The Best in Business Networking Training
Memberships Worth the Time and Money©
You’re probably a member of several groups – a professional association, a leisure time or “hobby” group, the Chamber of Commerce, maybe your alumni group. And you may wonder the same thing. So we’ve packed 16 years of our customer research and experience about how to make the most of your memberships into 10 Q & A’s to help you make networking an art . . . not an accident.1. Why join organizations or go to meetings? (“I have a job already.” “I’m not in sales.” “Memberships cost too much.” “I don’t have time.” “My boss won’t let me.” “I’m shy.” “I can’t take time away from the office.”)
It’s way too time-consuming to make all your contacts one by one. So that’s why it makes sense to get visible in groups. You’re on thin ice if you say, “I’m too bashful.” “I’m too broke.” or “I’m too busy.”
To benefit your organization and its bottom line, as well as your career, and your future, get out of the office. As futurist Faith Popcorn says, “Whatever you need to know, the answer’s probably not in your office.”
Here’s our “Top Ten” list of reasons to join organizations and attend conferences. We bet at least half of them apply to you!
· Learn state-of-the-art strategies from peers and pros
· Become known to people who might help you – or hire you
· Find new resources and discover new markets
· Gain new skills and expand your expertise through leadership
· Find role models and make contacts when you want to change careers
· Get feedback about yourself and your activities
· Give back to younger members of your profession
· Earn professional certifications and win awards
· Get advice and grow personally and professionally
· Stay on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the marketplace
What’s your purpose? If you work for a corporation, join organizations that will teach you about the industry and put you in touch with resources to get the job done. If you are in sales and your product is bought by small businesses, then join several organizations that have small businesspeople as members. If you are job hunting, join groups who’s members could hire you.
We recommend that you plan to become known in 5 or 6 arenas: your family (Does cousin Bob really know what you do?”), a community or leisure time group, one or two professional organizations that serve your job type, one or two “target” groups – if you’re looking for a job or are in sales.
3. How do I find just the right organization for my purpose?
Look at the calendar in your newspaper’s business pages for names of local organizations. Go to the library and look for groups in the Encyclopedia of Associations or search the web using key words and phrases. Ask people who might know — colleagues at work, peers in other organizations, mentors, experts in your field. Ask your clients/customers what groups they belong to. Ask people who have the job you want what professional groups they belong to, or what conferences they go to.
4. How can I be sure an organization is the right one for me?
Attend a couple of meetings as a guest. Talk to new members and old members. Read several issues of the newsletter. Check out the website. Scan the membership directory. Is it a local group or is it part of a national organization? That could be important if you’re moving to another city and want to build a national network. Before you write your check and commit your time, remember that you are about to place a very talented person — you — in a key position.
Assess the organization’s value to you by answering these questions.
· How many members are there? (The bigger the better for networking, but it may be easier to move into leadership in smaller groups.)
· Can I get excited about the group’s mission? Does it connect with my networking goals?
· Are people in the group likely to need my product or service or to refer business to me? Are people in the group likely to provide valuable resources or connections? Could they hire me?
· What do people say about the group? What’s its reputation in the profession or community?
· What opportunities will the group offer me to associate with my peers? With stars in the field?
· Does the group set a good networking culture by encouraging people to introduce themselves and talk to each other about important business and career agendas?
· Does the group have special activities to help newcomers feel welcome and meet people?
· How easy is it to participate? How quickly could I move into a leadership role that would give me visibility and career experience?
· Do the leaders seem genuinely excited about their participation or are they playing “somebody has to do it?”
· Are the programs interesting? Do the topics and speakers provide valuable professional growth?
· What would my time commitment be? Can I make that commitment for at least one year?
5. Once I join, how can I get to know people and become part of “the inner circle”?
Arrive early. That’s when the movers and shakers show up. Introduce yourself. Appreciate their leadership. Give yourself a job. Look around for what needs to be done. Offer to help in ways that show your character and competence.
Skip the small talk – about the weather and the ball scores. Instead, ask good questions such as, “What do you like about being a member of this group?” and “What have you been working on lately?”
And be prepared to be spontaneous with well thought out answers to “What do you do?” and “How are you?”
Set a goal for the number of people you’d like to meet at any event.
Pour your energy into conversations, looking for a reason to exchange cards with people.
Listen generously – with an ear to how you can help others find resources and meet people.
Learn people’s names and make your own memorable. (Chapter 10 in our book, “Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Cash, Clients, and Career Success,” gives lots of tips.) One tip: It is your job to teach your name, it’s not the other person’s job to remember it. So say your first name twice and give a trick or tip for remembering your name. Example: “Hi, I’m Lynne, Lynne Waymon. That’s Waaaaayyyy down at the end of the alphabet.” Or “Hi, I’m Anne, Anne Baber. That’s Anne with an “e” and Babe with an “r”.
