Remember that feeling you had when you started the business?
If you answered anything but a resounding YES, then consider the summer a perfect opportunity to breathe new fire into your belly, and new life into your business.
Contrary to popular belief, probably 99.9% of all entrepreneurs are not globe-trotting, Fabergé egg collectors who take four day weekends. Almost everyone I know treat entrepreneurship as a lifestyle and literally work around-the-clock making the business sustainable in the present, but most importantly, for the future. If you start treating networking events as an opportunity to further develop relationships with people for the future, you are much more likely to enjoy longevity in your business.
The harsh reality of small business is that most don’t survive the magical five year mark. While its possible changes in modernization and technology can account for some to go out of business, it’s more likely the vast majority of business owners do not understand, or value, the concept of networking.
There is a big difference between collecting as many business cards as you can in a single event, and networking for the sake of building relationships. Starting-out, it’s common for entrepreneurs to go to an event and hand-out / collect dozens of business cards. At the end of the day, aren’t we all told we need to network to get work? What better way to meet people then by exchanging business cards right? If you agree with that sentence, you might be a networking rookie. Go back a few years and even I had some difficulty learning this important concept. Make no mistake, business cards are not an outdated concept, but it’s important to always keep in mind the purpose of networking is to connect with someone in a way that builds credibility and trust.
While it’s true that some larger business organizations such as Chambers of Commerce offer less organized activities in the summer, networking is all around you! Why not organize your own little networking event? Become known as a ‘mover and shaker’ by inviting some key players out for a drink on a patio during the hot summer months. After a few times word may spread and it may catch-on. You may be amazed to know that people are always looking for new activities and events to meet like-minded people.
And who knows…maybe with all the success you’ll have a Fabergé egg may one day adorn your office desk!
Until then, keep sweating-up the networking circuit until you own it.
For more networking tips, check out the weekly eSAX Ask The Fedora videos on YouTube!
Jarrod Goldsmith is a Canadian small business community builder and is the embodiment of the small business spirit. He is one of Ottawa’s best known entrepreneurs and founded Sax Appeal (Canada’s Premier Saxophone Ensemble) eSAX (The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience); Ottawa’s largest entrepreneur networking community for small business.
Many people have never attended networking events. Many don’t attend because of fear of rejection, awkwardness, and social anxiety. For those who have made an appearance, sometimes outside-of-work tendencies take over and professionalism is thrown out of the window. To help the novice attendees, as well as to refresh the vets, here are some helpful tips on what NOT to do during a networking event.
Stop the Business Card SPAM
At networking events, it’s all about the quality interactions that you’ve made with other professionals, not about how many cards you’ve passed around the room. It can be easy to slip your hand in your pocket to retrieve your prized calling card – fight the urge. Take the proper time to get to know others, develop the proper professional rapport with them, and then ask if they would be interested in either exchanging cards or setting up a meeting to further develop future conversations. Going around the room and handing out your cards to everyone you see is equivalent to handing out flyers on the corner of a street, unless they are discount coupons from Shawarma Palace, no one will pay them any mind.
As Jarrod Goldsmith, founder of eSAX (The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience), says: “No one likes to be treated like a number. Walking around handing a business card to everyone in the room is a sure way to be remembered, but for all the wrong reasons!”
“People generally buy from others based on the relationship they have and trust they have built with the person. Often times it’s a gut feeling more than the price which is the ‘make or break’ factor. Focus on building quality relationships, not handing out hundreds of cards!” – Frederic Voyer , CEO of Swaaap.com
Don’t Forget About the Business Cards You Receive
Sometimes, it can be just as easy to forget about a business card, as it is to hand one out. Make sure that when you get home, or to the office, place all of your goodies on a table! Personally, I like to categorize all of my business cards into three groups:
- Professionals that I believe are a good match for the company that I work for, with buying or selling authority.
- Professionals that aren’t necessarily a good match for the company, but that I believe can help or provide advice/resources in certain areas of need (and vice versa).
- Professionals that don’t fall in the above two categories.
“Always wise to follow-up with everyone you meet…even if you don’t think they may be a good client for you right now.” – Jarrod Goldsmith, Founder of eSAX
I tend to follow up with as many networking event connections as possible. This can be as simple as a hello – nice to meet ya, or an in-depth over-the-phone conversation to determine if setting up a face-to-face meeting is in the best interest of both parties. However, sometimes you can’t get to all of your connections in a timely fashion, so check out these tips for following-up after a timely delay.
It’s Called Networking, Not Using – Stop the Instant Sell
You spend valuable time at a networking event to determine whether you and your connection are a good fit, so don’t ruin it by immediately trying to sell to them. There will be opportunities down the road where that may happen, but that shouldn’t stop you from being genuine. Develop your relationship by finding out as much as possible about them. Pursue to be of service to your connection, and they will feel the need to reciprocate. If you’re following-up by email, don’t instantaneously send a sales pitch. Instead, offer something of value to your new connection.
“When following up with people, ask yourself ‘how can I add value to them in this email?’ and try to help them with something. This could be based on the conversation you had – perhaps they were interested in a tool you wanted to share or a great article you suggested. Don’t worry about ‘what is in it for me?’ worry about what is in it for them and the rest will follow naturally. Nature has a funny way of rewarding altruism!” Frederic Voyer, CEO of Swaaap.com
Leave the Elevator Pitch at the Door
Networking events aren’t only places where you go to meet new and interesting professionals who are eager to connect, learn and help one another; networking events are a great opportunity to focus on improving you social communication skills among like-minded people.
“Networking shouldn’t be a big sales pitch. Get to know people first!” – Jarrod Goldsmith, Founder of eSAX
When someone asks you “so, what do you do?” it’s an ice-breaker and conversation starter, not an open invite to practice your elevator pitch. Keep it short, sweet and ask them similar questions to keep the conversation rolling. If your new ‘connection’ is interested enough in you, he will ask for your business card and arrange another time to have a more in-depth conversation about business.
“I like to ask people what they are passionate about, what gets them up in the morning or what mission are they on in the world! I find you can really learn a lot about someone’s personality and uncover common interests when you ask open ended questions that get at their core values and passions!” – Frederic Voyer, CEO of Swaaap.com
Stop Forgetting About the Person In Front of You
“Give people your undivided attention. Also, make sure to pay attention to your body language.” – Jarrod Goldsmith, Founder of eSAX
Giving someone your complete attention at a busy networking event can be incredibly tricky. However it is the best way to make a REAL and lasting connection. Lots of us like scanning rooms to see who we should approach next while in a conversation; it is a big turn off and does not come off as genuine. Save your wandering eyes for another time. Eye contact is key when it comes to trying to engage people in discussion for the first time. If you aren’t focusing on eye contact, the other individuals will likely have lots of questions about you running through their heads. It’s always a good idea to understand how to interpret body language at networking events.
Don’t Stand Beside Your Colleague or Friend
This topic is up for discussion. Many professionals would say that it’s a terrible idea to go with friends to networking events because you both may fall into unprofessional tendencies and stick by each others side the whole night; doing exactly opposite of what you set out to do at a networking event. In actuality, there is nothing wrong with going with a colleague or friend, especially if you have fears of going to events like these. One thing I would like to point out, is to bring a friend who you know will be as professional as possible, and who isn’t afraid of separating to explore individual opportunities.
“Go to the networking event with the intent to make new friends, not just to talk to your current friends and stay in your comfort zone! The latter won’t help you grow as much as the former will!” – Frederic Voyer, CEO of Swaaap.com
Stop Talking So Much.. Oh, Don’t Interrupt!
Don’t talk so much? Well if I don’t do that, how am I supposed to know whether or not this person is the right fit for my business?
“This is a very common situation. Networking should be about getting to know other people. Make sure to ask questions and listen!!” – Jarrod Goldsmith, Founder of eSAX
Exactly – Don’t be overly enthusiastic to talk about yourself. It’s almost better to ask more questions than answering them. Guide the conversation to feature the person you’re talking to, not yourself.
On the flip side, think about all of those times you’ve been riding the verbal wave and doing a word dance like The Rainman counts cards. Now think about how irritating interruption can be during that state of mind. Patiently listen to what is being said to you. Even better – keenly listen. These non-verbal signs are ways to let other know that you respect them, and trust me, they appreciate it.
“Making new relationships is about asking questions and getting to know the other, it should be 50/50 dialogue as much as possible so that you both get to know the other person.” – Frederic Voyer, CEO of Swaaap.com
In the end, networking is all about the walking the fine line of personality, enthusiasm and being genuine. Make sure that you think about how you would like to be treated and approached at a networking event, before you even enter one.
For information on upcoming eSAX events, and to receive networking tips and advice, like and follow eSAX on Facebook, as well as Ask The Fedora on Twitter. You never know where you’ll find the fedora next!
Use promo code: Swaaap to save $10/ticket purchased
Ask any career coach or successful business professional and they’ll tell you that to expand your business, you need to put yourself out there and meet new people. Despite the growth of online communication and social interaction tools, people still “buy people”, so by showing your face, people are more likely to remember you when looking for a service you provide. So I have to ask, how often do you network?
While sometimes it’s daunting, remember that networking is an important tool for every business owner and communications professional because, not only are you showing your face to these people, but you also get to personally talk about what it is that you do. Would it be easier to hide at home and interact through your online communities? Maybe. But is it as effective? No way! After all, isn’t the goal of online communications to directly reach new potential customers, suppliers and business contacts? Networking is the fastest way to make this happen as you are making direct physical contact with new people.Ottawa has a number of terrific networking events that target different demographics, industries and interests. One of my new favourites here in Ottawa is eSAX . The brainchild of local musician and entrepreneur Jarrod Goldsmith, eSAX – The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience, is an “entrepreneurial social networking group dedicated to creating connections, gaining applicable knowledge from featured speakers and promoting collaboration among Regional Chambers of Commerce.” With different events that range from straight up mix and mingles, to speed networking events, eSAX seems to have something for every comfort level.
Are you a young, motivated, hard-working millennial entrepreneur who just can’t wait to go out on your own and build your empire? Are you seeking to improve your networking skills? If so, then you might have just stumbled across one of the best resources possible for taking your networking skills to another level.
Being a millennial entrepreneur can be difficult. On one hand, you have so much potential and time ahead of you in your career that many will praise you and be inspired by your early commitment to the game of business. On the other hand, many millennial entrepreneurs state they find it difficult or nerve-racking to attend network events with baby boomer entrepreneurs.
The truth is that whether you’re young or not, everybody struggles with these feelings of insecurity and low self confidence in the beginning. While you might think being young makes you seem less professional, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true.
I have learned some valuable networking skills over the last year that have allowed me to network very well with successful baby boomers. Networking has been extremely valuable for building my business, and building my personal growth. However, to learn these skills, I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning.
See, there are many mistakes to avoid in networking, and it came to my attention that a lot of millennial entrepreneurs could benefit from my past mistakes and the knowledge I have gained in a short time. So, here are 10 tips I wanted to share with you so you too can network effectively, meet new people, and grow your business as a millennial entrepreneur.
Have a great image.
Firstly, if you want to be taken seriously in business as a younger entrepreneur, then you’re going to have to come across as being professional. No, this doesn’t mean that you’ll need to become a lifeless, boring, dry individual – but it does mean that you should probably start dressing and looking like you’re capable of managing a business and close big deals.
Invest in professional clothing. Get a good headshot picture taken of yourself. Make sure that your social media looks professional as well. Remove any pictures of you partying or looking like you are irresponsible. Make yourself come across as an already successful individual. Look like an opportunity to everyone around you. You must understand that your online presence these days is everything. You can’t sell a $1000 service looking like you’re a $10 service provider!
Know your story and tell it well.
When you introduce yourself, know your story and tell it well. Don’t downplay your achievements, and don’t be all over the place when explaining what you do. The better, more confident, and simpler you can communicate your product or value you provide – the more attractive you will be to others who are more successful than you. Make people excited.
Demonstrate that you’re a hard worker.
You’re going to have to show that you are a hard worker and demonstrate your ambition to succeed. Millennials are often referred to as being entitled, and lazy. Prove otherwise to the people you meet. Talk about your hustle and what you have accomplished despite some of the struggles you may have faced. This will earn you respect and admiration from those who are older and more successful than you because it shows that you’re hungry and have goals in life. Often, mentors and investors will invest in people, rather than just the business.
Listen closely and ask questions.
When you’re speaking with someone, listen to them instead of just waiting for your turn to talk. Ask questions about what they’re talking about and what they do. This sounds very simple; however, many people miss amazing opportunities because they simply were not listening. The more you listen and ask questions, the more opportunity you will find. Remember, a person is only interesting when they are interested.
Give value, don’t just take it.
There’s nothing more annoying than those people who go around only looking to take. You know what I mean. Those people approaching others looking for handouts, investments, free coaching, or mentorship without adding any real value to the other person. Don’t be this kind of person. Especially as a younger entrepreneur. Their time is very precious and chances are they’re bothered with these questions all the time. If you want to meet with an influencer, think about how you can give and not just take!
You don’t need to have only money to benefit others. Consider how you can use your current available resources (skills, network, time, hard work) to benefit them in some way so that there is a mutual benefit in the relationship.
Don’t think you know it all.
As stated before, millennials are often seen as being entitled. Whatever you do, don’t come across as being a know-it-all. You haven’t had anywhere near as much experience as most of the people you will be networking with, and despite what you might think about their concepts being dated – there is still much to learn. Swallow your pride, and become a humble student to seasoned entrepreneurs. Be willing to learn from your past generations. There is much knowledge here that will be critical for your future success.
Talk like a billionaire.
So, like…You should probably like …. Talk like um . . . A little less um …like an um…millennial…Or whatever…um.
Everyone knows what I’m talking about here. I am guilty of this one coming from being a young biker dude growing up. However, if you want to be taken more seriously as a millennial entrepreneur, force yourself to ditch the language of one.
I’ve found that by reading books and listening to audio programs from very successful entrepreneurs and sales people has dramatically increased my oral communication skills. Also (and this might sound dumb to some) turn on your camera and practice speaking to yourself about various concepts. This will help you see exactly how you present yourself to those around you. Don’t get discouraged, get motivated to practice this skill and excel at it. It’s something you won’t regret doing.
Keep your promises and be punctual.
If you meet someone and tell them that you are going to do something for them, do it. If you are supposed to meet someone for coffee to discuss a potential opportunity at a specific time, be there early. This is something that not a lot of millennials, nor baby boomers honour these days.
Become a man/woman of your word. Keep all the promises you make, and always deliver on them. This will gain you a lot of respect from others, and will make you stand out tremendously – because no one else is doing it!
Follow up and keep in touch.
Follow up with people who you met with. If you don’t have any business cards, get some! When you meet people who you believe could be valuable to have in your network, ask for their business card and request to add them as a connection on LinkedIn after meeting with them.
If you really hit it off with someone, I would highly suggest sending them an email hours after the event thanking them for the opportunity to connect with them. Tell them what you learned from them. Show them that your discussion with them was a meaningful one and demonstrate your interest in your relationship with them. This will open many doors for you and people will remember you.
Confidence is everything.
I know it’s easier said than done, but confidence is everything when it comes to networking. You want to come across as confident; not desperate. Look them in the eye when you are speaking to them and show that you know your worth. Any big influencer will tell you that by carrying yourself as being confident, people will be attracted and influenced by you.
Confidence comes from competence. Educate yourself as much as you can about your expertise and you will naturally come across as being more confident. This is because you know what you are talking about, and confidence will come as a by product from your competence of the subject matter.
Written by Matt Thibeau
Certified Digital Marketing Consultant
Every entrepreneur is told they need to start attending networking events in order for their startup to grow. It doesn’t matter in which industry the small business is in, people need to know about it so that it will grow. As an event planner, this is definitely a large market!
With so many networking events to choose from, how can event planners create unique events that will have traction, longevity and active community engagement?
First of all, an event planning business faces many of the same challenges that any other small business faces. Exposure and credibility are key ingredients to a successful brand. Start by personally attending networking events in your area. Get to know the major ‘players’ of some of the most active networkers, as well as the organizer of other events. If you don’t have a solid grasp on the market, how can you expect your new event to be successful?
