is essential to success. Why? People like to do business with
people they know. If they remember you, if you're a "familiar
face," you have a better chance to make a sale, get yourself
hired or at least have your sales pitch heard.
not easy. We're not supposed to speak to strangers. Isn't it
impolite to walk up to people we don't know and start talking?
But, look around you at the next industry reception or trade
show. Those who wait for others to come to them are found in
the corners of the room, holding up the walls and looking enviously
at those who glide around the gathering, meeting people. Guess
who's going to get more business in the future!
have a word for it: shmoozing. The soft edges of the word, borrowed
from Yiddish, emphasize the fuzzy nature of the concept that
encompasses many networking behaviors from introducing yourself
to a potential client to sending someone you've met at a trade
show a "thank you" note for spending time with you.
Networking is sharing advice and information, it's a way to
gain support and build business.
know you need to do more of it. So, steel yourself and pledge
to attend the next networking opportunity that comes your way
— a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, a Rotary gathering, or even
your high school reunion. Then, do advance preparation. Here
are some ideas:
a 7-9 second self-introduction
.keyed to the event.
a local newspaper, a national newspaper, appropriate professional
journals for conversational contributions.
a firm, handshake as a greeting ( jellyfish need not apply).
the time for pleasantries. Small talk is important... it leads
to big talk, big business and best friends. If you can make
others feel comfortable, you're ahead of the game.
plenty of business cards, readily accessible, and give them
to everyone you meet. Not only will they know exactly what
your name is, but how to reach you later.
of that self-introduction as a personal mini-mission statement.
If you've thought it out, you won't be tongue-tied at first
impression. Nobody knows your work better than you do, so don't
be bashful about promoting your business in conversations with
is a natural and enjoyable human activity, to be sure. But,
it works even better with just a little attention and planning.
The point of all this is not to show how much smarter or well-read
you are than the person you're talking to. It's practical: both
life and work flow more smoothly when we are comfortable with
conversation and know how to make others feel comfortable talking
ahead and pick a few topics to talk about. What happened during
the latest tennis tournament or golf match? Is there a new four-lane
bypass planned? When will the rains come? The local news headlines,
current trends in your industry, even the weather conditions
outside are easier to talk about with advance preparation.
"big talk" — the future of United States involvement in Iraq,
the spread of AIDS or a hotly contested political campaign.
Save those topics for conversations with people you know well.
Small talk is lighter fare. It's how we break the ice and get
a sense of who people are and what they value - not a way to
browbeat others with your point of view.
the worst thing that can happen if you introduce yourself to
a stranger at a trade show? No, you won't die from rejection!
Nothing ventured, nothing gained — or, to put it another way,
if you don't ask, the answer is always no! Seize the moment.
If you don't, it will be gone — along with the opportunity.
things you learned in childhood do help in networking. Be nice
to everybody you meet (you never know where they'll turn up
later). Introduce yourself to officers, staff, and other members
of the associations or organizations you belong to. Become acquainted
with the staff members of clients.
handwritten thank you notes for favors — a good idea, a referral,
an invitation to a party — whatever. Send birthday cards or
just call to say "how are you?" Keep in touch (work
that Rolodex!) even when you're not actively soliciting business.
you think about it, isn't networking another word for neighborliness?
You bring in my mail when I'm out of town and I'll walk your
dog when you're late getting home from work. Think of the round-robin
of exchanging information and referrals as "helping,"
and it becomes a lot more familiar-and there doesn't have to
be an immediate payback. You don't expect the elderly couple
down the block to weed your garden if you do their shopping
for them, do you?
now to improve your shmooz opportunities. Here are some ideas
to act on:
Consider attending more conferences, either in your current
field or the career you'd like to pursue — as much for the
quality of the people sitting around you as the quality of
the speakers on the dais. Think about it: dozens of people
you want to talk to in one place!
local professional organizations in your area of expertise,
then sign up for committees and volunteer for leadership roles.
You'll be amazed how that network can yield referrals, joint
projects and other opportunities.
to fund-raisers for organizations of interest to you. Think
about it: the people who attend these events tend to have
more money and influence than those who don't. Mingle and
mix — or go the whole distance and volunteer to help stage
go to all this trouble to be out and about? We cannot create
a positive presence unless we are present. Being seen allows
one to have the casual conversation — the informal chat — that
is the cornerstone of relationships. It's not who you know,
but who knows you that counts.