Act Like a Star When Networking

Red Carpet The Hollywood award season is in full swing, and I think we can learn a lot of valuable business networking skills from movie stars as they sashay down the red carpet.

Accept Invitations
Often when I see coverage of awards show arrivals I think to myself, “what on earth is she doing there?” because seemingly-random celebrities show up where I do not expect them. Maybe it’s a TV star like Jennifer Aniston who is attending the Oscars instead of the Emmys, or just an actress who has fallen off of my radar. Well, to answer my own question – these celebrities are there because they were invited and because it is excellent exposure.

I occasionally get invitations to networking events that make me scratch my head because they seem so random – I’m not a doctor, so why are you asking me to attend an event for them? I also get so many invites from our chamber of commerce that I’m tempted to ignore them. However, if you are invited and you can make it, you should show up. Just like a celebrity at an improbably event, it’s a great opportunity to be seen and that always makes you – and your company – more memorable when a customer needs your goods or services.

Be Picky
I love the show Ellen, and one of my favorite segments that she does during awards season is she sends normal people to the red carpet to interview celebrities for her. Generally, before they know that the people waving a microphone at them are associated with Ellen, the stars walk right past them and head to Ryan Seacrest and the other well-known entertainment reporters. However, once they realize that these non-celebrity interviewers are associated with a national talk show, they always stop to chat.

While I feel that it’s rude of the stars to walk past people who would like to interview them, I understand that they need to be picky. They have a limited amount of time to walk the red carpet so they want to maximize their publicity. It’s a good lesson for us as we attend networking events: we can afford to be choosy when it comes to the people we talk to. Now, I’m not saying that you should ignore someone who strikes up a conversation if you don’t think you’ll ever work together; however, I do think you should limit the time that you spend with that person and focus on those who really are potential customers. And if he or she gloms onto you, excuse yourself to the restroom or have a friend rescue you from the conversation so that you can really work the room to your advantage.

Go Glam
Whether or not they truly feel that way, movie stars seem to ooze confidence on the red carpet. They get gussied up and strike their best pose and essentially act like they own the place.

Similarly, you might not feel overly confident if you walk into a networking event without knowing a soul there – so fake it! Wear a nice outfit: that always makes me feel more self-assured. Then throw your shoulders back, hold your head up high, and do just what the celebrities do – act like you own the place!

Fun and Games for Business Networking Events

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Why do you go to business networking events? Everyone has different reasons for attending these types of casual proceedings. Entrepreneurs are looking for prospective new clients, as are lawyers, chiropractors, sales representatives, ad infinitum. Some people like to attend a local Chamber of Commerce networking event when they want to grow their prospect field and when they are new to the area and are looking to find out “who’s who.”

Whatever your reasons, the business networking event often evokes fear and loathing in many. If networking is not one of your natural talents, take heart. When you turn these events into your own personal game with goals that once you’ve achieved them gives you permission to leave, you can at least learn to enjoy them and may even get good at developing your game. Who knows, you could land a great big client and develop some very useful, and interesting relationships.

Game On!

All games have goals. Kids turn everything into a game. For instance, racing to the house screaming, “The last one in is a rotten egg!”

Make up your own networking game and set specific goals. For instance, decide to approach a specific number of people at the event you are attending. Establish rules, such as I’ll only speak to women who are wearing dangling silver earrings and a blue blazer and men wearing horn-rimmed glasses, and a brown tweed sport jacket with a handlebar mustache. You get the idea.

When you make networking a game, especially where you are not likely to know people or at very large events, you become interested in achieving your goal. You look interested. Perhaps people will approach you as you search out the specific traits you’ve established. Also, you give yourself an excuse to leave once you’ve met your goal. No one else needs to know your game or your rules for playing.

Necessity is the mother of invention. When you attend business networking marketing events, do so with enthusiasm. Challenge yourself to achieve a few goals that may seem silly at first. You never know where that attitude for fun and games may lead!

Recipes and Home Remedies

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Good thing we have a section in this blog in which I can write about whatever I want because today’s chosen topic has absolutely nothing to do with promotional marketing materials, business networking, or anything else that I’ve ever discussed in this forum. Nope, this post is about me burning my hand!

I’ve been in a cooking rut lately, so I decided to have an “Experimental Dinner Week” during which I would only make recipes that I had never before attempted. It was going smashingly well because my first dish was goop’s Kapama (Braised Cinnamon Chicken). Say what you will about Gwyneth Paltrow, this bird tasted amazing!

