Is Face-to-Face Networking Dead?

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Technology, the economic downturn and shifting social attitudes have all impacted networking in the last few years. Some have even surmised that face-to-face networking is declining in both impact and importance as a contributor to sales and business-building success. After scouring the internet and consulting with a number of trends experts, here’s my take on networking today and in the future.

Networking is alive and well.

The Mark Twain quote “rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated” is quite appropriate. Rather than lessening in value, networking seems to have increased in importance and impact with all the extraneous factors that have come into play. A recent survey (GrowBiz and Zoomerang) concluded that 86% of business owners said word-of-mouth is important, with 70% citing in-person networking as their primary strategy. Networking is, indeed, alive and well.

Networking and the maturing of social media.

The myth of social media replacing the need for face-to-face contact has dissipated, with social media strategies accepting the reality of incorporating and intertwining online and offline marketing options. The social network phenomenon is gravitating to its true value as a component and complement to the interpersonal relationship-building process that drives our lives and determines our success.

Networking and technology overload.

More and more professionals are committing to “disconnect to connect”; turning off technology and allowing themselves to interact with others on a more personal and intimate level. By choosing to eliminate the distractions and interruptions technology brings, they are accepting the true impact of interacting with others and accelerating the relationship process. B2B and B2C has evolved to B2P (business to people), where it’s been for hundreds of years.

Networking and the trust factor.

There is no question that we have become more cynical and cautious. With up to 80% of people now researching purchase decisions online and the multitude of options available, how do we choose? There is no more powerful differentiator than connecting with others in real-time to share your passion, competence, integrity and professionalism. Building trust is, and has always been, a face-to-face activity. The lost art of social contact is becoming the difference maker in our multiple-choice market.

Networking and business strategy.

The economy continues to impact where we commit our resources and how we deliver our products or services. Every investment must be managed and measured. Networking continues to be the single most cost-effective sales and business-building strategy in today’s complex and competitive environment, but only when it is utilized strategically, to access and leverage the right network, with the right strategy for the right outcomes.

Now, go work your network!

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Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. To get more info about his services or to have him speak at your next meeting or conference, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com or email him at info@NetworkingForResults.com

5 Guidelines to Maximize your Most Valuable Resource: Your Time.

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As an executive, business/sales professional or entrepreneur, your ability to manage and maximize the resources at your disposal will always dictate the success you achieve. This includes the people you come in contact with, the assets you have access to and, most of all, your personal productivity.

Time is a professional’s most valued and valuable resource. It is a constantly diminishing resource that is finite, measurable and unforgiving. Your ability to maximize its impact and minimize its constraints will dictate the results you achieve. Use these time management guidelines to increase your personal productivity:

Be prepared. A manager’s two important skills are to think and to plan. The more time you invest thinking about what’s important to success for both you and your enterprise, the more you will emphasize putting time and effort in those areas. In addition, the better your plan, the easier it will for you, and everyone else involved in your business environment, to know what activities will produce the highest return. A written plan is one of the most important time management tools you can create. Make it a point to think and plan every day.

Be strategic. Know the difference between being efficient and being effective. Being efficient is getting a lot done. Being effective, on the other hand, is ensuring that you get right things done to move your business  or career forward. Leadership, by its very nature, accepts there will never be enough time to get everything done. The key to professional success recognizes that focusing the most important and valuable tasks, and getting them accomplished, will always be enough. Your most questions should always be “what is the important thing I can do NOW to move my business or career forward?”

Be structured. As a business professional, especially in the early stages of your career or mandate, it’s common to get overwhelmed, then simply try to work harder as the tasks pile up. This strategy will only exacerbate the problem, adding anxiety and exhaustion to the mix. Develop the habit of creating a daily written task list and prioritizing each item relative to its importance and value to your personal and professional success. This will not only reinforce productive time use, it will also increase your confidence. If ever you feel uncertain or overwhelmed, simply find a quiet spot, and revise your list based on your current situation. This is one of the most powerful time management habits you can develop.

