Networking at seminars – the top 3 do’s and don’ts

 

I’ve had the privilege of networking with speakers at events and actually speaking at events. I’ve found interesting differences in the way people go about it. This blog is how to build engagement with your target market and how to avoid putting them off.

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Networking at seminars

I always recommend getting there early and leaving later than most, the trick is not to outstay your welcome. Getting there early gives you the opportunity to spend time with the hosts before they get inundated with arrivals. Staying late means you can catch some time with the speaker because they usually hang around when they’ve finished and they’re, typically, less stressed (and more open to chat) when their stint has finished. No matter how many times I present, I’m always nervous. Yet I’ve picked up techniques that mean I’m fine as soon as I get going.

In the meantime, you can mingle with fellow delegates which is a lot easier if you have had the chance to see who is attending. The hosts will happily point you out to people as they arrive. It allows them to move people into the event, which is their main concern when a bunch of people arrive at the same time. That nearly always happens so get there early, avoid the rush and and relax whilst people you want to meet are introduced to you.

Do’s

As well as the above, you can take a sneaky peek at the list of attendees. If their badges are laid out across the table at the entrance, a quick scan will reveal people you know or might want to meet. You can maximise your time if you have a few focused conversations.

However, please do have random conversations with people that you don’t know because the seminar is something that you have in common. You can break the ice with the subject matter and ask how they got interested in it. Don’t forget to ensure they warm to you by focussing on them in the first instance.

Don’ts

The main thing is to avoid the hard sell. If you’re in general conversation, keep it that way. People just can’t help asking what you do, even if it is because they want to find out if they could be a useful provider for you. Don’t tell them what you are (an astronaut), tell them what you do (further the existence of mankind). People want to be interested and intrigued. If they are turned off by what you do, don’t get disheartened. There are other people that want what you have to offer. Don’t miss an opportunity when you are asked, make it compelling. And please don’t forget to follow up with those that are interested. It might not be them that needs your help yet they may be interested because you can add value to their network. And that goes a very long way in times when trust is thin on the ground.

Example of a classic faux pas

Imagine you are a host or speaker at an event. You have arranged a successful event or overcame the nerves and presented very well. The audience are happy and fill in the feedback forms. Some are even asking you to follow up because they are interested in finding out if what you do will work for them. Now imagine one of them approaches you and tells you how brilliant their services would be for your clients. Naturally, you will ask what they do. And off they go, into a lengthy spiel that makes you hope that someone interrupts.

The disappointment would kick in when you realise that the sole reason they attended was to turn you into an introducer. They have no interest in your service, which is why they turned up late and they offer you an introducers fee before anything else. It dawns on you that they have taken the seat of someone who wanted to attend. Someone that could of become a paying client and reward you for the effort you made in staging the event. Instead you have been offered the chance of becoming a “salesperson” for someone else. It wouldn’t feel great. So please, don’t do that.

Wrap Up: Seminars and exhibitions are great places to network – turn a social conversation into something tangible for business. Apart from the 5 questions in our free downloads, you can talk about the event and reasons for being there.

Top Tip: You don’t have to get there early or stay late. When time is of the essence you should aim to do less networking and spend more time at each event that you attend.

Jason Cobine, The Networking Economist – Building Profitable Networks

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The Ultimate business compliment or desperate Networking?

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First Impressions

This article is about people messing up their first impression with online antics. There are alternatives so read on to discover how to avoid wasting time online.

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Following up

Having met Dan I felt comfortable connecting with him on LinkedIn. This was in the days when discussions were common in LinkedIn groups and they didn’t all end up following Godwin’s Law.

It’s a great way to build rapport and then a mutually convenient business relationship.  So I was very surprised to receive a direct LinkedIn message saying “We have been connected for a while now and I’m wondering when you are going to send some business my way………my services are detailed on my profile”. I thought Dan might have hit the “email all my contacts with a template message” button. So I left it at that.

God loves a trier, apparently

A week or so later I received another message. It explained that “it seems pointless us being connected unless we had done any business together”.

It went on “If you don’t send me some work in the next 2 weeks I will sever our connection.” I assumed Dan meant on LinkedIn – surely he wasn’t going to send the boys around? I severed our LinkedIn connection in about 5 seconds.

What should I have done?

I should have sent him an email telling him about the time that other people had wasted on LinkedIn, before they asked us to help them, plus their testimonials.