After the Kapama, my next new dish was Real Simple magazine’s Skillet Soufflé, which was a cinch to whip up and is an incredibly inexpensive way to feed yourself dinner. If you take a look at the dish’s name and/or the recipe, you’ll see that it is an egg dish cooked in a skillet in the oven. I took my soufflé out, slid it onto a cutting board, and then proceeded to grab hold of the fiery hot skillet handle with my bare hand. Needless to say, I got quite the burn, featuring blisters on my palm and every finger. I hadn’t done that in quite a long time and man does it hurt!

A few days have gone by since my Skillet Soufflé incident and since then people have been offering me their home remedies to assuage the pain. Two topical treatments that several individuals have recommended are honey and toothpaste. Just spread a layer of either over the affected areas and they’ve said that the stinging and tightness will abate. So here’s my question to my readers out there. Do you have any burn relief home remedies? Now that I’m asking things of you, what about more “Experimental Dinner Week” recipe ideas? Leave either or both in the comments below and wish luck as I begin to cook again!

When Not to Network

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I’ve told you many, many things about myself on this blog but I don’t think that I have ever mentioned the fact that I am a very regular wedding guest. I have spent the years since college attending the nuptials of my friends, my husbands’ friends, members of our families, people with whom I’ve lost touch…the list goes on and on. Suffice it to say that we seem to go to more weddings – some close to home, some far-flung – than anyone else I know. Although I often complain about this, I actually do love being a wedding guest. It’s just fun. When else do you get to dance or to socialize with people from all over the world?!

If you read this blog regularly, then I’ll bet you think that this post, being in our “Business Networking Tips” section, is going to be about how I use the multitudes of weddings that I attend as chances to build my business network. Well, you’d be wrong! In fact, I take weddings as an opportunity not to network.

You probably think I’m stupid to abstain from networking at an event where it would be so easy to get some in. After all, people at a wedding most likely know either the bride or groom, so you have an easy opening line simply asking other guests which one is their friend. And you can do that in order to meet your fellow attendees. But guess what? Your second question does not have to be “what do you do?” – instead, ask the person with whom you are speaking how he or she knows the bride or groom. Then have a normal, non-business conversation.

Weddings are about celebrating the love of two people, so if you are a guest at one, why not focus on doing just that? Give your networking a night off, dance, meet new friends (not business contacts!), and just have fun!

Surprise Networking

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I’ve written many posts over the years about what I consider to be “non-traditional networking.” That is, doing your business networking outside of the usual chamber of commerce event. I’ve mentioned the fact that I run with a group of people from all walks of life and we’ve all ended up interacting professionally on some level – taking our relationships beyond sweaty Saturday exercise. I have also espoused bringing business cards to airports, children’s recitals, and the like because you never know where you will meet someone who needs your services and vice versa. Suffice it to say that I am always on the lookout for a networking occasion even when others might not, so it was a nice surprise when another opportunity popped up totally unexpectedly!

I was recently invited to play in a fantasy football league comprised of some of my good friends and several people who I had never met prior to our draft day. Like so many fantasy leagues, we got together for a draft day party and probably had a few too many cocktails as we picked our teams. It was a lot of fun and it gave me a chance to meet some new people and to heckle my old friends for their horrible teams (I’m not a very good sport). Since then I’ve kept in touch with the other members of the league. We text back and forth good-naturedly when our teams match up and occasionally get together to watch football. Like anytime a new group of friends gets together we have all told everyone what we do for a living, and I know that several of my league’s members have referred business to others within the group.

When I was approached about joining my fantasy football league I did so on a lark – I watch a lot of football with my husband so I figured the competition would make it more interesting for me. I had no idea that I would make new friends or much less potentially gain business from the endeavor. It just goes to show you that you should keep your eyes open for networking opportunities absolutely anywhere. Now if you will excuse me, I have to brush up my roster for this week’s match up!

What Not to Do After a Networking Event

I write a lot about networking – heck our blog has a whole category dedicated to it – so I always wonder if our readers think that the Gossett Marketing team is obsessed with building our business network. In a word: yes. Networking takes a lot of our time, effort, and dedication, but we firmly believe that it’s worth the endeavor, as it helps us grown in our community and beyond. If you’re not already a dedicated networker, then it’s time to start so that you can expand your business’s reach (and ultimately its profitability).