Be ruthless. Because you have accepted total responsible for your life, you are under constant time pressure. You must develop the skill and the discipline of being ruthless with your time while staying gracious with people. This is why being prepared, strategic and structured are important. They allow you to weigh a request for your time in the context of its value for you, your productivity and your professional outcomes. Accept that it will be necessary for you to say “no” to certain time requests. Prepare for this eventually by developing options that will minimize the negative impact. Replies like “looking at my schedule, I can’t see how I can do this”, or “check back with me tomorrow” can let you off the hook without damaging a relationship.

Be balanced. Entrepreneurship or management can be an all-consuming vocation. Before you know it, it can take over your life, sometimes at the expense of other equally-important life categories. Your life and your time require a holistic approach. The professional and personal areas of life are inter-dependent and inter-connected. Non-business areas like health, relationships and spirituality will always have an impact on your outcomes. For this reason, it is essential that you include all areas of your life in your time and priority management perspective.

The four cornerstones of effective time management.
1. Clarify your focus in your main life categories
2. Create a written plan that includes goals in all major life areas
3. Implement a daily prioritized action plan.
4. Review and revise your time management plan on an on-going basis.


Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. To find out more about him, or have him share his wealth of knowledge at your meeting or event, visit www.NetworkingForResults.com.

12 Networking Hacks that Dramatically Drive Results.

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Networking is an activity that every professional is involved in, both formally and informally. How can you accelerate the results you want and need? Here are the top networking hacks you can use to help you minimize your effort and maximize your results.

1. Find the 5% that matter. Networking, in its purest form, is a strategic exercise. Knowing who to connect with allows you to zero in on the highest probability candidates for your product/service (about 5% of any network), allowing you to meet the right people by design as opposed to by default.

2. Be in the right circle. One of the biggest networking myths is that activity drives results. In reality, focus is the most effective factor in determining success. If you’re in the right network, you will eventually find people who want your product or service, even if networking isn’t your strength.

3. Use verbal judo. In martial arts, technique is more important than strength. It’s how a seemingly weak athlete can easily take down and submit a stronger opponent. You can do the same during a conversation by using “Tell me about…” It takes all the pressure off you and opens a conversational void most are happy to fill.

4. Cultivate this quality. One of the most powerful personal characteristics is sincere curiosity. It will separate you from the pack and help others perceive you as more personable and professional. It’s simple, but it isn’t easy. It takes intention, being in the moment and paying attention to a conversation partner.

5. Get the right ammo. Your key objective when networking is to get the other person’s contact info. It’s your most powerful ammunition to keep the relationship moving forward. Others anticipate and expect it, and will think you more professional for asking.

6. Find a link and leverage it. Even the briefest networking conversation can be converted into a relationship. All you need to do is listen better and ask more questions. Then, when you hear a topic or area that links you both, use it as a lever to re-connect and push the relationship forward.

7. Realize what others are really asking. Almost every networking conversation includes the question ”What do you do?” You need to realize that what the other person really wants to know is your value, not your life story. Prepare a 15-word elevator pitch that communicates your target market, primary benefit and the results you provide.

8. Cut to the chase. Most professionals have no idea how to communicate their value. Many will ramble incoherently about information that only confuses and annoys. You can bypass this whole issue by asking “Who are you looking to connect with?” It immediately unlocks the right info.

9. Eliminate the rejection factor. The single biggest business-related networking issue is failure to follow up. In fact, over 90% of professionals say they do no follow up (mostly due to fear of rejection). Minimize this effect by asking “Can I follow up?” before the conversation ends.

10. Shorten the leash. While networking can ignite a relationship, it cannot sustain one. On-going contact does that. That’s why following up is crucial. The sooner you re-connect with a conversation partner (ideally within 6-12 hours), the easier the relationship process will accelerate.