Or perhaps stayed connected out of intrigue?

Yet those would be a waste of my time.

Because I am not Dan’s salesperson and he may never realise that.

I am on LinkedIn so people that I have met or connected with can work together when the time is right. Quite often I am one of the people that gets work out of these relationships. That’s not because I’m “doing a Dan”. It’s because my network was built with a purpose and is choc-full of people that will probably, sooner (want) or later (need), the services I provide, or they have relationships with lots of people that do.

Wrap up; Dan should have spent his time advertising. Which you can actually do on LinkedIn. Even if someone desperately needed Dan’s services it’s impossible for me to connect him.

Top tip; The ultimate compliment in business is not an award. It is someone having enough trust in you that they are confident to introduce you to someone you can work with.

 

Jason Cobine
The Networking Economist
Building Profitable Networks

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How many people just don’t get it?

This article is about people feigning interest in what you have to offer, which is accompanied by the undeniable feeling that not enough people want your expertise. Ruth provided us with a wonderful testimonial* and here’s why.

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Speednetworking sharpens your knife

I met Ruth at an exhibition, which had a half hour speednetworking session. You have to get to the point quickly when time is so short. We both participated. Until then, Ruth hadn’t actually realised that her networking strategy had been unproductive yet had felt that nagging doubt that, when people smiled and made polite comments when she told them what she did, ultimately they had no idea just how beneficial Ruth’s business could be to their lives. One nagging doubt and many missed opportunities.

Ruth had been telling people what she did and no-one was taking any significant notice. There had been follow up cups of tea with some, further meetings with others. Yet the inevitable had happened. People had unsuccessfully tried to sell to, or build a strategic partnership with, each other after meeting at a networking event…repeat ad infinitum. It’s a very  common strategy yet I don’t think it’s adopted on purpose. It’s the strategy that befalls everyone who hasn’t designed their own. Let’s call it networking auto-pilot.

What’s in it for me?

Like most people Ruth had been telling those that asked “what do you do” about her role. Nearly everyone does that…..partly because “networking” businesses encourage them to. And partly because nearly everyone does it, networking auto pilot again.  Yet it’s not even answering the question. Hardly anyone tells the enquirer what they do. Never mind enlightening the enquirer about what they might find useful in the “I do this” box. Auto pilot ensures the answer is more about the role than the ultimate purpose of that role.

People don’t really want to know what you do. They really want to know what you do that will benefit them…..or their family, friends, colleagues. Their network. Hard and soft benefits are useful because hardly anyone I have met does only one thing for one person. Most people provide hard tangible benefits and the vast majority provide additional soft intangible benefits. I’m open to challenges on that point. So test me out by making a comment below if you think there is a role out there that involves doing only one thing.

Hard benefits, Soft Benefits or no benefits?

Hard and soft benefits allow you to capture the interest of people that need different things. Ruth can now say one simple sentence to two, or more people, at the same time and have them both want to pay her for different things.

Ruth can mix it up too. Because no-one does one thing and some are enormously skilled, how you answer the “do” question can vary depending on who is listening. An FD will have different goals from a HR Director. Telling the FD what the HR Director needs to hear will leave her thinking that she doesn’t need what you offer. Yet the HR Director will fall over himself to get his hands on what you offer. Because nobody else has offered him what you have. Not even his current supplier who are competing with you for pounds that could be in your sales figures. Additionally, Ruth has a handful of things she could say to different people. Whilst Ruth can’t help the World, she can say specific things that grab the attention and the interest of the right people.

So organising your networking is partly about saying compelling things to people that need your services. And then following up with those that paid proper attention or were actually interested.

This doesn’t waste time like those that are telling people what their role is called and following up on an all or nothing basis.

Perhaps you’ve wondered why inferior providers are getting the deals you deserve?

Maybe those that get the most from your services don’t “get it” when you first talk to them?

Annoyed that exhibitions have proved a waste of time?

Worried that your team are networking yet their follow up is not working?

We deal with these concerns, and others about networking, on a weekly basis.

*”Jason helped me to make my networking time more productive. He allowed me to understand the ‘hard and soft benefits’ that my clients achieve when working with me. Following my training session, I was able to implement a workable follow- up system to separate contacts from exhibitions and networking meetings into different groups. This advice has been invaluable.”

