looked. Thus putting them on the defensive, struggling to meet targets and generally ‘not wanting to play ball’. This could potentially affect productivity, staff morale, staff turnover, company reputation, amongst other things and this will cost you money in the long run.
You will probably be looking forever to find ‘the perfect candidate’. But hiring the best person you can get will reap huge rewards in the long run. It will also save you having the ‘you’re fired’ conversation too!
Psychometric profiling is a great way to find that piece of the jigsaw to fit perfectly into your team.
This system analyses a combination of aptitude and personality tests that measure job-relevant cognitive abilities and personality. In other words, potential employers can assess your ability through a series of questions and tests. This helps to identify your personality traits.
There are 4 main types of personality, dominance, influencer, conscientious and steadiness. All of which have their own different traits. You can be a combination of two types and generally a good team consists of a mixture of all four.
Some recruitment agencies use this technique to find you the right person for the job and the guys at Headway Recruitment in Leeds and Bradford have over 35 years of recruitment expertise to help guide you through the process of hiring your next employee. So, if you are looking to recruit, give them a call.
Personally, I think the dynamics of a team are crucial to your business, what do you think?
People have many reasons for becoming Self Employed and it’s not always fuelled by a passion to turn a hobby into a money-making venture.
For some it is sheer inspiration, an epiphany, or even a ‘that’s a great idea’ moment. For others it is born out of desperation to earn a living after a life changing event that prevents them continuing with their regular job.
To some extent that’s how it was for me. Although I was in employment, on maternity leave at the time but, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to return to work after the statutory maternity leave.
My daughter was born with severe special needs and as such my days would be filled with hospital appointments and physio sessions. It came as a huge shock to both myself and my husband at the time, even though I didn’t have the best paid job in the world, I did contribute to the household income in some significant way. Mortgage rates were pretty high 10.5% if I remember correctly and the thought of renting property back then was not really an option we wanted to consider.
I had qualifications in the catering and baking industry and started making birthday cakes for friends and family. It was a slow burner but it helped to pay the bills. It wasn’t until my daughter was in slightly better health and of school age that thing took off a little more. Although there were days when she was poorly and couldn’t attend school, I was able to make up the time in an evening. I also had a son who was fit and healthy and I was able to carry on the business during pregnancy and beyond. The business went from strength to strength and I eventually got the opportunity to open a shop. Turnover increased 3-fold that first year and the buzz I got from that made it all worthwhile.
Now I’m not saying that being your own boss doesn’t come at a cost, check out the pros and cons here. There are the early morning deliveries, the cantankerous customers, the strain on family life, the bills to pay and the books to balance, there are also the constant stream of emails to answer and the vain attempt on my part to keep up with the latest social media posts! But what I am saying is that there is a very rewarding sense of achievement and satisfaction when you do balance those books, when customers are delighted with your product or service and when you look at what you have accomplished at the end of the day and say ‘yes, I did that!’
So, what started as a life changer for me definitely turned out to be a chapter in my life that I wouldn’t change!
I recently went to a very interesting presentation about video and its use in business; it got me thinking how video has changed dramatically since the early days of VHS recorders.
Those of us old enough to remember will recall the excitement of a family member bringing home the video cassette from the local video rental shop and all sitting down to watch it from end to end. If you missed a bit, you had to try to locate it by fast forwarding or rewinding to the appropriate part; not easy, if I remember correctly!
Nowadays, of course, video is much easier and much more readily available. Video is everywhere; Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and many more social media platforms.
But how can that help your business?
Video is a very effective form of communication and can say such a lot in a short space of time. If you feature in it yourself, potential customers can see you, hear you and make a decision on whether or not to trust you and do business with you based on a 2 minute clip.
So think carefully about what you want to say and who you want to say it to. Video is very powerful and should be an important part of your communication. When used in conjunction with other marketing tools, video will enhance your overall marketing strategy.
Fact: – Our brains process visual information 60 times faster than text alone.
So how does video help with SEO?
YouTube can be used as a search engine for information and as such, if you have a short video on it, then it can be shared and searched for just like your website can on Google. YouTube is the second largest search engine and is owned by Google.