11. Hedge your bets. It is a fact that not every person you meet will do hire, refer or do business with you. However, if you can discover a way to contribute to their business life, they will remember you and work on your behalf. Use the five minute rule to help you take action when you see an opportunity to contribute: If it can be done in five minutes, do it now.

12. Take the long view. Relationships take time, need to be nurtured and require investment. Commit to growing a relationship for 90 days without expectation of reward. Then evaluate your situation and either re-commit or cut bait.

Remember: Networking is a skill-based activity. These twelve hacks can help you accelerate your networking success, but they also involve skills that take time to develop. Which one should you work on this week to drive your networking results?


Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. To get more info about his services or to have him speak at your next meeting or conference, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com

 

Networking Power Tips: 9 Ways to Conclude a Networking Conversation

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So you made a good first impression, identified some common interests and agreed on follow-up. Now is the time to conclude the conversation in an effective way and move to new opportunities, but how do you accomplish this with professionalism and poise?

Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that a networking conversation is really part of a process. They don’t accept that these interactions have a natural and normal conclusion, and that managing it effectively increases the impact with a conversation partner. Here are some practical, proven tips to maximize this important transition point.

1.Accept reality. Conversations end, just as life does. Very few people seem to know how or be comfortable with concluding a networking conversation. You can greatly help others by managing this portion of the process and making it easy for them.

2. Watch for signs. Usually there will be a lack of conversation or a loss of interest in the topic being discussed. When this happens, it means that the energy and enthusiasm of the contact is waning. Become more aware when this happens to better manage the process.

3. Decide to act. Recognizing that there is no further value to the conversation can be a signal to either re-stimulate the discussion or change conversation partners. Identifying this issue and taking positive action is both beneficial and necessary.

4. Consider your partner first. Although some situations allow for a quick exit, remember that it is bad manners to simply conclude a conversation, leaving the other person standing alone. Consider their feelings before using this tactic.

5. Summarize the discussion. When you see no further benefit for either party, you can summarize the conversation and indicate you want to move on. You can also at this point indicate that you wish to allow the other person to meet others.

6. Create a follow up opportunity. As the networking interaction ends, it is usually an excellent point to suggest a follow up opportunity, using an issue discussed earlier in the conversation and requesting a business card.

7. Thank the other person. One of the most important and overlooked parts of concluding a conversation is to take the time to thank the other person. This demonstrates integrity, respect and professionalism.

8. Expand the conversation. Sometimes it is just as beneficial to bring another person into the conversation. This allows a change in focus and can allow you to more easily move to another conversation without feeling you have abandoned the other person.

9. Change locations. If you don’t want to abandon your networking partner but want to create some new enthusiasm in your conversation, perhaps you can ask him or her to come with you to another location such as food table, or to join a larger group,

Successful networkers prepare for success. By creating and developing more options to conclude a conversation, you will be perceived as more professional and personable, which has a direct impact on trust and the relationship-building process. Do you have specific question about concluding a conversation? Email me at info@NetworkingForResults.com. Let’s chat. I can help.

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Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. Find out more about him at www.NetworkingForResults.com and download a complimentary copy of his 12-page ebook Managing the Networking Experience.

5 Networking Secrets that Leverage Centers of Influence

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We all have centers of influence. We know who they are and how they can affect our business, career or life. Yet, we continuously struggle to make the most of their power and potential.

One of the keys to maximizing centers of influence depends on how quickly, and how well, the relationship develops. Follow one or more of the strategies listed below to accelerate the process and reap the benefits these valuable relationships have to offer.

Focus on the process. Relationships follow a natural and defined process. It usually takes time and a certain number of contacts to feel comfortable with another person.
Instead of keying on the results you want, look to manage the process. There are six phases in the relationship-development process. By becoming more aware of them, you can have a direct impact on each. This is especially important when dealing with centers of influence who can offer major benefits.

