Our Emerging Leaders Network has made some amazing learning opportunities available to its members since the Network was created this past Spring. A recent “Networking for Success” workshop was no exception. In this guest blog post, workshop participant and Emerging Leaders Network member Andy Renton summarizes some great networking tips for individuals at community organizations.
“Networking is the art of building mutually beneficial relationships.” This was the opener for Sarah Daviau’s recent workshop titled “Networking for Success,” which truly was beneficial to all who attended.
After over 10 years in the non-profit sector with various organizations, Sarah now operates Piece of Cake Communications, which is dedicated to helping people overcome their fears of networking and public speaking. Her presentation was informative, interactive, and practical.
Sarah encouraged us to take our networking skills seriously. Networking increases awareness of your agency, helps you find potential donors, volunteers, ambassadors, or sponsors, and helps you learn about upcoming events while also providing you the opportunity to promote yours.
Focusing on building relationships, networking also allows you to find new friends and allies, and grows your awareness of new concepts, trends, and perspectives that can improve your agency.
How To Do It
Sarah shared her steps for engaging in networking conversations. Although they are most useful in actual networking events, they can be tailored to any interaction.
1. Start the Conversation – Acknowledging that most of us are shy, Sarah recommends warming up by talking to acquaintances first, or starting with the ‘wallflowers’ who are standing alone hoping someone will introduce themselves.
When approaching a group, there are two suggestions. With the Bold approach, you simply walk up, wait for a lull in the conversation, and introduce yourself. The Slide approach is much the same, except you enter the conversation with a positive comment about the event or conversation, following up with your introduction.
2. Handshake – Offering your hand is a professional necessity in western business culture. It seems simple, but many people get it wrong. Make sure you have a confident but warm handshake. Practice with colleagues and get advice.
3. Greeting – Always introduce yourself during a handshake with your name, perhaps your title, and your agency. Practice this often so you’re confident.
4. Business Commercial – Often called the Elevator Speech, this is what makes your good impression useful to your agency. Tell them who you serve, what you do, and how it makes a difference. It must be meaningful and relatable to the person you are conversing with, so consider your audience.
Points to remember for your business commercial:
– Be brief (two to three sentences).
– Practice, practice, practice!
– Consider having the same business commercial for everyone in your agency.
– Watch for impact. Change and improve your speech if it has limited results.
– Don’t use unfamiliar acronyms or jargon.
5. Small Talk – This is where you begin that mutually beneficial relationship. Your job is to find out how you can help the other person. Put into practice your great listening skills and figure out what they need and how you can help.
6. Business Card Exchange – Never travel without business cards and use them. Make sure to get cards in return so you can take ownership of the follow-up.
7. Extraction – The end of the conversation must come, so be confident and use the bold or slide approach in reverse. Simply offer your hand and say goodbye, or begin the extraction with a positive comment about the person or conversation.
If you are in a group, then extract yourself while they are engaged in a conversation. Step back and mouth a silent “excuse me.”
8. The Most Important Step – FOLLOW-UP – If you don’t follow up, then all of your hard work is wasted. Sarah recommends following up with everyone you meet within 3 days. If a valuable connection was made then suggest a next step, such as an invitation to coffee.
Things TO DO and NOT TO DO
The following are Sarah’s final tips for how to be successful at networking and making a good impression.
– Reply promptly to invites.
– Be prepared and practice what you’re going to say.
– Dress appropriately.
– Set a goal for how many people you want to meet.
– Arrive early and leave late.
– Be confident and be positive.
– Listen more than you talk.
– Be a connector between those you meet.
– Thank the host of an event.
– Spend all your time with people you know.
– Spend the entire event eating.
– Get too personal.
– Interrupt others.
– Cling to people.
Andy Renton is the Youth Pastor at Lambrick Park Church, overseeing 50 volunteers in running multiple weekly programs which serve the teens of Gordon Head. He specializes in counselling, public speaking, and organizing city and island-wide conferences and events.