February 2006 Archives

Business Networking Tip #10: Host An Event

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After you have connected with a number of people who share a common interest, it's a good time for you to host an event to bring these people together.

There are many types of events you can host, from round table discussion groups to larger community meetings with speakers and an opportunity to network.

Here's a short checklist of the steps to preparing for an event:

  • Choose a topic to present on that you are familiar with
  • Choose a convenient location
  • Prepare an agenda and event description
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation and handouts
  • E-mail an announcement containing a link to the event description and RSVP form using SureToMeet.com

The types of events and locations include:

Type of Event Size Venue
Discussion group 5-7 people Restaurant with private dining room
Workshop teaching a skill 10-20 people Hotel or banquet/meeting facility
Speaker and networking 20+ people Hotel or company conference/training room
Conference with multiple speakers 100+ people Hotel, conference center, or resort

For small events you can draw upon your own network of contacts. However, for larger events you may want to partner with other presenters and send event announcements to people on each presenters' contact list.

Becoming a public speaker and event organizer has several advantages beyond building a contact network. Speakers are frequently asked to consult on projects, join community task forces and committees, and be interviewed by the media. In addition, producing conferences and similar events can become a significant source of revenue and profit.

Business Networking Tip #9: Give Speeches To Groups

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Meeting people face-to-face at networking events provides quality conversation time, but it can be a slow process to build a network of contacts.

Many networkers have found that public speaking can attract quality contacts much faster than one-to-one networking.

Many civic groups and business groups are eager to have speakers present informative, educational, and inspirational speeches and presentations to their members.

While practically all local groups expect speakers to volunteer to speak for free, it's an opportunity to highlight what you know and what you do.

Look through the calendar in your local business newspaper, daily newspaper, or various online calendars, such as SureToMeet, to find groups that have speakers at monthly meetings. Then, send them a brief proposal offering to speak to their group.

Be specific and talk about the things you know best. Don't try to teach people everything you do. Focus on no more than two or three areas of what you want them to learn about. Most importantly, cover the topics you feel you understand the best. This will reduce some of your stress.

Use handouts, visuals, or PowerPoint slides to support your presentation. For people who are worried about stage fright, these props can help carry them through the talk. These tools help communicate to your audience -- and serve as an outline to remind you of what to say.

Here are a few types of organizations that use speakers at events:

  • Chambers of commerce
  • Community service clubs
  • Industry specific associations
  • Professional associations

You are probably a member of at least one of these groups (see Tip #4), so you may already know the person in that group who schedules speakers.

One of the benefits of networking through public speaking is that after your speech, people who are especially interested in your topic will come up and introduce themselves, and give you their business card. Others in the audience will write down your contact information (from your last slide or from the host organization's event materials).

It takes time and effort to work this process, but the benefits of public speaking are tremendous.

Storing contact data in a contact manager's database makes it easy to retrieve contact data. However, you need to remember to retrieve that data and actually contact your contacts.

After all, the whole point of networking is to create a network of contacts that you know -- and who know you -- so you can work together on projects and activities. The people who you interact with frequently you have "top of mind awareness" -- it's easy to think of including them in your projects and activities.

But what about those other people in your network? How will you remember to include them when you have an opportunity appropriate for them? And how will they remember to include you in their projects and activities?

The answer to both questions lies in increasing the frequency that you contact the people in your network. As your network grows this becomes harder to manage.

The solution is to use a feature in your contact management system or CRM software that reminds you when it's time to renew the contact. Good contact management and CRM tools make it easy to create a reminder when it's time to contact someone. In CRM systems this is frequently called a task or action item. Set the date for the task for month or two in the future. Then, the software will float the item to the top of your to do list when it's time to renew a contact.

Unfortunately, most address book programs do not include good contact management features. If your address book program has a calendar you can create "appointments" in the future to remind you when to renew a contact. Just be sure these calendar entries aren't confused or obscure actual meetings and events on your calendar that you need to attend.

SureToMeet includes a "Next Contact Date" feature in the contact management area that makes this easier. After each networking event, just go down the list of contacts who attended the event and update the "Next Contact Date" field. SureToMeet will remind you when it's time to renew each contact.

Keeping in touch with your new contacts is a great way to grow acquaintances into relationships into a network of relationships.

Just make sure your contact manager is up to the task of reminding you when its time to renew each contact.

Business Networking Tip #7: Managing Your Contacts

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It doesn't take long to accumulate more contacts than you can manage with a business card file or address book. Today, the best way to manage the network of contacts is with a high-quality contact management software program or Web site service.

Many people now use contact management software on a personal computer. By using software on your computer you're assured the contacts are easily available when you're at your computer. These days, however, we’re more mobile and need our contacts in more places than we can take our desktop computer -- or even our laptop computer.

The newest way to always have your contacts close at hand is by using one of the Web-based contact management services that you can use anywhere you have access to the Internet. In addition, the best contact management services also sync your contacts to your PDA or smartphone.

Address book software programs keep a wide range of fields of data. However, they’re limited in their ability to help you actually manage interactions with your network of contacts. That's where Web-based contact management services really shine.

For example, SureToMeet.com makes it easy to store traditional address book data, but it can also automatically update your data when your contacts change their phone number, e-mail address, or other data. In addition, those contacts who allow you to see their personal or business profile can automatically keep you up-to-date on what they're doing.

No matter how you store contact information, be sure the software or Web-based service is flexible, works with your mobile communications, and helps you achieve your networking objectives.

Business Networking Tip #6: Follow-Up With New Contacts

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Collecting business cards at networking events and making notes about each person you meet is a great first step in building a network.

The next step is to start communicating with your new contacts to build the relationship.

After a business networking event take time to send each person you met an e-mail letting them know you're glad you met them at the event.

Refer to something they said or to a common interest you discussed with them. be sure to mention ways to work together near future.

Letting people know that you enjoyed talking with them helps them remember you -- and it helps you recall the reasons you wanted to stay in touch with them.

Business networking events are great for meeting lots of new people, but an event can turn into a blur that makes it difficult to remember interesting details about each person you meet. So, be sure to take notes about each new contact.

While you're at the networking event write on the back of a person's business card a few key words that will jog your memory the next day. If you offer to do something for someone, be sure to write it on the back of the business card while you're still talking to them. This helps you remember what you agree to do, and it shows your contact that it was important enough for you to write it down.

Also, note on their business card the date and name of the event where you met the person. I’m sometimes asked for contact information about someone I met at a specific event and having that on the back at cards make this search rather easy.

After a business networking event be sure to make detailed notes in whenever notebook or contact management database you use to manage your contacts.

Taking notes on the back of business cards is a great way to remember important points about a new contact that can help grow that new contact into a mutually beneficial relationship.

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