Well, the wait is over!  Here’s the fourth and final instalment of my A to Z of networking where we’ll look at the letters S through to Z.  Grab a cuppa, pop your phone on silent and enjoy the read.

S is for Sixty Seconds

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been networking: you may be a seasoned pro or you may be a complete new beginner but most of us, at some time or other, have dreaded the Sixty Second Elevator Pitch. 

Let’s assume you attend a weekly breakfast meeting.  Every week, you get the opportunity to make an impact in 60 seconds.  Over the course of the year (give or take holidays) this adds up to approx. 48 minutes to talk about your business.  So why do so many of us get it wrong, week after week?

Plan ahead.  What messages do you want to convey to your audience week on week?  Concentrate on the elements of your business you enjoy doing (or what generates more income).  Rehearse what you plan to say.  If it helps, write it down and read it – there’s absolutely no shame in that.  And please, please don’t waste time by peppering your 60 seconds with umms, arrs and errs. 

Finally – 60 seconds is a target, not a challenge to exceed.  Which brings us nicely on to ……

T is for Timekeeping

Apart from the obvious (turn up on time!) one sure-fire way to lose your audience is to keep delivering your elevator pitch long after the timer has indicated it’s time for you to sit down.  As soon as you hear the timer, wind down what you’re saying and sit down – it’s someone else’s turn now.   Everyone gets the same amount of time.  What makes you so special to think that the timer doesn’t apply to you and is free reign to just carry on talking.  And talking.  And talking. 

At best, it’s just arrogant.  Please be respectful and stick to the allotted time. 

U is for Understand

Are you conveying the right messages to your audience?  Over the years, I’ve met dozens of fellow business owners who have quite literally scared me off using their services.  Week after week, I’ve sat through their 60 seconds listening to how they’ve been training household (sometimes global) brands, or how their clients include rock stars, glamourous locations and contracts worth multi-thousands of pounds.  It all sounds fabulous, doesn’t it – but as a solo business owner my brain immediately tells me that I’ll never be able to afford these guys, so I switch off.   

If your audience is a room full of micro-business owners, tailor your message to their needs.  The whole idea of your elevator pitch is to make your business/service desirable and problem solving for your potential customers.  Dropping household names, endless transatlantic flights and high-end contracts into your pitch could have your audience questioning (a) whether they could ever afford you, and (b) what on earth are you doing in the room if you have a tranche of global household names on your client list. 

Moving on ……

V is for Voice

Room sizes, like audiences, vary.  Larger groups will have background noise, several clusters of people all having different conversations, and you can guarantee that there will be some who insist on whispering (at best) to the person next to them during the 60 second section of the meeting. 

Try to speak clearly and project.  You may need to raise your voice and talk over distractions and interruptions.  It’s not easy so don’t be afraid to practice: in the bathroom, in the car.  If it helps, you may want to use your smartphone to record yourself and listen back to how you sound.   

Remember to leave pauses every so often for impact.  Silence can be a great way to get your audience listening. 

W is for Welcoming

One of the most terrifying things for many when it comes to networking is that first visit.  That first time of walking over the threshold and saying hello to a room of entire strangers. 

Don’t leave newbies lurking in the doorway, looking like they want to be invisible.  Welcome them, introduce them, show them where the coffee is, explain the format of the next couple of hours.  Some groups even have designated ambassadors for visitors and new members.

When it comes to sitting down for the business of the meeting, make sure any newbies or visitors are sat with experienced, established members of the group and that they get the opportunity to feel part of the group.

There’s nothing worse than feedback from visitors saying that they found the group cliquey or that nobody spoke to them for ten minutes after their arrival.

We were all newbies once – be mindful, be kind, be welcoming.

X is for eXtrovert

Every group has its extroverts – maybe you’re one of them?  Can you use that trait to stand out from the crowd – in a good way?  Are you brave enough to deliver your 60 seconds in verse, or even sing it to the room?  Would you turn up in fancy dress to get your point across or reinforce your brand message? 

I’ll leave that one with you ….. but feel free to share your results and reactions!

Y is for Your Business

Your business is the reason you are doing all of this damned networking in the first place, so please don’t waste the opportunity to talk about it, and promote what you do.  With balance!

As we’ve already learned, you can gain a lot from listening.  Listen to how others in the room could potentially benefit your business, not just as a client but maybe there’s affiliations and associations to be formed. 

Look after your business, and your business will look after you. 

Z is for Zoning Out

There’s nothing more off-putting than having someone in the room who is so disengaged they may as well not be there at all.

A good presenter can spot a stifled yawn from a mile away.  Show some respect, pay attention, engage and enlighten – it sure beats slumping in your chair, checking your phone, clock watching and zoning out.

Well, that brings us to the end of our A to Z of Networking.  I’d love to hear what points you’ve taken away from this series of blogs that you can now put into practice with your own networking. 

Finally, I’d like to give a big heads-up to the networking groups I’m involved in:-

Burntwood inBusiness Networking

Business B4 Work (Tamworth area)

WiRE – Women in Rural Enterprise (National organisation)

Love Ladies Business Group (Midlands)

Thanks for reading – now go forth and network! 

A to Z of Networking Part 1

A to Z of Networking Part 2

A to Z of Networking Part 3