By Kim Polacek, APR (Tampa Bay Chapter)
Networking… we’ve all heard the term and know how important it is for business. For some of us, this essential task comes easy. For the rest of us, help is necessary. Author, humorist and life coach Beth M. Ramsay shared some valuable advice and a few laughs during her breakout session, Power Networking.
First and foremost, Ramsay shared that networking is not flinging and fleeing – giving your business card to someone and dashing. It is not about the quantity of people you meet at an event. It is about quality of the connections you make. You need to be strategic and meet the people you need to know!
She provided a worksheet for attendees with some helpful tips about how to set up your networking strategy. Networking is about being authentic, building trust and relationships. She added that networking is a team sport. If you’re doing it solo, it’s called selling. No one wants to be pitched during a networking event.
When preparing to network with others, you need to have focused goals and objectives. Know what people you want to meet and why. Then zero in on making quality connections with those folks. You want to find the “connector” in your community or industry. This is the person who knows everyone. You want him or her to help facilitate introductions with the people on your list. If you don’t know a “connector,” no problem; your local Chamber of Commerce is a great resource to meet the key players in your community.
So who are these key players you need to meet? Well that is up to you. It can be leaders in your industry you are seeking mentorship from, or someone in your community who can help you further your work goals. This is why planning and formulating a networking strategy is essential. As Ramsay told the packed room, networking without a purpose is useless.
Now that you have your list and you’re ready to meet and mingle, what do you do? Networking is all about the introduction. You want to be able to articulate what you’re looking for and how you can help the person you’re meeting. Again, this is about making a valuable connection, not about giving your best elevator pitch. Ramsay gave an example of how to achieve this – “Hi, I’m Beth Ramsay. I need to meet you. Can I get your card and give you a call on Thursday?” Once the connection is made, be sure to follow up with the person promptly.
Another important point made during her discussion is that your networking interactions should be enjoyable, not just for the person you’re meeting, but for you as well. Keep your body language in mind. You want to make sure your posture is open and inviting. Also be sure to avoid what Ramsay called “clumping” – only hanging out with those you know at a networking event. Socializing with friends is fun, but not networking.
The Networker’s Tool Kit:
- Business cards (bring more than you think you need)
- Name tag (make sure you can clearly read your name, not too flashy)
- Positive first impression
- Good, firm handshake
- Open attitude and a smile (be sure to make direct eye contact)
- Really listen
Other important pointers from Ramsay: Wear your name tag on your right side. This will allow those you meet to read your name as you shake his or her hand. Also, keep your drink in your left hand. This will help you avoid wet handshakes.
Whether you like to do it or not, networking is a part of business. Make the most of it so that you become known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas and names of other people. This keeps you visible and relevant.
Beth Ramsay totally gets what it takes to run a successful business and manage a productive team. Her unique ability to leverage your strengths with her common sense, back-to-basics approach produces results and opens up paths of thinking that you may not have had before. Ramsay does not get manipulated off track, can spot BS a mile away and keeps you focused on moving forward to get what you want. Ramsay’s specialty is seeing the big picture. Where you are now to where you want to go can feel unclear and chaotic. Ramsay will make you think. Ramsay might make you feel uncomfortable and she will definitely offer solutions that cannot be argued. Ramsay has a systematic, entertaining and engaging approach to harness those winning strategies for personal and leadership goals. She has extensive experience in the psychological reasons why people do what they do. It’s pretty simple really. Ramsay shows you how to make sense out of challenging environments that don’t make sense. And you’ll laugh along the way!