Online and Offline Networking at its Best

photo from www.jekyllisland.com

photo from www.jekyllisland.com

As a member of both the Greater Miami and the Coral Gables Chambers of Commerce, the whole Gossett Marketing team receives a heck of a lot of emails regarding their events. We also seem to get frequent communication from various other networking organizations around town, such as the Miami Beach Chamber, Chamber South, etc. I generally read all of these emails to see whether there is something that I might be interested in attending. One thing I’ve noticed is that all of the local Miami chambers are asking members and guests to help them promote their events by using Twitter hashtags in the lead-up and posting pictures online during and after.

Having attendees promote an event before, during, and after is a great idea in that it generates publicity for the happening. But even more so than that, I think it is a wonderful tool for the people who use it. If you know anything about hashtags, then you are aware of the fact that they make Twitter searchable. So if you know that you are going to go to a networking function that has a publicized hashtag, use it to see who else is going to be in attendance. That way you can begin to connect with them prior to the event, and then meet in person when you are there. Networking can be intimidating if you’re walking into a roomful of strangers but if you “meet” someone beforehand via a social networking site, then you have a built-in friend when you get there!

If you, as an attendee, are participating in hashtagging an event, it also gives you an automatic excuse to talk to people (not that you need one if you’re networking, but it might make it more comfortable to approach strangers). Introduce yourself, tell them that you want to get a picture of them exchanging business cards or some such so that you can share it online, and then post it. Be sure to get the Twitter names of everyone in the picture too so that you can tag them – and then definitely look them up and follow them once you get back to the office. Meanwhile, at the event, continue to chit chat and learn more about them in person.

After you’re done with the networking event, continue to follow its hashtags. Then befriend others who do the same. You can forge initial bonds with them online and plan on attending the next activity together to meet in person. And the cycle continues!

Long story short, if you see that a chamber of commerce is offering a hashtag for an event then be sure to use it so that you can meet people before, during, and after it happens. It’s online and offline networking at its best!

Put Yourself Out There

photo from zimbabweelection.com

photo from zimbabweelection.com

Yesterday Danette, fearless leader of the team here at Gossett Marketing, was on the radio. She was featured on JB Biz Line, a program on South Florida’s WBIG, 95.9 FM. Hosted by Andrea Johnbaptiste of Axum Management Capabilities, the show is designed to help businesses prosper, and yesterday’s topic was “Entrepreneurship: Staying the Course.”

While Danette has been interviewed for publications in the past, she hadn’t done a radio show until yesterday. It was a neat opportunity for her because her name, our company name, and her business expertise were broadcast across South Florida. Although this has not caused a huge swell in orders, it gives Danette and the company great exposure. Who knows, maybe the next times she attends a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce event, someone will meet her and ask “why do I recognize your name?” Could be that it’s because he heard her on the radio, which will give her instant credibility in his eyes.

I think it’s a smart business practice to put yourself out there in a way that shows your expertise. Heck, that’s why I write this blog! A radio interview, while not a commonplace opportunity, is a fabulous opportunity to give yourself and your company excellent exposure. So do whatever you can to promote your business – even if public speaking, writing, or networking makes you nervous, just get out there and do it!

How’s Your Elevator Speech?

Speed Networking

Last week I attended the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s “Speed Biz Breakfast,” which was essentially the speed dating version of networking. There were around 25 other attendees, and we all sat around a long table. We were told to introduce ourselves and our businesses to the person across from us, and have him/her do the same in 3 minutes. At the end of 3 minutes, we all moved to the right and did it again with the next person.

Let me tell you, I learned that 3 minutes with someone can fly by in the blink of an eye or can drag on for all eternity!

With people to whom I enjoyed speaking, 3 minutes was not a long enough visit, and I think it was because those people had such captivating “elevator speeches.” They had all mastered the art of describing themselves and their businesses succinctly yet in an interesting fashion. The 3-minutes-is-an-eternity-people, on the other hand, were not engaging, they didn’t know what to say, and I still have no idea what they do!

I think my “elevator speech” – which describes our creative promotional products, employee incentive programs, custom collateral, etc. – is pretty darn good and my foray into Speed Networking just reinforced its importance!

Miamians Networking in Napa

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce invades Napa!

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce invades Napa!

When I started Gossett Marketing 22 years ago I felt it was important to become active in the community. So I jumped in with both feet – joining the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Women Business Owners, becoming a mentor for the University of Miami School of business and so much more. And my business grew as a result.

