There is truth in Woody Allen’s famous quote: “80% of success is showing up” but “just showing up” doesn’t separate you from the competition. Recently, I asked a client what he does to prepare before attending a local networking event. His answer was “Nothing, I never thought about it.” He always just puts the event on his calendar and “shows up”. Clearly, the vast majority of business networkers do the same thing and “just show up”. They hope that Woody Allen was right. Well, I promise you that the networkers who do even the slightest bit of preparation before showing up experience much greater success than those who don’t.
What kind of preparation should be done? Most think that having an elevator pitch that is finely honed and practiced is all they need to do. The ability to describe what you do and for whom you do it within 30 seconds is absolutely important. But your preparation needs to go deeper than that. You need to take a couple more steps. The first is that in addition to “what” you do, you also need to convey “why” you do it. The now ubiquitous question “What’s your why?”, coined by Simon Sinek is a key to conveying your passion, effectiveness, and professionalism. If you haven’t read Simon’s book or listened to his Ted Talk, I strongly suggest you do. “People don’t care what you do, they care why you do it.”
With that said, I believe that in today’s highly competitive business world, your elevator pitch and knowing how to express your “why” is now just table stakes. To truly leverage your time at a networking event you must go even one step further. You need to spend 15-20 minutes researching the people who you expect to see at the event, especially those in your target market or those who can introduce you to your target market. We have the world at our finger tips these days and can gain incredible knowledge through Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. How much easier is it to “break the ice” when you know a person’s alma mater? Perhaps you went to the same school or were a rival. Maybe they recently traveled to a destination that you would be interested in learning more about. Maybe they coach Little League or are a member of an organization you often wondered about. You can Google their business and see if there is any recent news you can bring up in conversation. Perhaps they opened a new office, and you are curious about why they chose that location. The possible topics you can broach are endless. However, you need to have a few ideas before you get there. This may seem quite simple and common sense and you would be right. But I assure you that the vast majority of networkers don’t do it. They just “show up”. Prepare before your next few events and I am confident you will be amazed how much more effective you will be in generating meaningful connections while networking. It just takes a little preparation and discipline. A good habit to adopt is when you put the event on your calendar, schedule 15 minute “event prep time” before you leave. If you don’t schedule it, you won’t remember to do it.
A graduate of Rutgers Business School, Nick is a Brian Tracy certified corporate trainer and business coach, a licensed Navigational Conversation program facilitator, and practice mentor. Today, Nick works with entrepreneurs in multiple industries and does executive coaching in the financial services arena. He is also the owner of FocalPoint Business Coaching of New Jersey and is the NJ Area Developer for FocalPoint International. Nick is active in several prominent business associations including the New Jersey Business & Industry Assoc., and serves on the board of the Monmouth-Ocean Development Council. Married for 30 years, Nick and Eileen have two successful boys and split time between their homes in New Jersey and North Carolina. Nick enjoys golf, exercise, and spending time with family. To learn more about Nick or to contact him directly, click here.