At a recent Driving for Profit seminar, hosted by NAL Insurance and KRTS Transportation Specialists, business networking guru Allison Graham shared some insight on how to network effectively at business functions. This is Part 2 of this blog series. Part 1 looked at common networking mistakes. This segment will examine Allison’s “Top Tips.”
By way of introduction, Allison Graham is president of Elevate Seminars and Strategic Development, and author of the book Business Cards to Business Relationships; Building the Ultimate Network. To find out more about Allison or to order her book, visit www.elevatebiz.ca. TOP TIP #1 – BE STRATEGIC: Rather than attending random events hoping to stumble across a good contact, Allison suggested putting some thought into which events will attract the types of contacts you want to meet.
“Ask the questions: Where should I go? Who shall I meet? Be strategic, put yourself in the position to win,” she advised. TOP TIP #2 – CLOSE THE LOOP AND FOLLOW THROUGH: Too often, according to Allison, people leave a networking event with the best intentions of following up with a new contact – however they put it on the back burner and fail to reconnect.
“I guarantee each of you will have a reason to follow up with at least one other person you met today, for some reason,” she told the Driving for Profit audience. “The majority of you will get back to the office, get back into the normal grind and will not follow through with the commitment you made.”
When you’ve made a connection with someone through another contact, go back to them to thank them or provide an update, Allison urged. Also, if you say you’re going to do something with someone – whether it be lunch or a round of golf – make sure you follow through with that as well, she stressed.
“Unless you intend to spend five or six hours with that individual, do not talk about playing golf because each of those (failures to follow up) chips away at your credibility,” she warned. TOP TIP #3 – KNOW THE MINGLING FORMULA: At an industry function, your goal should be to meet as many people as possible, said Allison, so you need to be efficient when it comes to working a room.
Spend a maximum of 10 minutes with each person you meet at a cocktail-type networking function, Allison advised. When approaching a new contact, Allison suggests: Initiating a conversation, getting their contact information and then moving on. It shouldn’t take more than 3-8 minutes per person, she added.
Many people struggle with how to gracefully end a conversation. She said there are three ways to accomplish this: the verbal disengage; the third-party introduction; and the ‘gotta go’ technique.
The verbal disengage involves simply ending the conversation. The magic word for a closing line is ‘well,’ according to Allison. ‘Well, it’s been good chatting with you…” “Well, we’ll have to talk about this again…” ‘Well’ accompanied by a statement is a good closing line, she explained.
The third-party introduction is what Allison termed the “natural mingling dance” that happens at networking events. When you’re speaking to somebody and someone you know comes along, introduce the two of them and then step aside. Allison says this technique only works if you’re in the middle of the action, with many people milling about. “Nobody’s going to come save you if you’re standing in a corner,” she pointed out.
The ‘gotta go’ technique simply involves tell the person you’re speaking with that you have to go to the washroom. But Allison warned to be sure you follow through and actually visit the restroom. “You can only say you gotta go if you really gotta go, because there’s nothing more insulting than somebody saying to you they’ve gotta go to the bathroom and then they go straight to the bar and begin filling up with more liquid!”
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies