The beginning of a new business is an exciting time. There are so many new ideas and endless possibilities, but how do you start to talk about a budding business when it’s not quite off the ground yet?
One thing I’ve noticed is that people are reluctant to talk about their business ideas for a variety of reasons. Some people are protective of their new baby, knowing it is not yet ready to be scrutinized by the world. Some people are afraid others will steal their ideas. Others just don’t know where to start. The good news is, you CAN network no matter what stage your business is in, because networking is about creating relationships and not about making sales. Odds are that you will find a great deal of supportive business people ready to give you a hand if you need it.
Still not convinced? Read on for tips:
- Be Ready for Advice and Suggestions – When you come into a networking event without an established business, you may find people are eager to help you. This can be beneficial, but it can also be overwhelming when you haven’t even started yet. If someone says something that piques your interest, you may want to take a note and tell them you’d like to follow-up with them on that advice once you get going. Just beware that this can be a situation that makes your head swim, and be prepared to “smile and nod” and not change all of your ideas because people seemingly more experienced have told you to. If people bring negativity to the conversation and make you feel bad about your idea, move on from talking to them. This is where a business coach or mentor can come in handy, because they help you build confidence about your own ideas and ensure stick to them despite outside influence.
- Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas – Could it happen? Maybe, but probably not. I hear many people are hesitant to discuss their idea because they think it is a goldmine and if they don’t get people to sign an NDA they won’t discuss it. For the most part, people at networking events are too busy with their own business to steal someone else’s. The people out there who are looking to steal business ideas have aren’t likely to have the same level of expertise and passion to pull it off the same way you would, so don’t worry about it! Besides, you don’t have to reveal every aspect of business at a networking event.
- Prepare your elevator pitch – Even if your spiel is just an explainer of the fact that you are new to the entrepreneurship world and just starting to put together your business, it is still worth preparing and practicing so you have more confidence to talk to people. Include the industry you are interested in, and what you are trying to learn more about, and see what they have to offer to the conversation.
Talking about your business at networking events is great for gaining potential clients, establishing people who can give you referrals down the line, and for bouncing ideas off of people while gaining insight into the industry. Hearing the reactions of experienced entrepreneurs as well as new ones is invaluable to a small business owner, because you get an idea of how the market reacts to your pitches, products, and services. Don’t hold back from attending networking events just because you don’t have your business plan or branding done. Jump in right away. In fact, you may find it’s even more low-pressure this way!
For some, eye contact can be a strange thing. It can be intimidating, or it can feel very intimate, considering the general wisdom that eyes are a “window to the soul”. Eye contact is an important type of nonverbal communication which many believe can show mood and intention, and it is an important aspect of conversation and gauging the responses of those you are conversing with.
Considering your eye contact technique before a networking event can be a great way to help yourself have one less thing to worry about when you arrive. Understanding eye contact can not only help you to better interact with people, but it can also help you to read other people’s reactions to you and those around you.
The “Right Way” to Engage in Eye Contact
If you have ever wondered “what am I supposed to do with my eyes when I’m talking to someone?” then this is the section for you!
First off, relax! If you come at someone with an intense stare or darting and nervous eyes then you will only distract and unnerve them while harming your chances of a great networking connection. Many people may read your nerves as a sign that you are untrustworthy, so do your best to feel confident and self-assured.
When you are engaged in a discussion with someone it is important to maintain eye contact both when you are listening and talking. Keep your gaze non-threatening and non-aggressive by focusing on the middle area of the person’s face. You can focus on just one eye, as it is actually physically difficult to keep both of your eyes on another person’s two eyes. Try focusing on one eye, or on a spot on the face, or calmly move back and forth between the two eyes. Keeping your focus on the bridge of the nose or on an eyebrow can also give the illusion of eye contact without your conversation partner never knowing the difference.
When you do break your gaze, make sure to show a smile, nod or other gesture to indicate that you are still interested in the conversation and not breaking off because you are looking to get out. It’s great to take a moment at networking events to scan the area and see if there is anyone waiting to talk to you, but be sure you don’t spend your whole conversation looking away.