Venue selection is a huge component of creating a successful networking event. The number of people you expect, the overall look and feel of the event and purpose of what you are trying to accomplish all play-into what would be an appropriate place to host. Some venues might charge a lot of money to rent rooms, with a commitment to purchase food and/or beverages. It’s always wise idea to discuss with the venue the option of them waiving any potential charge, especially if you can guarantee them a certain number of attendees, particularly on a slow weekday. Perhaps they may even be willing to provide some complimentary appetizers? (Providing food for attendees is always wise)!
Costs for creating an event need not be extravagant. If a venue is not charging for the space, and there are no other major commitments, perhaps your only out-of-pocket expense may be parking. But remember that if it’s the first time you’re hosting an event, you want to make it memorable, so it’s a good idea to do what you can so that people will talk about it. This could mean paying for extra food or a round of drinks for everyone. As with any business, sometimes even event planners need to initially pay in order for exposure so that they will bring more traffic next time. Think about the future and how your event will contribute to a lasting legacy.
Normally freebie events have higher turn-outs than events that charge. This is true particularly for the startup business community who are notorious for not having much money. Keep in mind that if you don’t charge a fee, you may find attendance may be overshadowed by an abundance of people in certain industries such multi-level marketers, real estate / mortgage agents, financial etc.
It’s frequently said that paid events ‘weed-out’ many of these kinds of people and lead to a higher-level of attendees. For example, it’s likely that people who are members of Chambers of Commerce will not attend freebie events since those are often not the kind of people they are looking to connect with. Again, it goes back to who the target market of your clients are looking to meet. This should make you aware of your target market.
The more established your events become, the easier it is to start charging. At the end of the day, we all need to make ends-meet, but if you start an event with the intention to make money, people often have the tendency to notice, and it might not lead to a very good first impression.
Finding sponsors is always a wise idea. Once you create a niche, know your market, have a few events under your belt and have a steady number of people attending, you could be ready to start looking for sponsorship. As we all know, if an organization has funding or is willing to provide goods or services in exchange for sponsorship, it means they want access to your audience. By creating various sponsorship packages, they can pick and choose the kind of exposure they can expect to receive. A great resource to help you start looking for sponsorships is an Ottawa-based company called Sponsearch. Sponsearch matches organizations looking for sponsorships, with those organizations looking to offer sponsorships. In essence, it has been equated to a sponsorship ‘dating’ website.
All entrepreneurs are busy, so choosing a time of day to host your event is essential. Once you complete your due-diligence, you will find that there are many breakfast networking events happening almost every day of the week. Perhaps you may wish to try something different and host events towards the end of the day or evenings. Figure out for yourself the best time for your target market to attend. Ask people you meet at other events for their preference. Perhaps you may find that parking of traffic is an issue for some. By holding events in the late afternoon/evening there is a better chance that on-street parking might be free, which would be an added-value to attendees.
Social media is the key to any successful business. Being actively engaged on many different platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will help expose and promote your brand. It’s one thing to attend networking events yourself in person, but you should also use social media to help spread the word to entrepreneurs about your evenst.
Hopefully these few tips will help you to start realizing what it takes to create and host success entrepreneur networking events!
About: Jarrod Goldsmith is one of Ottawa’s best-known entrepreneurial networkers and is the embodiment of the small business spirit. His passion for music, public relations and networking skills made for a perfect combination in creating two unique businesses.
eSAX (The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience); is an entrepreneur networking community and tradeshow for small business to create connections, gain knowledge and promote collaboration among Chambers of Commerce and community/business leaders. Sax Appeal (Canada’s Premier Saxophone Ensemble); is an all-saxophone ensemble whose specialty is to provide live music to enhance the ambiance of functions that require the finest of touches and is transforming the musical landscape in Canada with their distinctive sound, look and feel.
As an additional way to help encourage, promote and offer greater assistance to aspiring entrepreneurs, Jarrod also hosts a weekly YouTube video series titled Ask the Fedora about a wide-range of networking/business tips to help make your networking endeavors not only less stressful, but successful!