Today, I think it’s still important to be an engaged member of our community. I am a Trustee and Board member of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and am the chair of their Good to Great Awards. I’ve had colleagues question if all the time, expense and energy is worth it. My answer is YES on so many levels.

My business continues to grow as a result of my involvement. But “involvement” is the key. You can’t just join and expect people to know who you are and use your services. The adage still stands – “people like to do business with people they know and trust.” And while maintaining a relationship online keeps you in touch, in my opinion you still develop a deeper relationship in person.

When I joined the Greater Miami Chamber I was also encouraged to join the Membership committee. And believing in chambers as I do, it was a natural yes.

Each year, the Greater Miami Chamber has a Membership Campaign with team challenges, prizes and events to encourage members to introduce prospects to the benefits of a chamber membership. At the end of the “drive” those that qualify by bringing in memberships and sponsorships are rewarded with the annual Membership Campaign trip.

This year the trip was to Napa Valley California. And I was one of 31 who enjoyed an amazing four days visiting a variety of wineries, restaurants and enjoying amazing weather. And, talk about spending some quality time with clients and prospects.

I have to admit, while I had met most of the people before, I can say I only truly knew about 30%. Now, I can say I’ve shared more than one glass of wine with them all. There were representatives from Baptist Health South Florida, City National Bank, Dosal Capital, Great Florida Bank, Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, MDO Partners, RBB Partners, Conroy Martinez, Victoria & Associates, University of Miami and more.

While it wasn’t a “business” trip per se I am sure these companies now know who I am and I think we can all say on some level networking was going on. If only to find out about new places to try for free happy hour champagne (thanks CL).

Next year the trip is to Boston and I plan to qualify again. Because it’s a great group of people that I would like to get to know even better. Cheers!

Networking: It’s Not a Sales Pitch

shamwow While I do not claim to be a business networking expert, I have attended my fair share of events and have picked up some good techniques – and some pet peeves – along the way. One such peeve, the peeve that makes me the peeviest, if you will, is individuals who try to sell at networking events. That’s not what it’s about, people!

If you ask me (or if you ask anyone who actually is a networking expert), the reason that businesspeople network is to build mutually-beneficial relationships. The point is to connect with someone and learn about their occupation while teaching them about your own. Ultimately, then, you’ll be able to refer business back and forth to one another. So in my case, I network with fellow members of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce so that one day when someone asks them if they know of a good promotional marketing distributor, the person with whom I’ve worked to build a relationship will say, “yes! Call Lillian at Gossett Marketing!”

Relationship building is why I – and most other people – participate in networking events. With that as my focus, I get truly irritated that others attend events in order to sell me their goods or services. If a stranger walks up to me and I think he is going to deliver his “elevator speech,” but instead he tells me about the great deal he can get me on some product, it feels like the networking equivalent of a telemarketer calling at dinner time. I probably don’t want what he’s selling, and he’s interrupting what I’m trying to do. Annoying! I might take his card, but I can guarantee that I’m not going to volunteer my own (and if he asks for one, then I might have “left them all at the office”).

If you want to sell me something that’s well and good, but build a relationship with me first. A sales pitch is far different than an elevator pitch – and it’s certainly not networking.

Why & How to be Memorable at Events

stand out from the crowd I was recently at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon where, during the networking portion of the event, I had great conversations with very interesting people. I learned a lot about their businesses, they learned a lot about my roll at Gossett Marketing, and I walked away from our encounters with the understanding that we would follow up with one another and try to work together in the future. Then came the actually luncheon portion of the program – I had talked to so many people during our designated networking time that I had to grab one of the only seats that was left. As it turns out, my table mates were all accountants or lawyers and when we went around to introduce themselves, that’s all they said. No one said “I’m an accountant specializing in X and I’m looking to expand my business by connecting with Y.” No one explained that she was an attorney who sought to grow her corporate litigation practice in Latin America. It was just, “my name is Mary and I’m an accountant” or “I’m Joe and I’m a lawyer.” You know what? Although I sat with these people for much longer than I spent with the individuals I met during the networking half-hour, when I left the event I barely remembered them!

