Last night I attended the Vancouver Board of Trade (VBOT) new members orientation. I joined VBOT about a month ago as I figured it would be a wise investment to help grow my network and client base for my new Linkedin Training business.
The Vancouver Board of Trade is the largest business association in Vancouver with over 5800 members. They host numerous networking events throughout the year and provide a number of resources and services only available to members. The orientation was filled with presentations by VBOT employees that educated new and aspiring members about everything they have to offer.
Keynote Speaker: Ray Williams – 15 Networking Tips
The highlight of the orientation was a presentation by the former President of the VBOT Ambassadors' Club, Ray Williams. Ray is the CEO of Ray Williams Associates, a company that provides executive and professional coaching services to clients in Canada and the Co-Founder of Success IQ University, a private company based in Phoenix, AZ that provides leadership training, personal growth and coaching services in the United States.
If you have never seen Ray speak before, he is a very engaging speaker that has the ability to fill the room with energy. He spoke briefly about his affiliation with VBOT and then proceeded to provide everyone in attendance with “15 Tips To Help You Get The Most Out Of Your VBOT Membership”.
After hearing Ray's tips, I figured that these were not only relevant to VBOT, but to networking in general. So, I thought I'd share his tips along with a few of my own thoughts.
- Attend 1 Networking Event Per Week– The only way to really see results from your networking efforts is to be present and engaged. (Desiree Dupuis talked about this in another article on NIV titled: Networking Is Not A One-Off Event)
- The Most Memorable People Don't Talk About Themselves….They Listen – Use the 80/20 Rule when it comes to engaging in conversations at networking events. Of course, there will be times when others will ask you to elaborate on what you do and how you do it. But, don't start a conversation by going into detail about how great you are. Instead, ask engaging, open ended questions and listen.
- Talk About Something Other Than Work – A great way to get to know someone is to break the ice with a casual conversation that is not work related. Talk about the weather, sports or some world event. Networking doesn't always have to be about work!
- Develop A Long Term Networking Plan – You don't plan everything you are going to do on your vacation before you decide where you want to go. So, why would you do this with networking? Figure out what you want to get from your networking efforts and then set a course to meet your goals!
- Perfect Your Elevator Pitch – Too many people when asked what they “do” reply with “I'm an Accountant” or “I'm an Investment Advisor”. These types of replies are almost instantly met with stereotypes such as “Accountant = boring” or “Investment Advisor = oh man…what is he going to try to sell me!?!”. Instead, try to focus on the value and the benefits you provide your clients.
- Attend At Least 50% Of The Group Events – This can seem like a daunting, if not impossible, task to fulfill. After all, VBOT has hundreds of events throughout the year. However, I think the better message to take from this tip is to try to remain consistent with your attendance. The more people see you at events, the more memorable you become!
- Introduce Yourself To the Speaker – I can attest to this as I always enjoy it when attendees come up to chat with me after my presentations. So, make a point to introduce yourself to the speaker if the opportunity is available. They will be glad you did!
- Use People's Names In Conversation – As a rule, try to address a person that you just met by their name when in conversation. This personalization goes a long ways in building trust and not surprisingly, it helps when you are trying to remember people's names when you run into them later!
- Trust Is The New ROI – I don't know if it's possible to measure the return on trust. But, Ray makes a very good point here. In today's “social” world, if you are not authentic and transparent, you will very quickly be outed by the masses for making false promises or outlandish statements. So, be confident in talking about things you know and humble in situations where you are not an expert on a subject.
- Introduce Others (Become A Connector) – In my opinion, this is the easiest and most effective way to see a return from your networking efforts. By helping connect other people that would benefit from knowing each other, you are building trust and will see this come back to you in spades! Call it karma or whatever you like….but it works! And, by the way, there is no better “Connector” that I know than the founder of this blog: Jen Schaeffers (I'm not just sucking up here…it's the truth! 🙂
- Avoid Spending All Your Time With Work Colleagues – How many times have you seen this. A company has a table at a networking event and the same people that talk to each other all day at work spend the whole event talking to each other. Save the water cooler talk for the office. When at networking events, make a point to meet new people!
- Avoid The Business Card Exchange Before Meaningful Talk – This seems like an obvious one, but good advice none the less. After all, leading a conversation with “Hi, I'm John…here's my business card” is like walking up to a girl and trying to kiss her before buying her dinner (Ok…bad reference, but I think you get the point 🙂
- Don't Try “Hard Sells” At Events – This is a no brainer. Nobody wants to feel they are being “pitched” when they first meet someone. Of course, everyone attends networking events because they ultimately want to sell something. But, there is a time and a place for this and networking events are not it!
- Don't Do An Email Blast After Events – Now, I both agree and disagree with this tip. Of course, you should never “spam” your contacts with random, un-personalized mass emails. But, I would advocate that you should always make a point of adding your new contacts to your online network on social networking sites like Linkedin.
- Be Conscious Of Your Body Language – What Ray means when he refers to “body language” is the energy you give off in the way you address people. For example, don't cross your arms (it makes you appear closed off and confrontational), maintain eye contact (but not too much) and talk with confidence.
Hopefully you found some value in these tips. Is there anything missing? I'd love to hear your thoughts!