Face-to-Face Networking Is More Powerful Than Ever.
This is an interactive Blog!
Before you read this article, you might want to do two things.
One, take a Networking quiz. It’s free and you get your results instantly. Click here!
It only takes about 15 minutes to complete. Second, watch the two videos on networking below. Video 1 is an example of a networking event. Watch it and take notes of any mistakes you see. Then watch video 2.
Video 2 is a replay of video 1, although it shows the spoken word and body language mistakes that were made in the networking event; however, it shows
Although the internet might be a new landscape for doing business, face-to-face interaction is still key in regard to how business gets done. Attending a networking function where you interact directly with others, your networking skills can be a great asset or a distinct liability to your success! The more you are visible, inside or outside your organization, the more these skills-sets play a pivotal role in your career success. Before I knew this fact, I made some great blunders in early in my career. Here’s the best one of all.
I had the opportunity to attend a networking event for UNICEF. Anne Cox Chambers hosted the event in her private home in Atlanta, Georgia and about thirty-five invitees attended. Mrs. Chambers at the time, was the primary owner of the privately held media company, COX Enterprises, with a personal fortune in an estimated excess of thirteen billion dollars. This was a very rare opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with someone of this prestige, in such a small gathering.
Putting children first all over the world!
Ann Cox Chambers
As I walked into her home, I immediately noticed President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter in the archway greeting visitors. I had no idea they were going to be there and was very excited to meet them. I was working on President Carter’s “Atlanta Project” at the time, and in addition, I had never met a president before.
I immediately walked up to them, introduced myself, and started talking about the Atlanta Project and how excited I was to be part of such a great experience. As I continued to rattle on, President Carter thanked me and politely drew my attention away from him and his project. He said that he was not the guest of honor, that in fact, Sir Peter Ustinov was the guest of honor.
A short time later, after greeting Mrs. Chambers and Mr. Ustinov in the receiving line, I found myself in a private conversation with Mr. Ustinov and Mrs. Chambers in the living room of her home. At this point, I learned that Mr. Ustinov was an acclaimed international actor, producer, playwright, novelist and raconteur, as well as a goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF.
Trying to make conversation, I asked Mrs. Chambers how her nephew’s wife was doing. I knew her nephew’s wife from the Atlanta Children’s Shelter where I was, at the time, on the board. I then followed with another question as to Mrs. Chambers’ length of time in Atlanta.
It was then I became aware that I might have asked an “inappropriate” question. Mr. Ustinov looked at Mrs. Chambers as if to say, “How are you going to answer this one?”
Mrs. Chamber was very elegant and said, “I won’t tell you how long I have been here, but I have been here since my twenties.”
As if that wasn’t enough, I went on to comment, “You must have seen a lot of changes over the years here in Atlanta.”
I exited the conversation shortly afterwards. I was clueless at this event, first; I did not know why I was there. I did not have a purpose. I had no agenda. I did not research the event. I did not know the guest of honor, and certainly did not know President and Mrs. Carter were going to attend.
Looking back, I realized I made many mistakes. Had I known the proper protocol for such an event and how to properly network with different status levels of attendees, my behavior would have been different. I would have gone first to Mrs. Chambers and the guest of honor, Mr. Ustinov. I would thank Mrs. Chambers for hosting the event, and then make a few brief comments about Mr. Ustinov’s work, professionally and with UNICEF. I then would have turned to the president and his wife, making brief comments about the Atlanta Project, and perhaps talk about the president’s global, humanitarian work.
All your day-to-day business encounters, as well as networking events like the one I attended should be taken seriously. They are all important. There is always a Mrs. Chambers, a Mr. Ustinov, a president and first lady, in most business situations. Your reputation depends on how you conduct yourself. It is fundamental and a major part in building your personal brand. The manner in which you conduct yourself and interact with others has an impact on your reputation.
As you can tell from my experience that there are fundamental etiquette, protocols, and communication skills that are critical in networking and will help shape your personal brand. To
be more effective in your networking endeavors, it is important to have a clear understanding of the difference between etiquette and protocol.
Etiquette is a code that defines expectations of one’s behavior within a particular group or society. Protocol is a set of rules that are set in stone and are not to be modified. Protocol is the when and how something is done.
For example, it is proper etiquette to introduce two people, but when and how is the protocol in which it is to be executed. To make a “toast” at dinner may be the proper thing to do (etiquette), but when and how one makes the toast ensures that proper protocol is followed. Exchanging business cards at a networking function is proper (etiquette), but when and how one exchanges his or her business card is the question (protocol). Get the idea?
