I presented my program “Stop Grumbling – Get Out There” to a group photographers in New Orleans. (The New Orleans chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers.) It’s a roughly two hour seminar on networking and negotiating techniques.
Usually the doors open about an hour before I speak and I use that time to introduce myself to people as they arrive, exchange business cards, and to get a rough gauge of where the audience is in terms of networking experience. I always ask the question, “So tell me about what you do,” and from a person’s response I can tell a lot about what stage of their career they’re in and how much experience they have in handling a first-time face-to-face meeting with a stranger.
In my presentation I talk about the need for each of us to have an “elevator speech”. Your elevator speech consists of what you tell people you meet face-to-face about yourself in under a minute. In general, it’s your name, what you do, and how you can help the other person. People really don’t care about what you do unless you can help them.
As I’m greeting the arrivals one by one, one says to me, “you’re making personal connections with everyone here because we’re all referral sources in case one of our clients ever needs a photographer in Detroit right?” And I thought to myself, THIS person should be giving tonight’s presentation! He gets it; he knows the value in making personal connections within your own peer group. Bravo!
It’s important to always be networking, always talking about what you do, always be meeting new people. At your son’s Little League baseball game? Network. On a flight from DTW to MSY? Network. At the symphony? Network during intermission!
Remember two things: get the other person talking about what THEY do. Then, if indeed you can, share with them how you might help them to be successful and follow up within 24 hours with a phone call or email asking for a meeting. Also remember that you get better at networking the more you do it. The person with whom you’re having a conversation might not need your services, but they may know someone who does.
It’s not who you know, networking is really about who knows you. The more people that know you, the more successful you’ll be.