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Reach Out and Network

Reach Out and Network

Over the past several days, I’ve had the opportunity to meet several people, from presidents of corporations, to really important people like teachers of children with learning disabilities. I’ve had the opportunity to hear about a lot of businesses, and have received a lot of interesting offers in the mix.

But what was really fun was helping people connect with other people. I got the chance to do that a lot. For instance, my friend Brian Conley runs a show called Alive in Baghdad, a video production where he took his own money (maxed his credit card), and flew to Baghdad to give video cameras to people on the ground. He showed them how to be correspondents, and then had them ship video back Stateside to put up as a compelling video production.

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I helped him contact with some really nice media names and some investors, and he was out there doing it on his own as well. The goal? Raising money for a trip back. (He still needs help, if you’re interested).

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This experience (not just Brian, but the whole networking experience) gave me lots of thoughts I want to share with you for your next opportunity to network. None of them are amazingly new, but you might just want a neat refresher, and a toolkit for your next experience.

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  • Get THEIR Card– We all think it’s about giving out our business cards, but it’s not. Getting THEIR card is what matters, because then YOU can take action. You can write them, call them, send them a personal note. Giving out your cards is as hit and miss as banner ads.
  • Have a pitch ready– My friend, Laura, runs 15 Second Pitch, and she says EVERYONE needs an elevator pitch, not just folks doing a startup. I agree. Having something to tell people when they ask what you’re doing, or what you’re interested in is vital. Without it, why should someone want to talk with you?
  • Move around– When you meet someone you like at an event, or if you arrive with a friend, it’s our habit to want to stay put with that person and talk with them the whole time. Tell them you want the chance to say hi to a few new people and maybe see what comes of it. They’ll understand and probably do the same themselves. Then, circle back every now and again to stay friendly.
  • Don’t Eye-surf, though– This doesn’t mean when you’re meeting someone new, with their card in your hand, that you’re already scanning the room for your next target. It’s just rude. Someone did it to me at this last event, and I threw his card in the trash. I’m sure he’s connected and had business I could work with, but forget it. I value people, and this person clearly was there to surf the room. Love the one you’re with, they say.
  • Keep things brief and uncomplicated– No matter how tricky you think your product, pitch, service, whatever is, it’s not. You can boil it down if you work hard at it. The point of a networking experience isn’t to unload your own personal Bible on someone. It’s to get them interested enough to want to follow up. The point is that there’ll be another meeting. Don’t be coy and don’t throw out half-information like a bad movie trailer. Instead, give someone the easiest possible way to understand what it is you do, and what you’re looking for, and then let THEM decide if it’s worth talking with you further.
  • Be fluid in talking about what you need/do/are– The same information doesn’t work the same way for most people. Talk to the person you’re with in their terms, with their needs. I sat next to a lovely couple who were older than me and not as technologically connected, and I told them a little about video podcasting. They got nervous, so I started talking in simpler terms, and gave it to them from THEIR side of the fence. By the end, they were emailing me asking me for advice on which software to get to start their own video podcast.
  • Respond immediately to queries and emails and to business cards you receive– When you get home from the networking experience, conference, event, whatever, use that moment to respond. Get in touch and tell the person you enjoyed meeting them, and that you’re hoping to do ______ in the future. Give them a “next action” to think about, and let them respond to you. Just saying that it was great seeing them there means nothing. (Though I do use this trick just to load gmail contacts in when I don’t really have business for a person yet).

I’m not a master networker, and I strongly recommend reading Keith Ferrazzi’s NEVER EAT ALONE, which to me is one of the best of breed books about networking out there. But these things I mentioned have helped me along a real lot over the last few days, so I thought I’d share them with you.

–Chris Brogan keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com]. He writes about big ideas at the Grasshopper Factory.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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