Use a structure. We all lead busy lives with too much to do and too many people to keep track of. Discovering, developing and leveraging relationships with centers of influence is a priority as well as a critical success factor in business and in life. Using a specific structure to manage and track your highest-value relationships is a necessity. Develop a structure, either on paper or using technology, to keep the process moving forward for mutual benefit.

Be pro-active. We humans are social creatures. We are enamored with the relationship process. Too often, we rely on it to be self-directed. This can be enjoyable but does not help us achieve the results we want and need. Presume every conversation with a center of influence will require a follow up contact. Continually look for opportunities to confirm another meeting, create more value or bring an additional benefit.

Build trust. Trust is the single most powerful characteristic in a relationship. It is the foundation of every important relationship in your life. It can, by itself, be the stimulus to having others help you achieve your objectives. People perceive everything we do to be either for, or against, them. Discovering ways to demonstrate your trust in others, especially centers of influence, can have major effect on their willingness to help.

Clarify your objectives. You’re either working your plan, or you’re working someone else’s plan. One of the main reasons why others are not more helpful to us is that they are unclear as to how they can be of service. Evaluate each center of influence and clarify your needs from each .The more specific and selective you are, the easier you will make it for them to help you. This way, both of you will gain from the result.

Relationships take time, need to be nurtured and require investment. This can take weeks, months, or even years. Are you investing the right amount of tome effort and energy on these invaluable resources? I’ve spent the last 20 years building better relationships. If this is an area of concern or opportunity for you, contact me at info@NetworkingForResults.com. I can help.


Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. To get more info about his services or to have him speak at your next meeting or conference, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com

 

 

Networking Power Tips – Taking Charge of a Conversation

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Whether at a formal event or in an informal conversation, the axiom that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression holds true. How can you maximize the early stages of a networking  interaction for greater personal and professional impact? Here are some strategies to help you use this important relationship phase to build rapport, increase trust and engage your conversation partner.

Feel confident that others will like and accept you. It’s natural to feel anxious when meeting others. Yet, in reality, most people are just like you. They want to meet new friends and will be happy you chose them to speak with. Remind yourself of this every time you enter a networking function. In fact, you should take a few moments before arriving to create a positive mental attitude about meeting others. This alone can have a huge impact on your conversations.

Realize the stress on others. An initial contact is usually the most stressful time for most people. When you take charge of the conversation you help others by giving them a direction. This immediately reduces stress and anxiety. By taking responsibility for engaging your conversation partner, you immediately make the experience more pleasant and positive for her/him.

Play the host/hostess role. Have you ever hosted a party? How did you welcome new arrivals? By assuming a host/hostess mentality, you will tend to be more pro-active in engaging others. Introducing yourself and starting a conversation or introducing new arrivals to others all contribute to helping others feel more comfortable and enhance their feelings of trust about us.

Smile.  “The smile is the window to the soul”. When you smile you’re whole face lights up. It shows others you are a positive person. It attracts others and makes them feel comfortable around you. A sincere smile will always be your most powerful resource in demonstrating to others that you are personable. Use it more often.

Look the other person in the eye. Eye contact is a powerful and positive trust-building strategy. It demonstrates to others that they have our full attention and, on a deeper level, that we care enough to listen to their words. To maximize this technique, look into the other person’s eyes until you determine their color.

Introduce yourself. Most people have a brain-freeze moment when meeting an new conversation partner. Others just aren’t sure what to do. Taking the initiative to start the conversation gets the ball rolling and offers a specific starting point. Most people will respond with their name, and if they don’t, it’s almost natural to ask.

Offer your hand. The handshake is the only acceptable form of physical contact between two strangers in our society. Shaking hands is perceived as an act of friendship that dates back thousands of years. In addition, it creates a physical bond with the other person. This also gives the other person an action to perform, which reduces stress and anxiety.