Always have an Agenda. Before the meeting think of 3 or 4 things you’d like to find or know more about. Also, be ready to talk about 3 or 4 things you’re excited about – personally or professionally.
Extend the meeting beyond the meeting. For example, you met Fred and would like to know him better. Say: “How about getting together for coffee next week? I’d like to hear more about how you’re organizing that training program you mentioned.”
6. I’m afraid if I get involved in “committee work” it will take too much time. (But I also know that’s a good way to build relationships.)
That’s right! Our studies show that it often takes 6 contacts with someone before they know who you are and have you placed in their mental Rolodex. So committee work and small group activities are good ways to create that continued contact.
Choose carefully what you agree to do. Will you meet the people you want to meet? Will you be able to show your character and competence? Whether you write a newsletter article or introduce the speaker, or handle the finances, will you enjoy it so people enjoy you?
7. What am I really trying to accomplish as I get involved with the group?
Since people want to do business with (and hire!) people they trust, your overall goal is always to teach people to trust you. People will trust you if they believe in your character and your competence. Your contacts see your character when you meet deadlines, are unfailingly reliable, and treat everyone equally. They see your competence when you do the job right the first time, handle the details with care, and continue to perfect your expertise.
8. I’m so shy. It’s excruciating for me to enter a room full of strangers. What can I do to get more comfortable?
Researchers say that more than 50% of all Americans report feeling shy or uncomfortable in business and social settings. So, you’re not alone! The good news is that networking know-how can be learned, just as you learn to use a computer or bake a soufflé. Our book, “Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Cash Clients, & Career Success” has helped thousands of people feel more comfortable and competent at networking. Anyone can follow our step-by-step approach to solving every networking dilemma – from “Hello” to “Goodbye.”
9. Is there anything I can do before I go to an event to make sure I’m going to get something out of it?
Plan a couple of “success stories”, so you know what to say when people say, “What’s new?”
Think through your agenda. What do you want to find? What resources, ideas, information, and referrals do you have to give away, conversationally speaking?
Make a pact with others from your office that you’re there to meet new people and aren’t going to talk or sit together.
Call a contact and offer to give her a ride to the event, so that you have some uninterrupted time together.
Call someone and say, “Are you are going to the meeting this Thursday? How about grabbing a cup of coffee afterwards? I’d like to hear more about your project.”
Call the meeting planner and ask for a list of attendees so that you can be on the lookout for key contacts.
When you are talking to someone about a specific topic or need, ask, “Who else do you think I should talk to about this?” Then ask your contact to introduce you.
Introduce yourself to the leaders, Board members, and speaker.
10. What are the biggest mistakes people make when they join organizations?
· They join, but don’t go.
· They appear, but don’t interact. They eat another olive, listen to the speaker, and leave.
· They skip the networking portion of the meeting, arriving just in time for the meal, and duck out just as the speaker is winding down.
· They talk and sit with people from their office.
· They try to blend into the crowd, rather than looking for ways to be positively visible.
· They wait for others to make the first moves.
· They think handing out business cards s “networking”.
· They give up too soon — and hop from one organization to another, never giving themselves or others time to establish relationships.
· They have “non-conversations”: “Hi, how are you?” “Not bad. How are you?” “Not bad. What’s new?” “Not much. What’s new with you?”
· They arrive without any idea of what they have to give or what they want to get.
· They violate “good networking” protocols or are unaware of the “NETiquette” within the group.
· They forget that the best way to become the natural and only choice when opportunity arises is to contribute time and energy and show their character and competence.
We wish you great connections! Remember to “Make Networking an Art…not an Accident!”
Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon are principals of Contacts Count, a nationwide consulting and training firm that specializes in business and professional networking, and career development. They are co-authors of six books. The most recent is Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success (AMACOM, 2nd Edition). Fortune 500 companies license their training programs. Put the tools of networking to work in the service of business goals. Visit www.ContactsCount.com and www.FireProofYourCareer.com 301-589-8633
Want to learn more about networking at its best?
Find these resources at www.ContactsCount.com
- Networking Know-How: The Contacts Count System for Savvy Professionals and Smart Companies An 80-minute “live” audio CD workshop that reveals the rules and tools of networking, featuring Lynne Waymon, nationally known expert.
- Make Your Contacts Count by Anne Baber & Lynne Waymon (AMACOM, 2nd edition, New York) The best step-by-step book on how to create, cultivate, and capitalize on networking relationships and opportunities.
- Activity Guides (one for corporations, one for associations, & one for alumni groups), 10 downloadable icebreakers to get people talking & connecting.
- Contacts Count e-mail newsletter Every 4 weeks, short, practical, innovative tips, examples, & stories highlight networking skills and strategies. The best way to stay in touch!
- The premier consulting and training firm specializing in business networking skills training for more than 20 years
- Developed “The 8 Networking Competencies©”
- Extensive client list: corporations, associations, government agencies, universities, professional service firms, and entrepreneurs
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