By Sven Mogelgaard Tech 101
I’ve been writing about technology for this paper for several years now. I’ve written about how important it is to interact and connect through social media and the Internet many times. But this month I want to take a step back. After talking to someone at a networking event, I realized that while online networking is an essential part of business, many people may be missing out on the benefits of good old-fashioned, low-tech, personal networking.
Frankly, I enjoy going into a room of fellow business people and learning more about who they are and what they do. I enjoy talking to people about what I do. Whether it’s one-on-one, a small group or in front of a room full of people, it’s something I look forward to. Unfortunately, speaking in public is a very real fear for many people; second only to dying, according to some experts. Nowadays it’s easy to hide behind the veil of technology and call it good. But the folks who avoid getting out and pressing the flesh are missing out on an important part of marketing. And a potentially fun and fulfilling aspect of business.
My friend Debbie Whitlock (debbiewhitlock.com), the executive managing director of eWomenNetwork in the greater Seattle area and host of the weekly Femmenation and Femme Finance radio shows on KKNW-AM 1150 is an awesome example of a personal networker.
“Building relationships through connections at networking events is the key to success in business whether you are a small- or micro-business owner or someone who works inside a company and does sales or client development — the people you want to be connecting with are at a networking event,” she said.
And she’s right. I see everyone from people like me who run a one-person business to reps from major banks and retail giants at every event I attend. Whitlock puts on plenty of networking events with eWomenNetwork and Femmenation events. I asked her what she feels is the best way to get the most from a live networking event.
“When you come prepared to learn about others and how you can be a resource for them in business, you immediately change the tone of an event,” Whitlock said. “Being ‘other focused’ will always make you the MOST interesting person in the room.”
So how do you become “other focused?” First, you have to take a step back and not focus on selling yourself or your product. I’m not kidding. Experienced networkers will almost always tune out someone who launches into a five-minute brain dump on why you should buy from him or her. Instead try asking questions like, “Who is your perfect client?” and, “What do you love most about what you do?” This will encourage a meaningful conversation that is more likely to help you form a strong connection with the person you’re talking to. You’ll learn more about each other’s business this way.
For many of us, making “small talk” isn’t easy, and can even be frightening — even when we’re chatting with one person or just a few people at a table. If you’ve got real fear of speaking, I strongly recommend checking out a Toastmasters International (toastmasters.org) club near you. There are thousands of clubs and hundreds of thousands of members all over the world. Toastmasters’ tried and true techniques have helped countless people overcome their fear of public speaking.
Are you comfortable speaking, but at a loss for what to say? Where do you turn for inspiration? I talked with Rebecca Osman, founder of Your Stage Coach (yourstagecoach.com) about this. Osman draws on more than 25 years of experience and training as a performer, director and educator to help others be at their best in front of their audiences, large or small. She translates theater lessons into life and business lessons to improve communication, presentation and leadership skills.
“At a live networking event, if you connect with people in a manner which inspires credibility and trust, you are likely to be the first and only person people call when they need your services,” she said.
In other words, if you inspire confidence when talking with others, people will be compelled to do business with you. Through workshops, classes and individual coaching, Osman teaches business people to use their voice and body effectively to become engaging, confident, connected communicators. Her goal is to help her clients develop a magnetic personal presence and superb communication skills that inspire the strong connections needed to build lasting relationships. Her techniques apply to all aspects of life, both personal and professional.
Sven Mogelgaard owns I Need A CTO (ineedacto.biz), a technology consulting and support provider. He is committed to helping small businesses succeed. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions you can find him on Facebook (facebook.com/ineedacto) or visit his website.