Whatever you do, don’t overthink it and forget to actually be present in your conversation. Practice eye contact so it comes naturally and so you can be a focused listener and good communicator.
Beware Nonverbal Eye (and Eyebrow) Cues
Some nonverbal cues to be aware of include:
- People who maintain longer direct eye contact are generally more comfortable with you, and this often indicates that they like you
- But too much eye contact can indicate annoyance, anger, and discomfort
- A flash of the eyebrows (a quick up-and-down gesture) indicates recognition and some degree of fondness for someone else (think of when people say “oh, hey!”)
- Lowering of eyebrows shows dominance and aggression, while raising them signals submission
- Head down, eyes diverted shows ultimate submission
- “Side Eye” is the sideways glance with lowered eyebrows and a turned down mouth, which shows suspiciousness and hostility
- Rapid blinking shows nervousness, slow and lazy blinking shows a feeling of superiority or disinterest
- Darting eyes indicate the person is looking for a distraction or escape route and is a sign of insecurity
- Staring at the “third eye” area of the forehead indicates an attempt to gain control, keep people on their toes and inferior
It is important to always look straight ahead and maintain eye contact as there are some misconceptions about eye contact that people commonly believe and judge others based on. These include:
- Looking up while talking indicates lying
- Looking down while talking or listening indicates confusion
- Shifting eye contact shows hiding something
Don’t forget to adjust your mood!
You may be great at eye contact, but did you know that your pupils can give you away? Research shows that not only do wide pupils indicate excitement and narrow ones indicate negative feelings, but people also prefer other people with wide pupils to those with narrow ones.
This means it is ever so important to make sure you talk yourself into a good mood and excitement before you go to Ottawa networking events. eSAX is such a good one to start with because the casual atmosphere and presence of many other new entrepreneurs creates a low-pressure place to get out and practice.
Last week we talked about your business cards, but let’s take a step back and talk this week about branding, naming, and your logo.
Strong Branding Creates Strong Connections
When most people hear the word branding, they think colors and graphics, but branding actually goes deeper than that. It includes logos, naming, taglines, and even your elevator pitch along with the other graphics, and it is about what your company stands for, in an all-encompassing way. It starts when you sit down to write your business plan, and it grows out of your mission and vision. You also have to take into consideration your products or services, as well as your target market. You have to feel confident that your feel your branding represents your business, and you also need to be sure that your audience is interpreting your message the way you intend it. Once you’ve worked this out, you can then work on the visuals that you will use consistently in your traditional and digital marketing.
A Memorable Business Name is Important
There is a lot to consider when you are naming your company. Aside from the obvious, that you want something that matches what you do and is easy on the ears, you also have to research if the name is already used anywhere, if the domain (and social media IDs) are available, and also if the shortened version or acronym are used (you don’t want anyone to confuse you with anyone else). It is best to bounce names off of people, because what makes sense to you may not have the same effect in the marketplace.
Stunning Logos Make You Noteworthy
You are the face of your business, but your logo is the graphic representation of what your business stands for. You may choose something that is easy for people to instantly understand, or you may choose something abstract that has a story behind it (make sure to share that story in the About section on your website). If you aren’t a visual person you can turn to a professional who has tons of experience in creating impactful logos. Remember that you (and your customers) are going to have to look at this image a LOT over the years, so you better like it! You should also feel convinced that it is the perfect embodiment of your business. Everything from the bold or elegant design, to the choice of color and typography should be well thought-out and considered before you make a permanent decision.
It is entirely possible to attend networking events without having set your branding, naming, and logo, and in fact, it is encouraged to attend events like eSAX: The Entrepreneurial Advantage Experience because this is exactly the type of low-pressure atmosphere that will let you have conversations about how they settled on their branding, or what they think of a few naming ideas you are considering. It is also a great place to find marketing experts who are more than willing to give you advice that will help you move forward with your branding, naming, and logo process.
Your business card is as important as any other first impression at a networking event in Ottawa. Your card should represent your company in both design and copy. It is highly recommended to use a professional graphic designer to help you, as they have the skills and expertise to make something truly great. However, there are many templates available on sites such as Vistaprint, Moo, and even Staples, if you decide to go it alone.
Consider the following elements of a business card to help you work with your designer or templates to make something great!
- Decide on what information you will include. Remember that this is a contact card, not a brochure. At a minimum you should include your name and your business name, your email address and website, and a phone number if you have one. Also include your, address (if you have one for your business), title, and tagline.
- Consider whitespace. This is the “empty space” on your business card. Cards with ample whitespace are often seen as more professional, as they are more visually balanced and less cluttered.
- Typeface: There are certain fonts that go well together, and a general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t use more than two together in any collateral. Remember this rule if you have a logo with typeface in it, because that means you’re already starting with one font! Talk with your designer about the mood or feel you are going for in your business, and decide on fonts that best represent you.
- Paper stock: Do you choose Matte or glossy? I personally prefer glossy business cards, because they don’t stick together when you are trying to pull out one to hand to someone! Glossy is thought to look professional and to stand out, but they are hard to write on so you may consider a plain back so your contacts can take notes of your meeting. A popular trend now is spot gloss, as it is beginning to be more widely available. This lets you choose one area (such as your logo) to shine, while the rest stay matte. Also remember that premium stock is a thicker card, and helps portray a professional image.
- Add a promotion: At a networking event, people value business cards, but you can increase the value of your card by adding a special code for a discount or promotion. You could also ask them to fill out a survey to get entered in a chance to win in a draw, or maybe you are giving away a whitepaper if they visit your website. Any of these “extras” increase the chances that people will look twice at your card once they are home.
- Unique shapes and textures: An oddly shaped or textured card can be fun, and can help you stand out from the crowd, but be careful when deciding to do this. People may not be able to fit your round-shaped or wooden card in their filing system, and the may instead just decide to toss it out. This is a loss for of a valuable referral opportunity for you down the road.
Whatever you decide, make sure you are proud of your business cards. If you are happy with them, then it will be easy for you to hand them out and stand behind them. Your business cards should be an extension of your business, make sure they help you appear your best!
Having a booth is a great way to increase the likelihood of sales, but all of the principles of networking still apply. You are promoting your business, but you are also out there making valuable connections that may lead to sales or future referrals down the line. If you do decide to take the next step in networking, consider these tips for having a successful experience!
Set your goals ahead of time!
You can get a lot out of an event, but you have to have a good idea of what you want to get out of it. Do you want to collect 50 random business cards, or do you want to really talk to people and end up with 5 genuinely hot leads? Perhaps you want to make a sale that night, or set up a meeting that you are confident will turn into a sale. Or better yet, what if you were to meet the one individual who can change the direction of your business? Maybe you just want to impress some industry leaders and make strong connections with them? Whatever it may be, you should have some way of measurement so when you leave you can know you if experienced a successful event.
You could just decide you want to treat the event as a market research opportunity. Ask verbal questions, or get people to fill out a short survey to enter in your prize draw. You can use paper surveys as well as surveys on a tablet for entry into two separate draws! Ask attendees industry-specific information to give you an idea about the marketplace, or business-specific things to find out which logos, banners, website, or tagline they respond better to. There is a great value to this kind of access to your target market, so don’t waste it!
Promote the event as though it were your own!
This is a great time for you to reconnect with old customers or potential customers, as well as business partners or other associates. Don’t leave the marketing completely to the event management team and just hope that your old connections will learn about the event and feel compelled to go! Increase the chances of gaining more leads by helping to spread the word. Use your blog, newsletter, and social media to advertise your attendance at the event. Mention any on-site promotions, raffles, prize draws, or door prizes that you are giving away. Even better if you can run a giveaway for a free ticket to the event (that you either purchase yourself, or receive from the event manager, as they often give more than one free ticket to booth sponsors). Make sure to tell everyone to bring a friend! Also, keep an eye out for the other sponsors and vendors that may be promoting the event, and cross-promote with them to give your audience even more reason to attend. The more everyone helps to spread the word, the more it helps the event to be an even bigger success. But the true measure of success that you should be after is how it affects your bottom line, or how it can affect your bottom line in the future. More people = more eyes on your business, so go out of your way to treat eSAX as if it’s your own event and spread the word.
Connect with fellow vendors and event hosts, as well as the event sponsors
Before the event, be sure to connect with all stakeholders on social media. That way, if you haven’t already met them in person, it will help make for an excellent conversation point when you actually do meet them at the event! Speaking of which, when you arrive @eSAX, make the rounds and meet everyone who is setting up for the event. It makes a good impression if you prepare a special goody bag or treat for them. It can be as simple as a candy bar with your logo sticker on it, or a little bag with your brochure, business card, a pen, and a cookie. Not only will you be making new connections, but you are also likely opening the door for them to refer attendees to you throughout the night, now that they know who you are and what you do. Not only that, but who knows what referrals they may send your way at a later time. It pays to connect with influencers!
Build Brand Awareness
It goes without saying that you should have complete branding – banners, table cloths, brochures, business cards, and even your clothing or fashion pieces. What more can you do to get attention and be remembered at an event? Check out this fun little video of eSAX founder Jarrod Goldsmith discussing what personal branding is all about!
Start by standing in front of your booth, smiling, and making eye contact. People usually feel comfortable approaching friendly-looking booth folks. Invite people to sign up for your door prize, take a snack or swag item, and ask them how they are enjoying the event. Remember that running a booth does not mean it’s time to become a salesman. It’s all about making the event attendees feel comfortable and at-ease, so ask questions and don’t just pitch your business.
Interactive displays are always a great way to get people to have more interest in your booth. If you have products, let people pick them up and try them out. If you are service-oriented, prepare a slideshow on a large monitor, or on a tablet that people can pick up and flip through. Conversation pieces are also great. Having a giant-sized mascot could be a great ways to encourage people to tweet or Instagram a picture and increase your business visibility! Make sure your handles and the event hashtag are somewhere handy. (p.s., #eSAX is awesome lol)
You can also get more people to your booth with food! Make sure that the event doesn’t require a food permit of some sort, and then plan on bringing chocolate, cookies, cupcakes, or other treats that will pull people in. Also remember that if you are giving away swag, it should be relevant to the event attendees. The more likely people are to use the item, the better you will be achieving brand awareness.
And don’t forget the follow-up!
Following-up with folks you meet at a networking event is essential to further the relationship that will eventually (…and hopefully) blossom. You never know where you (or they) will be in the future and how such long-term relationships can develop! Here’s a great video on why connecting with someone is almost as important as the initial meeting!
Connect on LinkedIn right away, and have a newsletter ready to go out the next day. Ask your newsletter subscribers to like your Facebook page, but also make sure this newsletter is knock-their-socks off great, chock full of valuable information that will impress them and ensure they want to stay connected with you to continue to receive such great tips and tricks to grow their business.
The origins of handshakes are interesting. They were originally a sign between medieval knights (or ancient Greeks, depending on who is telling the story) to show that they were approaching each other unarmed. Handshakes have remained a way in which people broker relationships, seal agreements, and otherwise commit to honorable action.
Nowadays handshakes are common in business networking, and is one of the few forms of physical contact that we experience in the networking world. It is good to have a solid handshake because it is part of the all-important 90 second “first impression” that people make of you, and a lot can be communicated through this one action.
- Extend your right hand, palm vertical to the ground. If you want, you can tilt your palm slightly toward the sky to indicate openness, humility, and the desire to help.
- Handshakes should be dry. If you have a problem with clammy hands try to wipe them off before you shake. Men can get away with carrying a handkerchief in their pockets and discretely drying their hands before they shake.
- Use a firm grip, making sure not to be too weak or too strong.
- Pump the handshake two or three times from your elbow and forearm, not your shoulder or upper arm. Water pump motion is uncomfortable, jolting, and aggressive to your partner.
- The handshake should last 3-4 seconds, and should end before your oral greeting does.
- Signal you are ready to release by relaxing your hand, but if your partner is a longer shaker just hang in there until they are done. You can come off as rude by pulling away before they release.
- Remember: not everyone likes to shake hands! If you are unsure if someone wants to shake hands then it is okay to pause and wait for them to extend their hand or not.
It’s not just about the hand-to-hand contact! Other important parts of a good handshake include good eye contact, a warm smile, confident posture, and a step in toward the person you are making contact with (without getting too close). Also remember that if you are sitting, you should stand up to shake hands as a sign of respect. Greeting before and during the handshake.
Neuroscience has proven time and again that an impressive handshake leaves people with a better impression of you. Now, this doesn’t mean certain actual personalities use certain shakes, but this doesn’t stop people from making assumptions. Make sure to avoid these handshake “types”:
Handshake types to avoid:
- The Crusher: Both the “finger crusher” and “bone crusher” variety happen when your grip is too strong. Seriously, don’t crush someone’s hand! If you squeeze too tight they will likely spend your whole pitch time thinking about the pain in their hand rather than actually listening to what you do. These people come off as well-meaning, but overenthusiastic person.
- The Dead Fish: This is what people call the handshake that has no grip and no pumping action. It is basically placing your hand in theirs. People with dead fish handshake are perceived of as unemotional and apathetic with low self-esteem.
- The Monarch (also known as Lady Fingers): Offering of just the fingertips shows either superiority, or extreme shyness. Can often be accompanied with the “polite pinch”.
- The Double Hander (also known as the Politician): Using your other hand to clamp on to the top of their hand, or to even grab their elbow. This is too much contact for just meeting someone. It can make you seem overwhelming, overbearing, and too intimate. It can also make you seem too eager to sell something.
- The Palm Down (or “Coming from Above”): When your hand ends approaches or ends up on top of the other person’s it appears you are attempting to be authoritative and coming off as aggressive. This can sometimes start as a normal handshake and turn into “the twister” when the other person’s hand ends up on top.
Practice your handshake on friends, coworkers, or colleagues and ask them for their honest opinion. It might seem silly, but it is a great way to find ways to improve if you’ve never gotten feedback from anyone on your handshake. It’s the best way to figure out your grip if you are otherwise unsure! You will have a great handshake for Ottawa Networking events in no time!
If you are familiar with marketing, you may have heard of the “Rule of 7” that suggests a marketing message must reach a potential customer at least 7 times before they make the decision to buy from you.
Obviously that number is flexible, with some prospects buying sooner or later than the seventh communication, but the generally agreed-upon number to aim for is 7. Why is this information here on a blog about networking? Because this simple adage supports the eSAX networking position that people should not try to make a sale the first time they connect with a prospect. Networking should be just step one of a long-term engagement plan that will push people through a sales funnel over time.
Having seven “touches” (as they are often referred) with someone lets them come to know you, trust you, and eventually buy from you. The word “touch” is often used, not because you should make physical contact, but because it invokes a human connection. In-person touches are oftentimes stronger than other marketing techniques because seeing a person’s body language and hearing their tone and infliction builds trust and relationships on a deep and human level. Making that face-to-face connection, and actually shaking hands and introducing yourself and your business will make you way more memorable than you could be through print or online marketing alone. This is an ideal time to try to make a meaningful connection at this point through stories that will make you and your brand memorable.
Why don’t people buy right away? One of the simplest reasons is that they just don’t need your product or service right now (which is why maintaining contact will keep you in mind when they DO have need for you), but another huge reason is simply that people don’t usually buy when they don’t trust. Think of all the advertisements we are bombarded with on TV, the radio, billboards, and even on social media. Brands have to work hard to build familiarity and trust to break through the consumer walls that we build to block out the constant noise.
Think of meeting someone at a networking event as the first contact. Following up with an email, a LinkedIn connection, and a coffee meeting (or skype chat) is a great next few touches. After that you must maintain consistent and repetitive contact if you want to continue to nurture that lead.
To read about more ways to connect with your customer, go over to my coordinating blog post!
Are you a new entrepreneur wondering if you should make networking a priority in your business?
Aspects of every business are relative to each business owner. That’s why you’ll never hear someone tell you an absolute that will make or break you. This means it is important to look into the facts and get some personal experience that will guide you in your decision-making.
