Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What Does Networking Mean to You?

Is there a difference between networking and building relationships? Could they basically be the same?  It's a question that many of my professional colleagues continue to discuss when we get together for tea, coffee or a cocktail.

This month I was invited to a business networking luncheon for entrepreneurs and independent consultants.  When I received the invitation I simply tossed it aside in my Review Later folder on my computer. After a several days passed I decided to review that folder and delete most of the "Not in Your Life" invitations, announcements that arrive daily.  This one was different for some reason, one of the co-organizer was a colleague that I've collaborated with on several projects. It peaked my curiosity as she is someone that I've built a strong relationship with over many years. So, I responded in the affirmative, still feeling a bit hesitant. The question that kept running through my head was is this a networking hello meeting or building relationship activity.

Over the years we have been taught by professionals to always have an elevator speech in our back pocket or tucked away in your brief case to be pulled out at the drop of a hat. They usually say practice makes perfect and you end up delivering a canned speech that has been remembered, often sounding less than sincere. If you have an elevator speech, remember that it should change, depending on the audience or person you are talking to at the time. Giving a 10 to 15 second speech about yourself can inform and peak curiosity, but follow up is an important next step. Quite often I  hope that the elevator door will open sooner than later.

Not everyone wants to build a relationship, but they are interested in networking if they can see the benefits for themselves. Networking can be a bit like speed dating. Often you may be asked the same questions whether it's in business or on a date. The usual questions are:

  • So what do you do? My response is when? Then they probe further asking -- "For a living?" People tend to be impressed by job titles as opposed to who you are as a person. Of course this varies from region to region. 
  • Where do you work?  If you say Google or Apple people want to know more about you and if discounts come with knowing you. When living in Washington, DC,  the question always started with "Do you work on Capitol Hill?"  Give the wrong answer and people walk away. It was always fun to say I work at the White House to see them start to drool and gather around to become a new contact.
  • Where do you live? I sometimes say in my car just to see the look of horror on their faces.
  • Do you drive? When dating often someone will volunteer to walk you to your car as if you need a guard for protection. Do you know why -- to see what type of car you own. Apparently it provides more information on how successful they think that you should be.
Building a solid relationship is an investment and takes time. It's a bit like fishing, if you reel the fish in too fast you could snatch the lips off, as my dad use to tell us kids on every fishing trip.

Daily, organizations ask me and those in my network, "How do we get into the African American, Latino/Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander community?" Building relationships with communities can take years to  create properly. The relationship between individuals must be nurtured and respected before it is used. Developing a genuine relationship creates trust and a strong bond. Creating strong relationships is a process of honesty, commitment, loyalty, and growth that starts with being culturally sensitive, respectful, and wise.  It saddens me that most companies and staff are not interested in putting in the time that it takes to develop a contact or a relationship.

Today, most companies and people expect it to happen immediately through social media, text messages or emails but not in person. One of my interns said to me, "What would anyone talk about over lunch or coffee with a stranger?" Fast and dirty is not always the long term solution to being successful. So I took my intern to lunch with a new contact to teach her how to have a delightful conversation.

So my question to you: Is there really a difference between networking and building a relationship? Please share your ideas and best practices in what works best for you.

For more information or to share your comments: info@promotionswest.com.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Grabbing the Attention of Your Audience

If you fail to grab the attention of your audience with your opening statement, it won't matter how brilliant the rest of your presentation may be because nobody is going to pay much attention. However if you are fortunate enough to engage them at the very beginning, you will increase their accessibility to all that you are trying to communicate and share. Here are several quick and easy recipes that will help you to hit the ground running.

Make it Personal
There is no faster way to create interest with your audience then in the form of story. Personal accounts, whether they focus on adversity, nostalgia or triumph, can create an instant rapport. The audience wants to know that you can relate to things that they have gone through in their lives.  Quite often presenters will talk at their audience, instead of to them with the same canned speech that they have used for every audience, regardless of the age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or level of education to name a few.

Share a Fact or Statistical Information
Sharing a key fact or piece of data that relates to your topic and may affect your audience and ease the introduction of a challenging topic.  For example, if you were doing a workshop on social marketing, one could kick off the session by explaining the differences between traditional and social marketing and why social marketing is able to influence and change difficult behaviors.

Keep Them on the Edge of Their Seats
If you manage to pique the attention of your audience in the very beginning, there is a great chance that they will be with you throughout your presentation. Remember to always invite your audience to participate in your discussion.

To pull your audience into your presentation, it can be helpful to orient them with a series of connected “reality snapshots”.  If you were presenting about affordable housing and ways to avoid evictions, your audience will be interested in hearing how others, like them, are dealing high rents and unfair eviction practices. Your audience will be on the edge of their seats for every detail and to learn ways to prevent it from happening to them and to their family and friends.

Using Humor
If you are an extrovert, a real people person with a great sense of humor, by all means do use that magnetic personality at the right times. It can serve to reduce anxiety by making people feel comfortable, lighten the mood and it can leave your participants looking forward to your next thought.  However, if you are not normally a funny person, it’s recommended not to even try pretending. An audience can immediately identify a fake or nervous presenter. The greatest path to success is to be yourself.

Training Tip
Try to discover the background of your potential participants that will be attending your training.  Knowing as much about them can only be an asset to the trainer. When doing a presentation on a certain topic, it’s always best to know how much your audience will know about the topic, which will help you, the trainer to better target his or her presentation as not to bore the audience. 

Need help brainstorming your next training or community engagement, contact us at Promotions West: info@promotionswest.com.