Hints for Effective Networking
By Barbara Bergstrom
As you climb to the top of your chosen field and are known as a skilled professional, you must first admit that school is never out.
Conservatively speaking, there are at least five people who want your job. Right now they are gaining experience, educating themselves and searching for the tools necessary to compete with you for your position. Business today is so competitive; we cannot sit back on our laurels and assume we are secure.
Be sure to attend continuing education courses pertaining to your career. Join professional organizations to keep up with the latest trends. Also, become active and well known among your peers. Attend seminars (especially mine) and conventions that provide workshops on numerous subjects.
Take advantage of networking opportunities with the Chamber of Commerce, which provides many speakers, innovators and specialists to help raise your level of community and business involvement.
You will be stimulated and your energy and enthusiasm will be appreciated by upper management as well as your clients.
Networking events come in all shapes and sizes. The "speed networking," get together or the "talk to everyone in 3-minute intervals," event are spin-offs of speed dating. "Business after Hours" has been around forever.
Organizations meet regularly for lunch and specific events labeled "networking" or "meet and greet" and are always publicized for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
For some, these events fill a social need as well as enable you to make specific contacts. A networking opportunity is especially helpful for the start-up businessperson or small business representative. Don't fool yourself, however, into thinking you don't need these events. You will find the movers and shakers in the competitive business arena are at the same events and they are "working the room" as seasoned professionals.
Every time you walk out your door to attend anything, anywhere, realize that you are on your way to a networking opportunity. Prepare yourself with a good supply of business cards, check your wardrobe choice, your accessory choice and make certain you have breath mints.
Prior planning prevents poor performance, these "5P's, will contribute much to your success. Always prepare, in advance, for a conference, a sales meeting, a business meal, a charity event, a networking opportunity and especially a board meeting.
Who is hosting the event and who is sponsoring it? What is its purpose, and who will be there? Know the answers to these questions before you head out the door. The final question: What can you contribute to the event's success?
The following 12 suggestions should be helpful when attending any networking opportunity or event:
• Check your business card supply and make sure your cards are with you even at social or charity events.
• Smiling is contagious so start an epidemic and infect the whole room with yours.
• Shake hands with those you know and introduce them to others. You are the consummate professional.
• Plan ahead of any event and get an idea of who will be there and who you specifically want to meet.
• Look into the person's eyes when you shake hands and say his name. People love to hear their own name. It also helps your remember it.
• See and be seen. Everyone watches the door to see who is coming and who is leaving. When you enter, stop for a moment then step out of the doorway. Get your bearings and head in the direction you want to go. Chin up, good posture, confident stride, rather than wandering around trying to fit in.
• Avoid two people taking together. It is a private conversation and should not be interrupted.
• Recognize your peers. You'll be appreciated as a team player, but don't spend time talking with them. Cultivate those you don't know.
• Never write anything on the back of a business card in front of the presenter. Walk away and make your note privately.
• Do not head for the bar or buffet table. It is counter productive. Eat something before you go.
• Be selective. Don't give your business cards to everyone as if they were flyers at a hardware store opening. It appears pushy and unprofessional.
• Finally - follow-up. Don't send emails or make phone calls to everyone you meet. Be specific. Don't waste your time or theirs.
These few networking tips should be used anytime you are out of your office. Remember, it's not about you, but how you are perceived by others. Be perceived as a thoughtful professional and you'll be surprised how people will seek you out and look forward to doing business with you.
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Barbara Bergstrom is an award-winning trainer, public speaker, author and nationally syndicated columnist with offices in Chicago and Orlando. Her books, Bound For The Boardroom, the Spanish version, Rumbo al Exito Empresarial, and her latest, Don't Forget Your Keys, are the successful businessperson's keys to professionalism. To engage her to speak for your organization, purchase her books or request information, contact her at BarbaraBergstrom@aol.com or at www.BarbaraBergstrom.com.