Some people hate networking events and are able to have great success without stepping foot into one, but others love networking events and make many connections at them each week. It’s easy to say that you might as well network because any additional exposure for your business is good for business, but it is true that if you are uncomfortable and miserable you won’t be doing any favors for yourself.
Before forcing yourself into networking, consider some of the following ideas that may help you to realize some of the benefits you can get from the events.
- Jump into networking when your business is new, especially if you don’t already have a ton of contacts in your industry. It will help you to build a strong foundation of supporters that you will lean on for the life of your business.
- Don’t look at networking events as an opportunity to sell. Look at it as a chance to meet people that MAY end up being important mentors, partners, investors, or sources of referrals.
- Have your website up and your business cards ready to go as these events are key to increasing your brand visibility. This is your opportunity to get the community used to seeing your logo and business name.
- Use networking events as practice to improve networking skills and get comfortable talking about your business. This includes your 30 second elevator pitch!
- Consider a networking event as a chance to do some research. Find out what are the current trends and demands in your industry or target market, or talk to many people that may offer insight and solutions into your own pain points.
- Understand that coming away with just one new quality contact (mentor, colleague, friend, etc) is a very successful night.
- Pick the networking event that is right for you. With an event like eSAX there is more of an emphasis on the social aspect, as well as mentorship and support of the small business community. You can also find events for your specific industry.
- Decide if you are interested in “Hard Networking” groups that have a heavy focus on referrals (and also require membership fees and attendance) or “Soft Networking” such as eSAX networking events or your local chamber events that are more casual
- Let yourself socialize! New business owners spend so much time on their business and neglect the social side of their human nature. Let yourself unwind a little bit and enjoy talking to like-minded entrepreneurs that are just as passionate about their business as you are about yours!
When starting out, it is easy to overlook networking since you have so much you are already devoting your time to. eSAX makes it easy to attend networking events in Ottawa with the scheduling of the events quarterly. Surely you can at least make time to spend one night of networking every three months! If you’d like to network more, but are nervous about it you can check out the “Find the Fedora” posts on the eSAX Facebook page and follow Jarrod to some great local events!
After you go to a networking event, you’ve certainly left with some business cards. Some may be people you feel are potential clients, and others you may feel could be potential mentors or otherwise important people you should stay in touch with. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting those that you aren’t quite sure where they would fit in. Remember that when you network with someone you are connecting to the hundreds (or even thousands, if they are like Jarrod!) of people that they have in their own network. Plus, you may end up seeing these people over and over at networking events all over the city, so you might as well get to know them now!
Here are my simple tips for networking follow-ups:
- Start by organizing the cards you’ve collected by noting somewhere on each card where you obtained it (ie: eSAXOct14) and any information that you’d like to remember about each person or business.
- Next, add each new connection on LinkedIn. Draft a short message about how it was nice meeting them at (specific event) and that you’d like to stay in touch via LinkedIn. Once they accept your connect request you can organize them into categories by tagging them. I find this especially useful if I remember that I met someone at an event, but can’t remember their name. You just filter contacts by tag and easily find who you are looking for!
- The next step is to send out a personal email within 24 hours of meeting. Don’t send a form message to everyone, make sure it is personalized and picks up where your conversation from the event left off. This is also where you bring up a possible one-on-one follow up coffee or lunch meeting.
- We have to be sensitive to everyone’s time (because as entrepreneurs our time is our most valuable resource), so when you set up a meeting make sure each of you know what to expect so you can both be prepared. This follow-up meeting should be to develop rapport, and you should exercise your skills in asking about other’s businesses and letting them ask about yours. You are building relationships, not making sales (although these relationships may lead to sales in the long run).
- Finally, keep a list of contacts that you want to make a point to reconnect with. This may be through sending them another request to meet, or sending them valuable resources (such as event invitations or great articles they may be interested in). This is also where I make a point to add them to lists on my Facebook and Twitter, so I can regularly engage with them on social media.
Meeting the right people at networking events in Ottawa is vital to the growth of your entrepreneurial career. If you haven’t seen it in action yet, just wait to see how the referrals start to roll in once you start becoming a known face, voice, and name in the community!