10 Ways to Stand Out in a Crowd

Are you surprised to see how little you spend on meeting new people and re-connecting with long-time contacts? Or are you shocked to realize how much you spend and want more return on your investment? If you want to make the most of your memberships here are 10 tips. They'll help you enhance your reputation, establish your credibility, and raise your visibility.

by Anne Baber & Lynne Waymon

Grab a piece of paper and a calculator and, right now, tally up the amount of money you personally spent (or your company spent for you) on networking activities this year. Include memberships, dues, conferences, luncheons, receptions, referral groups, and that round of golf with a prospect.

In our workshops, we’ve heard people report totals that range from $15 to $75,000! How about you?

Are you surprised to see how little you actually spend, given how important meeting new people and re-connecting with long-time contacts is to your bottom-line? Or are you shocked to realize how much you spend and want more return on your investment? If you want to make the most of your memberships here are 10 tips. They’ll help you enhance your reputation, establish your credibility, and raise your visibility.

  1. Assume your presidential responsibilities.
  2. When you attend an organization’s event, remember you’re not just another member, you’re president of your own network! You are responsible for what you take away from the meeting. The success of the meeting is up to you. Many organizations will send you a guest list so you can see who will attend. Take charge of meeting the people you want to meet and making the connections that will be valuable to you.

  3. Showcase your capabilities.
  4. Teach your fellow members what you can do—your skills, abilities, and talents. As you become active, take on only those roles you can and will do well. If you do a great job as treasurer, people will assume that you are an excellent computer programmer or an outstanding real estate salesperson. Conversely, if you’ve promised to do something, but don’t come through, people will assume that you are not a competent attorney or public relations practitioner. We call this The All or Nothing Principle. If you do one thing well, people will assume you do everything well. If you do one thing poorly, people will assume you do nothing well.

  5. Show off your wares or your services.
  6. Provide a demonstration or a sample. Contribute door prizes. Do a display. Take every opportunity to give other members a chance to experience—with all of their senses—your products or expertise. Karen sells a line of designer clothing. She wears a new outfit to every meeting, leaving the price tags on!

  7. Show up.
  8. Get there early and stay late. The involved people—speakers, board members, movers and shakers—are likely to be there for “pre- and post-meeting meetings.” They are the ones you want to cultivate for your network. Don’t fume about what happened this morning or what’s on your agenda for the afternoon. Be there and be present in the moment. If you can, turn off your pager or cell phone. Pay attention to the here and now.

  9. Listen carefully with a bias toward action.
  10. What do people need that you can offer? Always be ready to give information, resources, or help to others. If Susan says, “Boy, I’m ready for a vacation!,” say “I have a terrific travel agent. Would you like her name?”

  11. Help others connect.
  12. Who would your conversation partner like to meet? To find out, listen. When Carla introduced herself as an interior designer who focuses on the senior citizen market, Mitzi immediately said, “I’ve got to get you together with someone I know who shows businesses how to market to the 50 plus generation.” Listen for links, what people have in common. “You went to the University of Chicago? So did Danielle. Let me take you over and introduce you.” Or, “Oh Sarah, I just met Ona who has also just started her own business. Let me introduce you to her.”

    When you become known as somebody who knows everybody, people will call you and ask you if you know someone who . . . As you link people together, you build your reputation as an expert networker.

  13. Tell success stories.
  14. What picture do you want to pop up in people’s minds when they hear your name? They will remember what you last told them. Have something important to tell when they ask you, “What’s new?” As you think about what you want to tell people, begin with your goal. What do you want people to know about you or your business? Plan ahead to talk about clients served, problems solved, or products that saved the day.

  15. Talk to and sit with people you don’t know!
  16. View every chance meeting as an appointment. By chance, you sit next to Dorothy. She later introduces you to her boss. He invites you to speak at a conference. An attendee likes your approach and hires you to design a training program. That’s how networking can work, if you meet someone new.

  17. Find a reason to exchange business cards.
  18. Jot a note on the back of the card, so you can remember what you intend to do to further your relationship with that person: “Send information on how to exhibit at November trade show”; “Call for lunch.”

  19. Follow up quickly.
  20. To find out how to follow up, listen for what’s on the other person’s mind—her challenges, interests, enthusiasms. Georgia asked some questions about the move Jane was about to make from a downtown office to a home office. A few days later, Georgia sent Jane an article about home office design. Georgia isn’t selling file cabinets. She’s a computer coach who sees business value in building her network by giving first.

    Get in the habit of sending cards, postcards, or e-notes after the meeting. Send your contact what you promised, the name of the attorney who helped you set up your mother’s trust, for example. Remember, it takes six to eight contacts with someone before you know each other well enough to have established a solid networking relationship. Staying in touch between meetings will speed your network-building. You can stand out in a crowd!

The Biggest Mistakes Members Make

  1. They join, but don’t go. They show up so sporadically that they can’t see many benefits from their membership.
  2. They skip the networking portion of the meeting, arrive just in time for the meal, and duck out just as the speaker is winding down. Then, they wonder why networking doesn’t work for them.
  3. They appear, but don’t interact. They eat another olive, listen to the speaker, and leave.
  4. They wait for others to make the first moves.
  5. They talk and sit with people they already know.
  6. They think handing out business cards is networking.
  7. They make no effort to be visible. Instead they try to blend into the crowd.
  8. They arrive without any idea of what they have to give or what they want to get.
  9. They have “non-conversations” (“Hi, how are you?” “Not bad. How are you?” “Not bad. What’s new?” “Not much. What’s new with you?”) with other members, rather than productive conversations. They violate “good networking” protocols or are unaware of “NETiquette” within the group.
  10. They forget that the best way to show their character and competence is to contribute time and energy.
  11. They give up too soon and hop from one organization to another, never giving themselves or others time to establish relationships.

Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon head up Contacts Count, a nationwide consulting and training firm that specializes in business and professional networking, and career development. They are co-authors of Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success (AMACOM, 2nd edition). To attend Lynne’s webinars go to http://www.contactscount.com/webinars.html . To download Job Hunt: 50 Tips for just $3.99 go to http://www.contactscount.com/jobhunt.html And visit http://www.ContactsCount.com.

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