The point of that little tale is to point out how important it is to differentiate yourself at networking events. There are lots of accountants and attorneys out there – there are lots of promotional marketing product distributors running around too – so if you want to get noticed you need to make yourself and your business stand out from the pack. For example, when I introduce myself to someone at an event, my elevator speech includes the fact that I am an Account Executive at Gossett Marketing, a certified woman-owned business that has been around for 20 years and that while we do provide our customers with “standard” promos, our specialty is completely custom giveaways. If the person that I’m speaking to wants more, then I elaborate by telling them that we are the exclusive promotional products supplier for Baptist Health South Florida and explain the online store and incentive programs we’ve created for the company. Sure, it’s a lot to fit into about 30 seconds, but I think (I hope) it makes me memorable. If nothing else, it provides sufficient information to start a conversation.

I can see how some people might not be comfortable telling total strangers all about their job, but that’s what you’re at a networking event for, right? If you tell me that you’re a lawyer and that’s all the information you’re willing to volunteer, then we’re going to part ways and probably never speak to one another again. But if you tell me that you love being an immigration attorney because you form such a deep bond with your clients, then I’ll remember you! It doesn’t take much to make yourself memorable – elaborate on what you do, tell me what kind of business you’re trying to gain at the event, heck, tell me about your dog! Just do something to make yourself memorable, and I’ll try to do the same so that we can both benefit from meeting one another.

Consider Your Body Language When Networking

Body Language The Gossett Marketing gang spends a tremendous amount of time at networking events all over Miami, so we’re all fairly familiar with how to compose ourselves in those types of situations. We dress appropriately, we pack plenty of business cards, we’ve nailed our elevator pitches, and we are certainly never rude. Basically, we know how to network and we’re not afraid to do it. But I know a there are a lot of who objectively know how to compose themselves at such events, but they find that their networking efforts are in vain. In my humble opinion, I’m willing to bet that these unsuccessful networkers suffer from bad body language.

While I don’t consciously consider other individuals’ body language at networking events (or really at any other time, for that matter), when I think back to the last Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon that I attended, I realize that there were some people that I did not approach due to the way they carried themselves. You see, when I walked into the Jungle Island ballroom’s reception area, I didn’t spot anyone that I knew, and in that situation I always look for a person or group to whom I might introduce myself. The nearest person was a woman who was standing by herself – normally I would have walked over to say hello, but she had her arms crossed tightly over her chest and when I made eye contact, she looked away immediately. Her stance made her seem closed off and the fact that she would not even look me in the eye made it obvious that she didn’t want to meet me, so I moved on. Thinking back, I realize that had she had her arms crossed but made eye contact or if she had had a difficult time making eye contact but held her arms to her sides, I definitely would have spoken to her because I would have taken her body language as a sign of being nervous rather than one of quasi-hostility.

Later on at the same event, I began speaking with someone who could not seem to stand even remotely still. As we chatted, he fidgeted with his watch and cufflinks, he bounced on his toes, and he shifted from foot to foot with alarming frequency. While I recognize that we’re not statues, it was a lot of movement from one man as we stood in one place conversing. I couldn’t tell if he was nervous, if he had someone better to speak to so he was trying to wrap up our chat, or, frankly, if he needed to use the men’s room. Awkward! Someone that jittery needs to tone it down on the caffeine before a networking event and invest some time in practicing to hold himself still during a conversation. Shifting your weight now and again or scratching an itch from time to time is fine, but a no one should fidget so much during a five minute conversation that it makes the person to whom he’s speaking uncomfortable.

I know I’ve been guilty of body language blunders and I’m sure that I will commit them again, but I try to keep them to a minimum. How you hold yourself is probably not something that you consciously consider on a day-to-day basis, but take a moment to think about it while you throw your shoulders back and hold your head high at networking events.

Top 3 Networking Resources

Business Networking As I’ve mentioned many, many times in this blog, everyone here at Gossett Marketing is extremely dedicated to networking. We have a trustee membership to the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, where Danette heads a committee, we attend non-Chamber events, heck, I even network with my running group! Although we’re dedicated, sometimes I find this, the networking portion of our blog, hard to fill. I mean, how many times can I remind my readers to bring their business cards to events?! Fortunately for me, I’m not the only person blogging about networking! When I need a little inspiration, I check out what other people have to say on the subject. Here are some of the sites that I find myself turning to frequently. Take a look at their unique perspective – hopefully you’ll find them interesting too!