Be aware of your body language. When we first meet another person, we read all their communication levels almost simultaneously as they do the same. Because networking is a high-stress activity, many people are prone to excessive gestures or words, sometie4ms without even being aware of it. Less body movement has more impact, projecting a sense of confidence. Fewer words have more impact. In both cases, less is more.

Recognize the impact of your voice.  The tone of your voice can have a major impact in making others feel at ease. Sounding gentle and sincere can greatly help to make your initial contact a positive experience for others. A softer tone of voice will always make you seem more personable and positive to others. It invites a cordial conversation and implies competence.

One size does not fit all. Although these suggestions are proven and practical, it’s imperative that you be aware that each conversation is unique and individual and must be customized to both your conversation partner the environment you are in. Today’s multi-cultural busies environment may mean that you need to adapt your strategy to accommodate the other person’s background or culture.


Michael Hughes is known as THE Networking Guru. To find out more about him and receive a complimentary copy of his ebook “Managing The Networking Experience”, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com.

Networking with Millenials – Hey Teacher! Leave those kids alone.

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I’ve been sitting on the sidelines, reviewing with great interest the negative comments being heaped on our next generation of professionals: they’re rebellious, they don’t listen, they can’t communicate, they’re too focused on technology, they don’t have adequate people skills, etc, etc.

I’ve been interacting with young professionals for the last twenty years. I find today’s young people just as positive, personable and enthusiastic as ever. That being said, we need to accept that, in many cases, the enemy is us.

Not better or worse, just different. Young people have always been at the forefront of change. This new crop of executives, entrepreneurs and career professionals represent our future. I love listening to them. I enjoy interacting with them. Stop seeing them as problem children or rebels. Accept that they are different. Accept that they will have different ideas and ideals. This is good for us all.

It’s not about the technology. Yes, the younger generation has grown up embracing technology. It’s an integral part of their lives. It has contributed to accelerating their knowledge capacity, expanded their mindset and liberated them from limiting beliefs. Stop focusing on their obsession with technology. Instead, invest more time learning how they benefit from it. They’ll love you for it.

It is all about communication. There is a misconception that because young professionals use technology more to communicate, they aren’t competent communicators. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, their social skills incorporate a wider range of options due to their expanded communication options. It’s not a drawback, it’s a benefit. Once you see it this way, you can embrace their environment and maximize it.

No one is “entitled.” I keep hearing that young professionals have a sense of entitlement. And why wouldn’t they? They live in a world that offers them unparalleled opportunity and unlimited potential , yet we want them to wait until the time is right. Now who’s falling back on a sense of entitlement? It’s time accept that young professionals have a sense of urgency and that part of our obligation is to help them move forward (whether we like it or not).

The last word. I have accepted that today’s young professionals aren’t to be resented or rebuked. I seek them out. I work to discover their aspirations and their frustrations. I invest in assisting them in their journey. After all, someone did that for me years ago. It’s time for us to stop seeing the next generation (whether called Millennials, Gen Xrs) as an impediment to progress when they are really the engine of our future success.

Why aren’t we more accepting of these motivated and assertive young people who care enough to question the status quo and clamor for the change we all know is required to succeed? Whatever they choose to call you, I’m here with you. I’d love to hear from you.

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Michael Hughes is known as THE Networking Guru. To find out more about him and receive a complimentary copy of his ebook “Managing The Networking Experience”, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com.

Networking Power Tips: 11 Networking Confidence Builders

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Does your blood pressure rise at the mere thought of attending a networking event? Are you nervous about carrying on conversations with new contacts? You’re not alone.

Many people have great difficulty simply meeting others. There can be any number of reasons for this, all of which are real. Here are some strategies to help you build your confidence about going to the next networking event.

1. Clarify your issue. Become more aware of why you have difficulty meeting others. Is it a lack of self-confidence? Are you uncomfortable because you feel you must use networking to “sell”? Are you simply unsure of what to do or say? By addressing the reason for your discomfort, you can improve how you deal with the situation.