Networking is a highly beneficial activity that helps those wanting to grow their businesses. It’s great for those with new businesses, and those with established businesses. However, there are still those out there that aren’t sold on it. These people are missing out on a great opportunity for growth. To make sure you aren’t one of those people, let’s look at five of the biggest misconceptions about networking:
#1: It’s a waste of time
Time is our most valuable resource, and we must be careful about where we spend it. That being said, networking is not one of those activities that we should be stingy about our time. Yes, it’s important to make sure you are attending the right events, but the act of developing business connections is an important one and well worth our time.
#2: Personalities at networking events are fake
People think that those they meet at networking events are putting on their fake “sales” face, akin to the stereotype of the slimy used car salesman of days past. Why would we want to spend our time getting to know people like that?
The truth is, you may run into a few people like that, but the vast majority of people are honest and authentic. They are out there trying to meet new people and create a quality network. You simply have to make sure to say hi to enough people to find the good ones!
#3: Owners of successful business does not need networking
This misconception is dual-sided. People think that they won’t run into anyone worth meeting (those with successful businesses) because those types of people don’t need to attend networking events. It’s not true. Many sucessful business owners attend networking events to meet the up-and-comers, as well as to ensure that the newbies know about their business. For those successful business people who DO feel they do not need to network, they are putting themselves at a disadvantage. Their pool for referrals will get smaller and smaller over the years, and they won’t have new people referring them.
#4: Networking and follow-up is too much effort
For those not familiar with networking, it seems like a large amount of effort. Not only do you need to attend the event, but you also need to follow-up with emails, telephone calls, engagement on social media, coffee visits, and more! While we won’t deny that effort is involved, we will say that the more you do it the easier and more automated it becomes. When you schedule time in for the day after an event to do your follow-ups then it will not drag on, and you will get better and better at it each time you do it.
#5: There is no ROI from networking
Some entrepreneurs want to associate a direct dollar value to everything, and networking does translate into a clear ROI (return on investment). When you take into account the cost of the ticket and your time spent on the event, how much money would you have to make to make it worth it? If you consider that someone you met at one event might give you a referral a year later, it’s hard to track that directly.
That’s why it is important for you to set certain goals for a networking event. The more you can associate a goal (such as, 10 additional people to your newsletter list) to your ROI, the better you can translate your event attendance to it.
When you are just start out with a new business, you’ll find yourself eager to talk about your products or services all the time. It can be easy to overlook the fact that a successful business needs a solid foundation, made up of strong businesses and people who support you. The more people know you, and know about your business, the better the prospects for your business will be, but it is a two-way street. You must show interest in other people and their businesses, and you must be ready to support them as well. Networking is beneficial for both the parties and thus it is nothing but friendship!
Friendships take time to bloom
You COULD choose to meet someone at a networking event, and not engage with them again until the next one, but that would not lead to successful relationships. Think back to when you were in school. You didn’t consider yourself to be “friends” with the person you only saw in your 3rd period class. Your friends were the ones that you ate lunch with, and participated in extracurriculars, and went to the mall after school, and planned your next year’s schedule. If you want a strong relationship to come out of networking, you have to do the extra time. Have follow-up coffee chats, or check-in to see if the other person is planning on going to another upcoming event.
When you meet any unknown person you do not become friends immediately. You take your time, meet with them for several times, find out what qualities is there in them that attracts you towards them and then you start relying on them. This is true in networking too. In networking once you meet any person you keep their contact, and then start to follow up with them. Of course, here you do that for prospering your business, but in the process, you make friends who stay with you for the long run.
Use events for making friends and grow your network
Anyone who considers themselves a friend to another knows that friendship is just not waste of time. You create something with people who, in the long run, help you in different ways to make your life happier and more fulfilled. Similarly, by meeting people for networking in events like eSAX you get a chance to create a long-term business relationship. However, no one will rely on you if you are only ever asking for something. Instead, you need to give something. Gradually you will find that people will develop faith in you and follow what you are saying, just like in a friendship!
Thus, networking is nothing but an activity that builds friendships, where you make friends who become helpful for spreading the word about your business. However, you have to maintain the relationship or else you will not get results!