Regardless as to whether you’re new to business networking or if it’s old hat to you, I think everyone can brush up on networking etiquette. Last week I discussed what not to do during an event, so this week I’m focusing on what not to do afterwards. Here we go…

1. Nothing – You went to a networking event, met new people, and took their business cards back to work with you. Don’t just leave that contact information on your desk, never to be viewed again; rather, follow up with the people you met! Send a quick e-mail, invite them to connect on LinkedIn, give them a call, or even tweet them. Reinforce the bond you made at the networking event so that you can begin to forge a real relationship.
2. Too Much – On the opposite end of the spectrum from those who do nothing post-event are those who do too much. These are the folks who send an e-mail, then give the recipient a call an hour later just to be sure that they’d gotten it. And who not only connect on LinkedIn but start filling your Twitter feed and continually comment on your blog posts. These people mean well, but it’s overwhelming and, well, feels a bit stalker-ish. Ultimately, this strategy backfires, as the person with whom they are so desperately trying to bond begins to avoid the avid follow-upper!
3. Be a Robot – Now that you know the right amount of follow up, be sure that you’re doing the right kind. Often after networking with someone I, get a form e-mail saying things like “it was nice to meet you at the recent Chamber of Commerce event.” What event? What did we talk about? Do I really want to build a relationship with someone who can’t take the time to write a personalized e-mail? Absolutely not! But if I get an e-mail saying something like, “it was wonderful to sit with you at lunch yesterday, I enjoyed learning about the promotional products industry…” then chances are I will respond to the sender. He has taken the time to absorb our discussion and write me a personal e-mail, which shows me that his networking effort was genuine – I’m happy to consider someone like that a part of my network!

What it all boils down to is that you need to behave like a normal human being both before and after a networking event. I know that sounds strange, but treat others as you’d like to be treated, don’t bother them, but also don’t ignore them, and connect with them. That’s really what it takes to successfully network!

Pick the Right Networking Group

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Miami, where Gossett Marketing is located, is a very diverse town. It is a melting pot to the nth degree, it is geographically varied, and it is home to a range of different businesses. Because of this eclectic mix of people, places, and companies, Miami also has a number of different, specific business networking organizations. We have dedicated chambers of commerce for women, Hispanics, and Haitian-Americans. There are also specific ones dedicated to particular parts of town: Miami Beach, North Miami, and Coral Gables to name a few. Plus, some focus on particular industries such as tourism. This wealth of networking groups gives us Miamians almost endless opportunities to meet new people, and to target those who might be able to help us grow our businesses. Most large cities in this country have as many (if not more) networking organizations as Miami does. The question is how do you decide which groups to join?

The first step to figuring out which chamber of commerce to join is to research them all. See who their members are and what kind of events they hold and you can quickly knock a number off of your list. For example, if you want to meet people who work in professional sports you should see which chamber has members from those organizations and check out some events to see who shows up. Speaking of showing up, you really need to do so to get anything out of a networking organization, so in your research figure out whose events work with your lifestyle. If Networking Group A has mostly morning meetings while Group B is more of an evening-oriented organization and you’re a morning person then eliminate Group B because chances are that you won’t attend the nighttime gatherings.

Once you have narrowed your list down to a handful of potential networking groups to join, attend a few of their gatherings. Different groups have different personalities, so figure out which one is a good match. You’re most likely to find me at a Greater Miami or Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce event than any others around Miami. I find the members of both to be very warm and open, plus they host events that are near where I work and live, so I’m more inclined to attend than I would be something in North Miami – traffic just makes it too challenging to get there and back.

While I think that you should join a networking organization that is home to members with whom you think you can grow your business, it’s also important just to get a good feeling from any given group. If you like the people and you like the events from a timing and location standpoint, then you will be more inclined to participate, and at the end of the day that is what networking is all about. So do a little research and find the right networking organization that works for you.

Patience Really is a Virtue

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There’s a joke around here that the best thing about living in Miami is that you’re so close to America. This town is a true melting pot: you can go a whole day without hearing a word of English, we’re regularly voted the country’s worst drivers (because people learn to drive in their home countries and bring the rules of those roads with them when they move here), and individuals always use “I’m on Island Time” as an excuse for being late – and it is accepted. Suffice it to say that Miami is a very different demographic than the majority of the country, which is why many national retailers are fairly slow to open up shop around these parts. Case in point: we just got our first Trader Joe’s.

I’ve been to Trader Joe’s in other parts of the country and really enjoyed the products that I purchased, so I was excited to visit the market. However, I heard that its opening week was extremely chaotic – cars were towed, those who arrived early lined up in the middle of US1 with shopping carts, and traffic nearby was abysmal. So I stayed away for a while and just made my way to Trader Joe’s this past weekend. I braced myself for the inevitable Miami hostility of blaring horns, getting cut off, and being shoved when I was inside the store, but to my utter shock everyone was on their best behavior and I encountered none of the attitude that I expected.

