Tag Archives: networking

And what do you do?

handshake4  In this age of Networking, there are many versions of how a person should introduce themselves.

Some Networking groups (Breakfast meetings, typically) start with a round robin, with everyone given between 60 and 120 seconds to make what they call their “Elevator Pitch.”

This is fundamentally flawed thinking for two reasons. First, when someone asks the standard question, “What do you do?” they are unlikely to be prepared to listen to such a long answer.

Secondly, the word “pitch” implies asking for business – even before getting to know the other person. And that is unpopular anywhere east of the Atlantic ocean.

The correct term is “Elevator Speech”.  It’s a mini (persuasive) speech.

The name derives from the hypothetical situation in which you meet a potential business contact in a lift, and s/he asks you, “What do you do?”

You have as long as it takes for the lift to go from the ground floor to the first floor (15-20 seconds) to say something that prompts the other person to say, “Tell me more.”

Most people reply with a label: I’m a Surveyor / Marketing Manager / Shipping Clerk / Sales Consultant / whatever.

Wrong! And a wasted opportunity. Your job title is unlikely to encourage anyone to say, “Tell me more.”

The other day I went on a discussion forum where an American was guiding his readers in how to construct and deliver an Elevator Speech. He got it badly wrong.

He recommended saying, “People hire me to …” in order to communicate that you are only interested in those who would pay you.

He advised against saying, “I help people to …” because that does not signal the need to pay for your expertise. In his opinion.

My response was to say, “The Elevator Speech needs to follow the rules of selling”, so the model I follow is:

  1. Establish a need
  2. Explain the consequence
  3. Offer a solution

Here’s one of my Elevator Speeches:

  • You know how some people are scared stiff of public speaking? (Did you nod?)
  • And others make presentations that are really boring? (Did you nod?)
  • Which means that they don’t make the impact they would like to make. (Consequence)
  • Well, what I do is to help them speak in public without fear, and in a way that makes others want to listen. (Solution)

Try constructing your own Elevator Speech, along those lines. It will help you to focus on your own added value, and what you bring to the table.

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Under the influence of Networks

Online networking has enabled us to communicate with more people than previously, and brought us under the influence of more streams of thought. However, having been a boarder at school and university, I sense a similar kind of influence in the dialogues that take place, the influence of the noisy.

In the early days of my working life I encountered a rotation of colleagues who brought with them their varied life experiences, attitudes and beliefs. In the pub we would opine, debate, and even bore one another, adjusting the thrust of our arguments according to our needs to impress or keep the peace. In the process, I for one learned much, and it was relatively easy to fit in or not.

Since becoming a solo-preneur, I have not had the same opportunities to share experiences with as many people as before, or in the same way. I turned to networking to make up the difference.

Breakfast and lunch networks have not appealed, because I was not comfortable with weekly commitments to be with the same small bunch of people, only a minority of whom might be on my wavelength. Sharing those concerns with others at the meetings I have attended, I realised that I was not alone in my views, although others felt it would be politically incorrect to say such things.

I looked at online networking, not just the groups I had joined, but several other groups as well. The patterns were fairly consistent. In most groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, Sunzu and elsewhere there seemed to be two bands of members: those who joined but were not very active, probably because they were fully engaged in their own working environments, and those who needed the network for their interactions.

The latter group is much the smaller of the two, and contains a hard core of vociferous members who dominate the forums. An even smaller number of that group will be found active in more than one platform.

Let me stress, at this point, that my research has not been scientifically conducted, and this is a subjective impression. What I have found (felt?) is a tendency for a certain set of values, attitudes and practices to dominate, in much the same way as occurred in my days as a boarder, driven by the active few.

No surprises there, as group dynamics are pretty much the same anywhere. But it is worth being aware that the ideas, attitudes and influences in those network forums are largely those of the noisiest members. We could find ourselves influenced by a small number of people whose ‘norms’ may not be universal.

It may explain why some people prefer to stay out of forum discussions, and others avoid online networking altogether. So what’s the answer? Clearly no one can be prescriptive, and market forces will determine which networks succeed, but I like the idea of a collaborative network, where ideas and information are shared for mutual support, in a non-combative way.

That would be a good influence.

