Thursday, July 12, 2007

Speech Follow-up

NetworkingI gave my presentation today at the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce "Networks!" lunch. I thought it went pretty well, though sometimes it is hard to tell from behind the podium. The focus of the speech was on how to make the Power Mingle part of the lunch work for you. This is the time after we have all made our public introductions where we try to chat with whomever caught our interest.

I hit on three topics:

1. Be specific. So many people when describing what they do are far too general. Telling me that you are a real estate agent, or a mortgage broker doesn't tell me for whom you are looking. Telling me that you can help anyone looking for a loan doesn't help me either. I don't know what that person looks like. Tell me that you want to meet couples who want to move into a house on the old west side gives me a lot more with which to work.

This point seemed to have very limited impact. I heard several "I help people who need loans" during the Mingle. The biggest problem is that folks think that if they are too specific then they will lose out on opportunities that don't fit into those constraints. Ironically, the opposite is true. When I used to tell people that I helped nonprofit and charitable organizations develop their website, I invariably had folks come up to me and ask if I would do work on a corporate website. Icing on the cake.

2. Be focused. Coming to a networking event it's quite easy to spend a lot of time, eat your lunch, and then walk out to the car feeling like it was a waste of time. The solution to this is just to set yourself a goal. Some folks set goals to hand out twenty business cards -- not terribly effective, unless you want to be remembered as the highly horrible networker. Far better would be to meet and have great conversations with two people from your target market and get their cards so that you can set up a meeting with them (or set up a meeting right there and then).

It was hard to tell if this point sunk in at all. The folks who came up to me seemed to be more likely to chat, though one person actually interrupted a conversation I was having with an acquaintance in order to force her business card upon us (without finding out anything about us other than that we weren't really interested in what she had to offer).

3. Be a host, not a guest. Since the goal of a networking event is really to be memorable, what better way to accomplish this than by making other people feel comfortable and looking for ways to help them. So many people show up at a networking event and give into their ingrained aversion to talking with strangers. By pretending to be the host, we have a tendency to look around and find those folks who can use our help. After all, you wouldn't ignore a guest who came to visit you in your home would you?

As I said, I felt like the presentation itself went pretty well. I didn't get lost in my words, nor did Tom Denk, the host of "Networks!", have to get out his hook to drag me off the stage. I'll let you know if I receive any feedback at all.

So, what tips do you have for working a networking event?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the be a HOST not a GUEST analogy. It definitely works for me.