They say that patience is a virtue, and it was when I shopped at Trader Joe’s. My fellow Miamians and I waited to park, we were tolerant when other shoppers inexplicably stopped in front of us and impeded our path, and we didn’t complain when the checkout lines were lengthy. Sure, shopping at Trader Joe’s soon after it opened was a bit more tedious than I’m know it will be when the hype dies down, but overall it was a very pleasant experience because everyone was patient and polite.

So I had a good trip to Trader Joe’s – I’m sure you’re wondering why I would bother blogging about it, seeing as how most everyone enjoys shopping there? I’m writing about it because I’ve really never before seen such a display of patience in Miami. We might live our lives on Island Time and have zero qualms about showing up to an event hours late; however, we can be as pushy and rude as anyone anywhere when we want to be. I was pleasantly surprised that that wasn’t the case at Trader Joe’s! Witnessing my neighbors as they steadily, but not unhappily, plodded along towards a common goal (buying lots of good food!) was a good reminder to behave that way whenever the situation calls for patience. Trying to schedule a meeting with a prospective customer? Why get frustrated if you don’t hear back from her immediately? Better to try again with a smile on your face. Car break down? Don’t bark at the mechanic who’s helping you – thank him for his assistance.

It probably doesn’t say much for my home town that I’m proud of its residence for not revolting when parking was a challenge at a new market, but I really am. Miamians are not a patient bunch, so seeing them behave that way made me realize that I need to do so in every aspect of my life as well – from grocery shopping to business networking.

Another Chance to Make a Good (or bad) Impression

Business Cards In this portion of the blog, I discuss business networking, both online and off, because I think that it is such an important way to expand your professional network. I’ve touched on the fact that networking doesn’t have to happen in a formal setting, that following up is key, that connecting online is perfectly valid this day in age, and that if you are at a true networking event it is essential to dress professionally. I actually tend to harp on the last point because I think that if you want to be taken seriously, you need to look the part. I’ve had several people disagree with me about this, but I hold to it. My strong feelings on the topic might have something to do with the fact that people actually show up to Miami networking events in lingerie – and that’s no joke. I’m sorry, but I can’t see myself wanting to do business with someone who looks like she is part of the world’s oldest profession!

OK, so clearly I’m adamant about looking polished at networking events, and you can agree with me or not on that point. If you disagree about your sartorial choices being important when you’re networking, then you’ll probably disagree with me about this too: I think that your business cards need to be just as neat and tidy as you are when you network.

Hear me out about this before you stop reading, please! I’m all for a funky business card that differentiates you from your competition. In fact, I’ve written a post praising badass cards that are unique and interesting. What I mean about your card being neat and tidy is that when you hand it to someone, it should be clean and wrinkle-free. It shouldn’t look like it has been swimming in the bottom of your handbag for three months because that makes it appear as if you don’t care about the type of impression you are making to new business contacts. Similarly, hand out your own card – not ones that you’ve borrowed/stolen from your coworker, crossed his name out and replaced it with your information. That just looks tacky and makes you seem unprepared, which is not a great impression.

As shallow as it may seem to some, your appearance plays a part when you network. So I strongly suggest making sure that yours – from your grooming to your clothing and down to the business cards that you hand out – is polished. And for goodness sake, no networking in your underwear!

Networking Tip: Follow Up Effectively

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We’ve all been there: we’ve attended a networking event and we feel like we really connected with someone. So, diligent networkers that we are, we followed up in a timely matter. Then followed up again. And again. And again. And the person with whom we were really excited to build a relationship just slips away… What a frustrating feeling! When it happens to me, I take it personally and feel like a complete dork – why didn’t so-and-so like me?! However, I’ve learned that that is generally not the case; rather, when I don’t hear back from a potential business contact after a networking event, it’s often because he or she literally did not get the message.

I’ve learned a lot from our social media coach over the years, but one of the first things she taught me really stuck with me. She said that it’s important to reach out to people using their preferred method of communication. At first I thought that this was completely stupid – we all have phone and e-mail, so it was logical to me to use those as my go-to ways to reach someone. While the telephone and e-mail are still the most logical options to me, I’ve found that there are some people who simply do not respond to either. But they will, most likely, reply to my message on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn: it’s just a matter of figuring out which one.

The next time you are at a networking event and you feel like you’ve met someone worthwhile, don’t just get her card. Get her card and ask her for her preferred method of communication. That way you won’t waste your time calling someone who expects you to Instagram her a picture or sending e-mails to someone who would really prefer a text. When your communication actually reaches the intended recipient, that’s when you have a chance to build a relationship – so do not hesitate to ask how to make that happen.


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