Speed Networking Lessons Learned Recap:
- If someones hammering an idea into you, it might be worth learning (even if you don’t use it for 10 years).
- Stumbling through something is better than not showing up at all.
- Get outside your element, you just might meet a Tim.
- When you “vibe” with someone you can talk to them like they’re an old friend.
- Practice what you learn as soon as possible (speed networking is a great place to test and practice intro’s).
- Networking strategy goes hand in hand with your business strategy.
- Alter your “pitch” for the environment.
- Follow up with people.
Networking Outside Your Element
Learn to Network
“Learn to network. It’s the most important thing you can do.” The words of Klaus, one of my professors, rang through my head as I punched credit card digits into the Victorian Chamber of Commerce website. The event was speed networking and I cringed at the thought of both those words used in a sentence. Speed. What’s the rush? I like to take my time. Networking. So impersonal and dry. And yes, I was being judgmental. The only networking I had known was the networking Klaus dragged me to during uni. And by drag I mean I dragged myself because he was so passionate about the subject I had to see for myself. My business grew mostly via word of mouth and had many transitions through its 11 years of life. But here I was 10 years later, 8 thousand miles (13k km) away and hearing Klaus loud and clear.
Just Show Up
“I have nothing to lose.” I comforted myself “You’ll blend in with the crowd, it’s a networking event, new faces for everyone.” Wrong. It looked like everyone in the room knew each other. Was outside of my element for sure. I tend to give myself less credit than I deserve but when I say I stumbled through that Chamber of Commerce event, I really mean I stumbled. After grabbing a glass of bubbles and placing a few snacks on a plate, I took shelter at lonely, round table in the corner. Naturally, I’m an observer of things. So I watched these master networkers go at it even after the speed networking event ended. The endurance of these people blew me away. Australian networking machines.
Maybe You’ll Meet Tim
A man sneaks up to my table with a mini pie in his hand. We start talking. I didn’t understand what he did for business but I did understand that he knew a lot about a lot of different things. Easy to talk to, down to earth. He was one of those people who could talk about anything for hours. We didn’t need proper introductions or to talk about what we specifically did for business right away. It was a genuine connection. I encountered a people-person. My kind of person. That person was Tim Smith, Foreign Exchange Broker at Sable International. Tim Smith the master networker, a connector. Tim does a lot. For example, he gets clients $20k more than they would have gotten during a foreign exchange transaction, informs his network of upcoming events and always thinks about what he can do for others. He’s been particularly successful with estate lawyers and non-profits so if you know any, send his way. Tim also hosts networking events, similar to the one I first met him at. Last week Tim hosted a speed networking breakfast where 52 people got together, shuffled up and down tables, lip reading while Tim rang a gold dinner bell every 30 seconds. I’ve followed up with each of the contacts I met to either set up meetings or just get connected on linked in.
Learn then Practice Immediately
The Strategist Approach
Not only was it a networking event but it was an event centered around learning how to effectively network and then immediately getting to practice what you learned. We learned about how networking strategy is essential to your business strategy from Michele Carson of Influence. Michele is a business strategist. Decide on your target and evaluate the types of networks that you need to develop in order to hit your target. When choosing a networking group, review all the different kinds of groups. Visit each one and make a list of the things that you desire/work for you. For example: Michele chose her networking group because it meets fortnightly instead of once a week (too often) or once a month (not often enough).
The Master Marketer Approach
We learned how important word of mouth marketing is because it’s customers #1 preferred method from Martin Bailey, the word of mouth specialist. Martin runs Word of Mouth Marketing Australia group. He’s not only another master networker but he’s a master marketer. He taught us about 30 second “elevator pitches” and how to keep it simple and easily digestible, especially for a speed networking environment. Martin says to include your company name and value proposition, “My company, Posh Inc. helps businesses use Amazon as a tool for success. My clients grow at 30% per year and recently I successfully resuscitated a brand that was on the brink of death (in terms of Amazon). I host workshops and am currently looking for more speaking opportunities.”
The Connector Approach
Tim says, “it’s not about what you do, say or who you meet at these events. It’s all about the follow up.” And follow up he does. Tim catches up with every new person he meets at these events. And trust me, he wouldn’t be doing it if he wasn’t getting results. I love interacting with and learning from people who are living, breathing, practicing versions of what they preach. These folks definitely are. Tim has a great network and I hope to give back to him someday the way he’s given to me. Tim is a perfect example of something I learned a while ago (probably said in a number of different ways throughout numerous business related self improvement books/seminars): provide so much value that people look for ways in which they can give back to you.
Too Fast or Just right?
A lot of people say speed networking happens too fast, and they’re right in a way. It’s not enough time to get your selling point across or think about how everyone can fit into your current network. But, I find it’s just enough time to exchange energy and decide who you “vibe” with. It’s enough time to get a business card and make a note to meet up soon.