Working the Room. Keys to Success

Posted by dscaringi on March 17, 2016

Business development plans come in all shapes and sizes, and with all kinds of strategies to develop and nurture long term relationships leading to business opportunities. Networking is an important part of that plan. You take time to select an event to meet the people in your target market, identify who is likely to be there, practiced your quick pitch and dressed smartly. But you find yourself dreading it. Why? Because walking into a networking event forces you out of your comfort zone.  How do you make the most of the next 2 hours? Here are some tips:

  • Don’t go in cold. Since you have taken the time to identify who may be in attendance, start planning your conversation starters. Think about timely topics, industry related questions and other relevant talking points so that you may spark a conversation at a moment’s notice.
  • Dress for success. Identify the personality of the event, the business position of the attendees and the environment of the venue. Dress one step above what you think the group will be donning. Don’t wear high maintenance clothes that require your attention (read: no shirts that don’t stay tucked, plunging necklines or wraps that keep slipping off your shoulder) Make sure you have pockets to keep business cards– keep yours in one pocket and the cards you collect in the the other pocket.
  • Hold your head high. Look confident, even if you are incredibly uncomfortable in the networking environment. The old saying, “fake it ’til you make it” has some truth here.
  • Go to the furthest food station or bar. When you walk into a room, scan it. Then cross the room to the further bar or food station. This gives you time to assess the group and see who you may know. See someone along the way, stop and say hello. Don’t see anyone you know, simply get something to drink or eat and strike up a conversation with the folks next to you.
  • Prioritize your activities at the event. If you know who you want to see while you are there, find that person and connect with them early on. That way you won’t miss them if they decide to leave early or get engrossed in a deep conversation with someone else.
  • Find groups of 1s and 3s. If you don’t know anyone in the room, look for people who are either alone, or in a small group with an odd number (like 3 or 5 people). The single people will be thrilled to have someone to talk to and the groups of odd numbers allows for gentler interruption of conversation.
  • Ask questions. People love to talk about familiar topics. Ask them questions about themselves, their careers, how they know the host, etc… If you get them talking, listen to what they say for clues for conversation segues.
  • Take your turn. The conversation will eventually turn to you– so be ready to give your quick pitch. Adapt your language for any newfound commonalities amongst you and the listeners.

If networking makes you feel anxious, take a look at it through a new lens. Try to think of networking as making new friends. Take the opportunity to meet people who have a common interest as you. With thoughtful follow-up, some of these new people will blossom into long-term relationships while others may take an other path. Either way, be open to new experiences with new people. Suddenly it won’t feel like work, but rather time well spent.

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Linked In Etiquette: The Unwritten Rules

Posted by dscaringi on September 8, 2014

There is an etiquette to everything.  Whether in a business or personal setting, it is important making a good impression is often the foundation of ongoing relationships. Social networking has experienced exponential growth and we use online tools for almost everything. Just as in face-to-face interactions, there are expected behaviors online that aren’t published hard and fast rules. Here are a few tips to help you navigate Linked In’s unwritten etiquette rules:

  • Don’t Be Self-Serving.  It hurts, but it is true.  People aren’t necessarily interested in what you have to say.  However, they are looking for solutions to their business problems.  Don’t sell yourself in a “me, me, me” kinda way.  Instead, provide helpful information that directs people towards the solutions they crave.
  • Don’t Post Constantly.  If  you are constantly showing up in someone’s feed, you could be sending a slew of wrong messages to those individuals (desperation, boredom and needy are just a few descriptors!). Helpful content is important, but pace yourself.  Just 10 minutes a day on Linked In several days a week should do the trick.
  • Don’t Connect to People You Have Never Met. This is counterproductive to building your network on Linked In. Too many random connections throw off Linked In’s algorithm for feeding you the “people you may know” feature, making it less productive for you over the long-run. However, if you find someone you do want to meet, have a good business reason and ask for an introduction from a mutual connection.  If you don’t have a mutual connection, be very selective as to who you reach out to and don’t always expect a response.
  • Don’t Criticize or Comment Negatively.  It is ok to share your constructive opinion on something, but avoid negative or foul language at all times.  These outbursts reflect poorly upon you within your network.
  • Don’t Promote Your Facebook or Twitter Presence on Linked In.  Social networking is built for relationship development purposes. Don’t ever blanket-announce your broader social presence.  Get to know individuals before asking them to “like” your Facebook page.  You really want someone to follow you on Twitter?  Then find and follow them first.  The same goes for all other social outlets.
  • Don’t Send Messages With, “I see you viewed my profile…”  Although you are able to find this information out, don’t use it against anyone!  This sends a spooky vibe you just don’t want to be associated with!  Build legitimate business reasons for connecting to others on Linked In.
  • Don’t post the Mundane. Keep it relevant and informative. People really don’t care what you ate for lunch, that you are having a tough day or that you love your neighbor’s dog.

Linked In is a great tool for deepening relationships with individuals.  Use it to its fullest potential by creating a full profile, joining and participating in groups and keeping up to date on business happenings.  Steer clear of these unspoken etiquette guidelines and you should be good to roll!

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The Art of Small Talk

Posted by dscaringi on July 23, 2014

It is summer and the social calendar is booked with all kinds of activities!  Whether you are attending a business event or a personal BBQ, you will be in face-to-face situations where you will need to strike up a conversation.  This prospect strikes fear in many people. I often hear that people say they “dread small talk.”  That they “just can’t get started.” That is is “meaningless.”  I argue that none of the above needs to be the case.  Here are a few steps for smoothing out the distaste for striking up conversations:

  • Approach an individual or a group of 3 people and introduce yourself. It is easier to break into groups of odd numbers.
  • Prepare 3 topics to talk about before you arrive so that you have them ready to use “on the fly.”
  • Prepare 4 event-related or business-related open-ended questions that get people talking.
  • Be the first to say ‘Hello’ to someone.
  • Avoid negative or controversial topics.
  • Avoid religion and politics.
  • Introduce new people you meet by name to others at the event and mention information about the person to help transition to conversation.
  • Repeat the names of the people you meet.

The best thing about small talk?  It potentially leads to BIG talk that builds meaningful relationships.

 

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