2. Re-enforce the value. Accept that meeting others is one of the most effective ways to get more business or advance your career. By attending the event you will be giving others the opportunity to become more informed about you and your value. By increasing your sense of value you will feel more confident in meeting others.

3. Change your mindset. Emphasize the social aspect of networking rather than feeling you must find and qualify prospects or new career opportunities. Focus on making friends instead of doing business. This will take away a lot of your anxiety while giving you essentially the same results.

4. Set an objective. Once you have made the decision to attend a networking event, invest in setting a clear objective. This will help keep you focused as you meet and talk with others. It will also give you a basis for which to measure your networking success.

5. Prepare for success. If you know you have difficulty developing conversations, why not plan to reduce the chance of being in this situation. Meet up with a friend or bring along a colleague. You could also check with the host in advance to find out who else will be there (and create an important contact during the call).

6. Have a start-up strategy. Most conversations start the same way. Plan and practice the words and actions you will use until they become second nature. Here’s a simple structure for you: make eye contact, smile, offer your hand and introduce yourself. Practice this structure until it becomes a positive habit.

7. Go public. Tell others about your discomfort when you first meet them. You’ll find that many people feel the same way. Even if they don’t, they’ll usually go out of their way to help develop a conversation and you’ll feel better having shared this with them.

8. Shift the conversational focus. Sometimes the stress about meeting others comes from feeling we must carry the conversation. The most brilliant conversation partners are excellent listeners who ask the right questions. Strive to get others talking from the moment of contact. They will enjoy your company even more.

9. Have three questions to ask. Much of the stress we feel in meeting others comes from being unsure of what to say. Having questions ready that can act as conversation starters can reduce your anxiety as you make contact with another person. Every conversation has natural opportunities to ask about things like common issues, family or background.

10. Emphasize The “secret sauce.” The most powerful human bonding agent is context. When you steer the conversation into discovering areas of common interest, especially on a personal level, you accelerate your  sense of comfort and immediately feel more confident about yourself.

11. Develop your skills. Meeting others is part of your interpersonal skills tool kit. Everyone can develop these simple and effective skills. No matter what your level of confidence or competence, you can improve if you continually assess your performance and your results.


Michael Hughes is known as THE Networking Guru. To find out more about him and receive a complimentary copy of his ebook “Managing The Networking Experience”, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com.

7 Essential Ingredients to Maximize Your Corporate Network.

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In today’s matrix-focused corporate world, career advancement can be both intimidating and mystifying. The combination of a continuous push for additional productivity and the politics of the executive suite can be overwhelming and contribute to a lack of direction.

So then, in the midst of all this pressure to perform, how do you maintain a sense of career progression and protect your interests to ensure you are moving in the right direction. Here are the seven ingredients that contribute to building and leveraging your corporate network.

1. Clarify your personal focus. The starting point for maximizing your corporate career strategy lies within yourself. First, invest time to confirm your career objectives and professional needs. This information is your compass to navigate through your network. Then, define your strength/opportunity areas. These represent your assets/liability areas. Completing these two tasks will make it easier to communicate your aspirations and desired outcomes to your network when the occasion arises.

2. Match your strategy to your maturity. Your career advancement strategy needs to align with your career situation, needs and seniority level. If you’re at an entry level, you need to focus more on building your network. If you are mid-career, you may want to more aggressively leverage your existing network and prioritize career advancement. If you’re a seasoned pro, your focus could on leveraging your network(s) for optimal results, as you invest on developing new talent.

3. Evaluate your network options. You already have a vibrant and diverse network. The secret to your career success lies in identifying how it can be of service to you. Start by clarifying your existing network (e.g. circle of influence, colleagues, contacts), then identify target relationships by assessing each person’s ability and willingness to help you. Finally, establish or strengthen your cornerstone relationships (e.g. mentor, influencer, challenger, champion). These people are already on your team.