Google analytics are helped by the viewing of video on your website. The main aim is to build links and generate social shares, so your content needs to be something that people will want to watch and share. If your video is being shared and actively searched for then you will obviously be getting more coverage.
Google cares more about your page’s content than whether you’ve optimised each individual page on your site. If the page answers the question asked by the searcher, then that will get a better ranking. You need great content that your audience can engage with to improve your Google ranking.
Short videos can feature things like testimonials, products or service explanations, seminars or events, meet the team, training, hints and tips or news. All of these, if done well, will be useful additions to your marketing strategy.
It can easily be done on your smart phone or you can go for a more professional approach, using a company like Thunder and Lightning films, have a chat with Paul Morricone. After all, this is promoting your business so a great representation would be having a video on your homepage that acts as your shop window. Either way will increase your SEO and boost your business in varying degrees.
Try it out; you never know, you might go viral!
During my many years of networking I have discussed this with lots of people. I too suffered the fear of networking. My very first experience of networking was at a BNI (Business Networking International) meeting. Luckily the group hadn’t launched and so was in its early core stage. Having said that, for the first time in my life I had to walk into a room full of twenty plus business people who I had never met, unsure of how to strike up a conversation and not having a clue as to what I might say. Added to this was the daunting prospect of standing up in front of all these people and giving a 60 second presentation about me and my new business venture. Trust me, if I could have run away, I would have. Looking back now I think, how ridiculous; why should I have been so afraid of basically holding a conversation? I had been quite successfully holding conversations at that point so far all my life!
Why is networking perceived to be so daunting? I suppose, looking back, some of my fears were probably due to lack of confidence, not feeling prepared and thinking would I make a fool of myself. But I am not alone; I have had conversations, good conversations with people who at the very mention of networking turn into ‘gibbering wrecks’ saying things like ‘oh I couldn’t network, I would be uncomfortable and wouldn’t know what to say’. They are seemingly oblivious to the fact that they have just spoken to me none stop for ten minutes.
So, what are some of the common fears I have come across?
- People worry they may say the wrong thing.
- They think no one will want to talk to them.
- Panic that they could run out of things to say.
- They have not prepared properly for the event or meeting.
- Afraid to start a conversation.
- Afraid to move around the room and talk to different people.
- Unsure of who to approach or how to approach to initiate conversation.
Do all these sound familiar? Have you experienced similar feelings or know people who have? I think during my first few ‘fleeting footsteps’ into networking, I felt all these things and probably more besides.
As far as I am concerned the best way to overcome all these things is to just go out there and do it. The thing that helped me the most and improved my confidence, was preparation. The old military adage of ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’ comes to mind and its true. Have an idea about what you want to say. Have a number of back up topics to aid with conversation should you feel it’s starting to dry up. One of the most important things you can do is to ask questions and to find out about the person you are speaking to, be interested in what they have to say, listen and talk about them more than talking about you! At In Business we will help you overcome those fears in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, why not give it a go?
What was your first experience of networking like? How did it effect you? How did it make you feel? What did you do to overcome your fears?
People often shy away from networking, believing they lack the confidence to approach someone and strike up conversation, they can’t see how it is relevant for their business, or that they don’t want the added pressure of passing a particular number of referrals every week. But actually, business networking is all about making connections to build lasting and mutually beneficial relationships. It’s about meeting people who can help expand your sphere of influence and knowledge within the business world. And yes, some people are natural networkers while others need a little push in the right direction, but everyone has the ability to network and everyone has the ability to do it well.
The old idea of, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” doesn’t really apply to networking either. If you think about it, it’s not just about who you know, it’s more about who knows you. If you were to need help with something, you ask the expert, and that is who you need to be to others; the go-to-guy, the expert in your field. By using every opportunity you can to network, you are helping your business to get noticed and ensuring that you are at the forefront of people’s minds.
You can’t actually build a successful business on your own. No, not even you, self-employed-start-up-one-man-band business! Networking is like having promoters for your business without having them on the payroll. After all, 92% of buyers trust referrals from people they know over other forms of advertising, and are four times more likely to buy [Neilsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Report]. How much is that worth to you and your business?