  1. Network in Austin – This is a site that is completely networking-focused, and it features articles about all aspects of the subject. Want to know about referrals? Check! What about pre-event preparation? You got it! There is no business networking detail too minute for this comprehensive site to cover.
  2. Small Business Trends – this website isn’t dedicated exclusively to networking, but there are many, many posts on the topic. A personal favorite is “The 59 Commandments of Business Networking” by Diane Helbig. Check it out!
  3. Mashable – Mashable is dedicated to all things social networking – news, how-to, design, you name it, you can find it here. It’s an excellent resource for those who are new to the social media world and to people who are comfortable calling themselves “geeks.” I find myself turning to Mashable whenever I have a Twitter or LinkedIn question, and you should too!

Whether or not you write a blog that calls for a weekly post on networking, these three websites are endless sources of information for business professionals. So once you’re done reading InterestingMarketingTidbits.com, be sure to check them out!

When Networking Mind your P’s & Q’s

 

 

I know that I tend to write a lot of “what not to do” posts in the networking section of this blog and I was going to try to steer clear of that this week, but I just returned from a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon and I need to vent. You see, I sat at a table with an incredibly rude man and I just thought that his behavior was wildly inappropriate! So here’s what he did that you should not try to copy!

  • Mocked People Being Recognized: At our chamber functions, the chairman will often mention special people who are in attendance (past chairs, politicians, etc.). Those individuals are asked to stand so that they can be recognized by the crowd, and they often look around and wave. When that happened today, the rude man at my table saluted them all mockingly as he laughed. These are people who have worked hard to become upstanding members of the Miami community – why make fun of them for that?
  • Ridiculed The Speaker: Today’s keynote speaker was the President of the Senate of Haiti. English was his second language, and he had a heavy accent – this led the man at my table to elbow the person next to him and mimic the gentleman’s speech pattern. The woman that he did this to was visibly uncomfortable; after all, we live in a true melting pot where most people have an accent! Why make fun of that?! And if you’re going to do so, don’t get a perfect stranger involved (particularly not one who had already told the table that she grew up in Haiti).
  • Had Poor Table Manners: As if the fact that the rude man at my table was making fun of people at the event wasn’t bad enough, he also had lousy table manners. He used his fork more like a shovel than a utensil for spearing food. He slurped his drink. He had his elbows on the table. It made a terrible impression!

I know that we’re all only human – we slip up every now and again. I’m sure that I’ve done things at networking events that can be misconstrued as me making fun of someone. And I’ve certainly caught myself yawning with my mouth uncovered. I know, I know, I deserve a slap on the wrist. The thing is, I don’t make the people around me at these events uncomfortable. The purpose of networking is to meet and make connections with others to expand your business – you can’t do that if no one wants to be associated with you. So don’t be like the rude guy at my table, behave yourself when you’re out there networking!

Name Memorization Tricks – What Works?

Name Badge Like everyone here at Gossett Marketing, I spend a good amount of time attending networking events. The purpose of these is to meet new people and hopefully to form some sort of business relationship. I’ve gotten to the point where I am perfectly comfortable walking into a room full of strangers and chatting with the first one I meet, but what I’m not good at is learning strangers’ names.

I’ve heard all of the tricks for committing others’ names to memory. I pay attention when they are introduced, and if I don’t catch the name the first time someone says it, I do not hesitate to ask for it again. This is particularly necessary Jungle Island’s loud ballroom, where the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce holds its Trustee Luncheons – sometimes I feel like I spend half of my time at those events repeating my name or asking someone else to repeat theirs!

Like all of the experts recommend, I always attempt to use my new acquaintance’s name during our initial conversation. So when Susan introduces me to Ed, I’m always sure to say “it’s a pleasure to meet you, Ed,” rather than just “it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Then when Susan tells me how she knows Ed or when he tells me what he does, I try to come up with a way for me to associate that information with his moniker. So if Ed graduated from Cornell, then I might attempt to remember him as “Big Red Ed” because their mascot is the Big Red Bear.

While I do all of the “right” things to remember other people’s names, I’m not great at it and I’m constantly looking at ways to improve, as I feel like this will make my networking efforts much more successful. My next strategy is going to involve social media. When I collect business cards at an event, I am going to look those people up on both Facebook and LinkedIn – then when I make follow-up calls or send e-mails, I will pull up their photo so that I can associate their face with their name one more time. Hopefully this additional step will prove valuable in my name memorization efforts.

Do you have trouble learning names? Or are you particularly good at doing so? Either way, if you’d leave your tricks in the comments below, I’d be forever grateful!

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