Top tip: When people ask you what you do, articulate what you that is good for them.

Wrap up: Not everyone wants what you do, yet nearly everyone knows someone that does.

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What happens if you don’t feedback?

It’s not unusual for me to find myself at a “networking” event sitting in a “round table” discussion with other business owners. The discussion usually heads towards hurdles that seem to dissolve as we discuss….making way for more hurdles on the horizon.

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Problem solved?

All 8 participants had developed profitable businesses that employ great people, yet one particular hurdle was said to be the speciality of a certain person, known to us all. Stuart dived in and stated that he couldn’t agree that the problem would be solved if it was referred to said individual. His reason?

Not that Poppy had messed up royally. Not even a disputes over the quality of the work or the amount invoiced for it. It was a lot easier to resolve than those reputation killers.

Follow up

Stuart was clear that his person was not to be trusted. Yet all that had been done, or not, was a failure to reply or update her connector. A simple task, probably a 1 line email, a quick text or a voicemail would have kept Stuart in the know. That’s all he wanted, not a fancy lunch or introducer’s commission. Just an update.

We all know that this makes sense and there is no doubt there is someone out there that I have failed to keep informed. Yet I use computers and their like to remind me because that works for me…the vast majority of the time. Stuart reminded me how important it is to keep it simple. Keep in touch with those that recommend you because they already have everything they need to recommend you again.

Earning trust

Poppy has no idea what went on when she wasn’t in the room. Neither can you when you cannot be there. Yet you can control what is said about you. I actually really like Poppy, I think she is vibrant and honest and warm….yet I now need more proof before I can introduce her with confidence.

That proof can be a new recommendation or customer testimonial Poppy shares with her network. Or someone else saying that Poppy went the extra mile for a client. I hope she does.

Top tip: When shared, most experiences reveal that someone has already overcome this hurdle. And knows what not to do next. Some unnecessary hurdles can be negotiated by referring to the right people.

Wrap up: You’ve heard about online reputation management. What about offline reputation management?

 

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The Black Hole of LinkedIn

You may not be connected to people that message you on LinkedIn. Before you decide that invading inboxes uninvited would be a great idea for your business, read this article about publishing and “mini-publishing” when online.

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LinkedIn email traffic is cloaked with spam messages

There seem to be far more ways to get to me than there used to be. I am surprised by the number of email from people or entities I have no interest in that land in my inbox. It seems that this is the price to pay for Publishing content, you are not the only one with a send button.

A recent development has taken me by surprise. I’m not upset when LinkedIn released a new feature allowing people or companies to spread their word. I’m allowed to use the technology too. What did surprise me was that, when I clicked to announce my interest in a service, I was tipped into a black hole.

We don’t know what we’re doing 

Thinking it was a mistake or a broken link I visited the website of the company and contacted them. I then get a message from someone who has no idea who, or what part of their organisation, actually had placed the message.

That is maddening. I find a gem in amongst many irrelevant rocks and I have to throw it away. The company that got me clicking are well known to me. In fact, I value what they have to offer. Yet I’m annoyed at them now. I am left with the impression that their service is not slick and their ability, never mind their willingness, to attend to issues that crop up is non-existent.

Blanding, not branding

It reminded me of an article I wrote titled “what are you doing to your brand on LinkedIn”. Not the snappiest title ever. It was about arguments that people get into when discussing bland subjects. The arguments will never go away even though discussions in some groups are dwindling. This is because some people have always wanted to publish, yet LinkedIn had no such mechanism, so they used discussions to get their point across.

Now LinkedIn let’s them publish almost anything they want, they no longer need the veneer of a discussion so they won’t get the feedback that illuminated discussions. One point I would like to make about Publishing on LinkedIn is a correction of a point of view I held previously. They have confirmed that whatever you publish is yours when I initially thought LinkedIn owned it. Which is good news if the audience decide it is relevant and bad news if it’s bland. Your messages are mini-publications too. So listen up for constructive feedback.

Wrap Up; I do recommend that you share things on LinkedIn and take advantage of it’s many features. Yet if you do get people to click, make sure they can get in touch easily. Publishing may be a facility that isn’t around forever yet it has proved popular so it may become an application they charge for.

Top Tip; If you are going to publish on the internet, why not publish a blog on your own website and tell your LinkedIn contacts that you have taken the plunge?

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