Another confusion concerning etiquette and protocol is the difference between social etiquette and protocol and business etiquette and protocol. Social is gender based and business is based on precedence. It is important to distinguish between the two so that you do not appear unrefined or offensive.
Business etiquette is genderless, meaning that the chivalry expected in proper social etiquette is not necessarily appropriate in a business setting. Business associates are expected to be treated as peers regardless of gender. It is professional to professional, not male to female.
Business etiquette dictates that all people are treated equally, but this does not mean that basic politeness should be abandoned. For example, during a business luncheon, when a female returns to the dining table, the men should not be expected to greet her by standing and helping her with her chair; however, socially this would be perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, women can initiate a handshake, unlike socially, years past, only men initiated a handshake.
Whether you network in the traditional sense of the word where you meet and mingle with other professionals in a planned venue to gain new contacts or to connect with people with whom you wish to interact or where you might network with existing clients by going to entertainment venues or dine out to nurture a relationship. Whatever the circumstance or venue, understanding the rules of business etiquette and protocols will help you become more effective and build confidence—and it is confidence that translates into success!
So why is networking so important? Simple, because you are highly visible to a great number of people in a very short amount of time.
That is why we at CHUVA have concluded that one’s visibility contributes to 60% of reaching one’s success potential. And it is not just networking, it’s your day-to-day business interactions as well. The more visible you are the more opportunity you have to develop your brand, creating more business opportunities for yourself.
Your Image and performance contribute 30% and 10% respectively. That is why we created the VIP Success Potential Model™. To help our clients develop and maintain a personal brand that has sustainability, especially while networking.
At first, many question this model because it’s embedded in our minds at an early age that performance is the deciding factor between success or failure. Although performance may get you a job or promotion, but it doesn’t guarantee that it will keep you there.
We have seen professionals demoted; not promoted, fired; not hired, solely based on how they interacted with others. In one situation, we had a law firm call and say that they had a brilliant lawyer (performance) but they could not take him out to dinner with clients, as his social skills were inept. He or she was not reaching his or her success potential because of lack of visibility. Their concern was that if a client had interface with the attorney, he or she would not refer that attorney or the firm for additional business. The attorney’s interaction impacted their brand. Who wants to chance their own reputation?
Think of a pharmaceutical company that has created a great drug to cure a disease. If its reps do not visit the doctors to educate and inform the doctors on the performance of the drug, or they do not advertise to educate consumers, then that drug would simply sit on the shelf. It can perform; however, if not given the chance, it cannot.
When given a chance to showcase who you are and what you know, do you sabotage the opportunity, or maximize it by positioning yourself in a more positive light? If you can “master” the protocols, etiquette, and communication skills in networking, only then can you unleash your full success potential!
Francois Pretorius of SucceedGroup, wrote an article called, The Importance of a Strong Business Network. He listed what he calls the five biggest benefits of business networking. They are Opportunities, Advice, New business, Growing your personal profile, and Friendship. I thought these were very insightful, particularly, “Growing your personal profile”, where he states how visibility is a “massive advantage” when networking.
Another key concept that you should understand when networking is the concept that “Perception Is Reality”. When a person first “meets” you, what they see and hear helps him or her form a reality of who they “think” you are. In other words, what one perceives, one believes to be true; however, it may not reflect your “authentic” self, but to the onlooker, it is “his or her” truth.
Everything you do, everything you say, everything you represent, everything you associate yourself with, and everything you produce, creates an emotional connection with others. These impact other’s perceptions of you. It is other’s thoughts and feelings and associations held within his or her mind collectively that influences your reputation. Your reputation is your Personal Brand.
Whether networking at an event or day-to-day interaction, every day you deal with people and some of these situations are short-lived and some ongoing. How you deal with these type opportunities is like that of playing a game of chess.
You must methodically and strategically master the situation at hand.
As in chess, there are two players. So, let’s look at the comparison between chess and networking. You are one of the players and the other player is actually a combination of two components. One, the collective group of people. In other words, those involved in the networking environment. And two, the situation that you find yourself involved with. The environment for which you are in would be the gameboard. Like chess, you need to think before you make a move on the gameboard, as each move will impact the outcome of the event.
How you maneuver yourself and the people (pieces), will determine how successful you are at networking effectively. Do you know how to do both successfully? Being aware of your networking skills is required to successfully maneuver yourself in these type situations giving providing you with various opportunities to “checkmate” the situation.
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