 

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Over-exposure is a nuisance

On the timeline of one of my social media networks, one person has 30 (almost consecutive) posts, each with that person’s photograph. Another person has 11 such posts on the same page. Scrolling down the page I am faced with seemingly endless exposure to those two people.

My initial two reactions were (a) too much and (b) not the best choice of photos.

I’ve noticed a number of people adopting the strategy of multiple posts to bring themselves to the notice of their contacts. The fundamental weakness in this approach is that each post carries a link to a website elsewhere. Effectively they are saying, “Go somewhere else and read what someone else has written.”

But will that gain them the reputation as a source of interesting material? Hardly. Who has the time or the inclination to explore 30 suggested sites just to find an article of interest?

It actually diminishes the person’s credibility. He or she is seen as someone who is simply spraying out a random collection of links for the sake of attention. He or she has no obvious connection with the recommended articles. The term ‘content farmer’ springs to mind.

Let me now turn to the photographs. I’m not sure how some people choose their profile pics. Do they ever get feedback from trusted friends? Every headshot makes a statement – ask John Cassidy. There’s strong body language in the pose. And we are not always the best judges of our own photographs.

The two in question are OK as single images, which serve merely as identifiers. But when there are 11 or 30 of the same images in a row, you start to form an opinion about the people themselves. That’s when the choice of photo becomes relevant, and when it’s advisable to get feedback from trusted friends.

Once you alienate people through over-exposure of this kind, they will automatically dismiss anything you post in future. It’s overkill.

It amounts to being a nuisance.

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10 Tips for Networking

Many books have been written about how to Network, and they are all great.

However, if you are looking for a quick guide, here are 10 of the most important points to bear in mind and apply.

1. Who are you? You need to know what you bring to the party, and the benefit you can bring to anyone you meet. So develop an Elevator Speech to focus on the one or two benefits you can offer.

2. Your own database. Develop a database of related contacts who would be of interest to one another. For example, if you were creating a database of people who could help with household matters, the list would include a plumber, electrician, builder, etc. The same is true of other areas of business – who would be useful in your chosen area of concern?

3. How others can help you. You must articulate how others can help you, because you will sometimes be asked, ‘What can I do for you’ What help do you need? Think it through NOW, not on the hoof. It will also help to guide your choice of contacts: what kind of people do you need to meet to progress your career/search?

4. Open-ended questions. When you meet someone new, avoid asking questions that produce yes/no answers. Ask open-ended questions, such as ‘What kind of people do you work with?’ which will result in a meaningful conversation.

5. Maintain visibility . If you want to Network, you need to be seen and heard, and that means going to meetings and events where the people you want to meet will also be found. Always prepare something interesting to say in case you are given the opportunity to tell the gathering about yourself and your work.

6. Giving referrals. Develop a discipline for giving referrals. Do not make useless introductions that lead nowhere. Only refer people from your own database or circle if you are confident the connection is a good one. Remember, if you recommend someone as an expert, and your contact is not really that expert, s/he can lose face, and you will lose your credibility as a useful source.

7. Prompt follow-up . If someone refers you and you receive an enquiry (‘I was given your name by a mutual friend ?’) make sure you respond very promptly, otherwise both you and your friend will lose credibility.

8. Formal thanks. When you receive a referral (‘I was given your name by a mutual friend ?’), WRITE your thanks as soon as possible after you have met the contact, and tell your friend how it went. Otherwise your friends will stop recommending you.

9. Following up new contacts . When you meet someone interesting or useful at an event, and exchange cards or other contact information, make sure you follow up promptly, with a reminder of who you are and what you do. Never expect that others will remember you for ever and a day.

10. Be a useful source. At Networking events or other business gatherings, always ask, ‘What do you need – who do you need to meet?’ Above all, do not look for personal gain. Don’t treat each new contact as a possible source of business. If you are helpful to others, you will get all the business and help you need.

Finally, some guidance on mechanics:

* At a networking event, when you make eye contact with someone new, hold that eye contact, smile, offer your hand and introduce yourself.

* Always have business cards and/or a small notebook in which to write the contact details of someone who has no cards.

* When exchanging cards, treat both with respect.

* Write on the cards you receive, where you met and the date (but first ask permission to write on the card, and avoid writing on the card if the other person is Oriental)

* As you part, ask, ‘May I email you’.

Remember, Networking is about sharing and enhancing your common interests, and adding something useful to other people.

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