4. Implement a networking strategy. “Strategic leverage” is the most effective way to maximize a network. Prioritize your approach by identifying the ten highest-value relationships in your corporate network, with a special focus of the top three. Then, make it your mission to discover what issues, interests and values are important to them. Doing this allows you be of service to them. Commit to staying with this strategy for a minimum of 90 days. This will separate you from your colleagues (and competitors) and will help position you as valuable resource.

5. Expand your network reach. Career progression and upward mobility are often dependent on the ability to bridge departments and silos. You can do this by researching what other parallel internal (e.g. peers, subordinates, superiors) and external (e.g. suppliers, partners, clients) networks are part of your environment. Make it a point to connect with these professionals. They can open doors, supply information or represent hidden opportunities in the relationships that have or the networks they are part of.

6. Invest in relationships. Relationship-building and relationship management are now cornerstone leadership skills. Relationships are based on trust, built on value and solidified by contribution. Develop a continuous contribution mindset and methodology. By contributing to others’ success, you will position yourself as more professional, competent and credible. Confirm the value you provide on an on-going basis and discover value areas in others. This two-step strategy opens the door to opportunity and has you invited in.

7. Manage and measure results. Implementing and managing a corporate career strategy is as important as any other project, and you have an obligation to yourself to ensure that it is moving forward. The final ingredient in your program should be performance measurement so that you can confirm you are moving in the right direction. It should be quantitative (e.g. contacts, conversations, contributions) and qualitative (e.g. right relationships, right reasons, right outcomes). Finally, make it a point to review your corporate network strategy on a timely basis. I suggest that each quarterly you review progress and revise your plan, as needed.


Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. To get more info about his services or to have him speak at your next meeting or conference, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com

Networking Power Tips – Dealing with Difficult Conversation Partners.

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Have you ever started a conversation with someone and, within a few moments, realize you’ve stumbled upon one life’s “problem children.” She/he monopolizes the conversation, has an opinion on everything and is convinced everyone wants to hear it

One of the most difficult parts of networking is how to handle those conversation partners who do not have the willingness or the ability to appreciate how to maximize the process. Use the information in this section to ease you way out of their grasp.

Identify them. One of the most important issues to help you spend less time with difficult people is to identify them faster. Immediately putting the focus of the conversation on the other person is an ideal way to quickly assess your conversation partner’s personality and potential.

Go quiet. Go completely quiet. Don’t respond, ask questions or give verbal feedback. Maintain eye contact and smile, but don’t offer to participate. This quickly eliminates any opportunity your conversation partner has to continue her/his monologue.

Use them. Even difficult people can be helpful to you. Manage the conversation by asking effective questions to elicit information about them, their product or service, their involvement in the group or event, or their contacts. Remain objective and recognize that you can gain from every contact.

Share them. This tactic may seem sadistic at first, but it may be to your advantage to bring other people into your conversation, This will take some of the focus from them as the central part of the conversation, shift the emphasis to a group conversation and perhaps even give you the opportunity to move away in a more subdued manner.

Have an exit strategy. Accept that you will sometimes be forced to use subtle, yet necessary, tactics to move away from others. Every conversation offers opportunities that can be used to terminate the networking experience. These can range from a need to replenish one’s drink to a washroom break. Here is a process you may want to use to help maximize this survival technique:
1. Decide to move. We all have a point where we know that it’s time to move on, and this is especially true when your conversation becomes unpleasant or unproductive. Prepare for your best option so you can take advantage of the natural flow of the conversation.
2. Wait for a break. Everyone needs to breathe. When your networking companion pauses, be prepared with a sentence that will allow you to lead the conversation towards your desired objective (drink, washroom, colleague, etc,).
3. Be diplomatic yet firm. As you terminate the interaction, be sure to maintain a professional and personable attitude in your words and actions. Remember, you don’t know who they know.


Michael J. Hughes is a recognized authority on utilizing networking as a business strategy. To find out more about him, or to have him present at your next meeting or conference, contact him at his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com

 

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