There's a lot of hype (and deservedly so) about leveraging the Web 2.0 world to build wider social and business networks. I myself have accounts on YouTube, LinkedIn, JumpUp and a few others that have actually been pretty helpful in a number of ways. And I expect these tools will become an even more important way to grow my business network in the years to come. But even as I rely more and more on the web to widen the pool of prospects to draw from, nothing still does the trick like face to face communications.... otherwise known as Business Networking 1.0 style. And no matter how Web 2.0 you go with building your network, you'll always have to do some old fashioned, meet-and-greets, chamber meetings and other forms of "hand-to-hand" networking events. When you do hit the "circuit", please remember these few rules.....
- Don’t Go Into Combat with Out-of-Whack Expectations
If you’re at a networking event, most likely you are there to try to sell yourself, your company and your services to the people you talk with there. Well chances are the people you end up talking to are trying to do the same. So you are trying to sell to someone who is trying to sell to you at the same time. Or maybe you go to an event hoping to connect with the one or two executives with companies you’d love to do business with. Unfortunately fifty other people have targeted the same two people and you may only get a quick “hello” out. You’ve just invested two hours in a thirty second sound bite – and the worst part is your sound bite most likely was sandwiched between others. Does this sound all too familiar?
Hey we’d all like to walk out of every event we attend with a contract in hand, but let’s get real. It doesn’t happen too often, if at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a waste of time. You have to be more realistic and look for opportunities to build relationships with folks who may help you, in time, get business. By attending a few events I met people who have been valuable sources of information that put me on the right path. So money is the obvious measure of how good a networking event is, but don’t discount the importance of information that can lead to cash somewhere down the line.
- Don’t Oversell Yourself
I don’t know about you, but when I meet someone at an event who’s really coming on strong talking about what they’ve done, I do two things. I ask people I know if they’ve ever heard of this person. But the first thing I end up doing is putting them through The Google Test. Because I figure is you’re going to be woofing so hard about what you’ve done in the business world, I better be able to find some of this great work in a search on your name (or company name). And if Google comes up dry, you fail the test, and that pretty much ends my interest in cultivating a business relationship.
- Don’t Equate An Exchange of Business Cards as an Opt-in To Your Newsletters
This one really gets me. I’m not a big business card passer-outer. But when I do hand it over it’s because I had a good conversation and would like to keep an open dialogue going. That means doing a phone call or maybe some back and forth emails. The one thing it absolutely doesn’t mean is that I am giving anyone permission to add me to their email newsletter list. Like everybody else, I already get way too much email and am really looking for ways to cut it down, not add to it. But it never fails that as soon as I hand over the card, before I even get home from the event I’m getting an email newsletter from the person I just met. Please whatever you do, if you do a card exchange with someone after a good conversation, ask if it would be ok to add them to your newsletter list BEFORE you do so. It’s the only humane thing to do…..
- Don’t Have a Messed Up Email Address on Business Cards You’re Handing Out
Some people think I’m picky about this, but part of that first impression you make at an event includes the card exchange. And nothing can ruin the makings of a good impression than a jacked-up email address. No offense to the Hotmails, AOLs and Yahoos! of the world, but if you’re serious about business, get your own domain, even if its just to be able to send out more professional emails. I have a Hotmail address and a GMail account, but I hardly ever pass those out, and I certainly don’t have it on business cards. And please….PLEASE don’t hand me a card with an email address starting with the following:
• BearsFan34@ (especially not after yesterday’s Super Bowl)
These are fine email address for sharing with friends and family, but people you just meet at workshops and conferences can’t be considered your friend. Upon further review, do you really want a stranger you’re trying to impress to know you as SugarDaddy5? I didn’t think so.
- Don’t Forget to Follow Up
I struggle with this one at times. If you meet someone at a networking event who’s interested enough to ask you to send more information their way, try to do so. And if you offer it up, you really better follow through. You just never know what could come from this. Or who may talk about you when you don’t follow through….or who they talk to, as it could be one of those two or three people you wanted to talk to in the first place. It happened to me……