Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes I wonder why I don't listen to my own advice!

I took a call last night from Brad Burton. Brad is the effervescent Managing Director of the new kid in Town, 4 Networking. Started in the South West of England 28 months ago, 4 Networking's aim is to have networking groups across the whole of England and into Scotland by February of next year. They have certainly been making a lot of progress in recent months, judging by the number of people now talking about them.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, a phone call from Brad.

"We're launching a new group in Stevenage tomorrow morning, would you like to come along?".

I worked out last night that during my time with Business Referral Exchange I must have attended close to 1,500 breakfast meetings, sometimes at the rate of four a week across the UK. It may be no surprise that these days I accept such invitations with less than a wave of enthusiasm.

However, I wanted to see what the 4 Networking fuss was all about and Brad and I had promised each other that we'd meet up as soon as we could. So the alarm clock was reminded of the time it used to go off and I had an early night in preparation.

Preparation. We're now getting to the point of this post. If you've seen me speak, read my books, blogs and articles or attended one of my workshops, you will almost certainly have heard me talk about knowing what you want to achieve from your networking.

You will probably have listened to me talk about how you should have a clear vision about how each event falls into your overall networking strategy. And there is a fair chance that I will have talked about the importance of planning any presentations in advance, not over breakfast, if you want to maximise impact.

So I took my own advice, initially. Knowing that I would be asked to make a 40 second presentation, last night I asked myself what I should talk about and how to make the best impact in that time. I worked out the key points of my presentation, how to open it to grab people's attention and how to put a call to action in at the end.

I had decided to talk about networking coaching, about how I could help people get a return on their investment in networking by putting a strategy into place for them and helping them to implement and track it. I made a conscious decision not to talk about Word of Mouse, the new network of which I am a director, as I felt that this would conflict with 4 Networking's message.

I was happy with the presentation I had prepared and confident about delivering it.

Then I got to the meeting, spoke to Brad and ignored all of my best instincts and own advice.

Brad asked me why I wasn't going to talk about Word of Mouse. As far as he is concerned, 4 Networking has an "open door" policy and I should take the opportunity to talk about the new network. As this would the ideal group to present Word of Mouse to, I agreed to do so.

I made one big mistake....I changed my mind.

Now, I pride myself on my ability to think on the spot and deliver a good presentation at short, or no, notice. After all, I've had to do it on many occasions. Getting a strong, impactful and succinct message across in 40 seconds is, however, not easy.

You need to spend time asking yourself which, of all of your messages, is the key one for this audience and is going to ensure you are remembered.

You need to have a strong structure, with a powerful opening to draw people in and a 'takeaway' that people will remember and want to question you about.

You have to stand out over and above the 40 other people in the room, all giving a similar presentation about their business.

Changing my presentation at the last minute was the worst thing I could do. In nearly a decade of attending these meetings, I would suggest that this was the worst slot of this type I have ever delivered.

I'll be taking my own advice in future. Hopefully you can learn the lesson from my mistake rather than your own. Spend the time planning your presentation in advance. You'll find your networking so much more enjoyable, and successful, if you do.

There are different ways to make an impact at events like 4 Networking. Maybe this is going a step too far:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Networking in Wales....The Village Effect

The following article orginally appeared in this month's edition of The National Networker

In some areas, the ability to network effectively will be a big help to the growth and success of a business. In others it’s not just helpful, it’s simply essential.

Wales is an area where networking is booming at the moment, in particular there has been a growth in the number of new networks opening in the main commercial centres of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport. As well as offering more opportunities for local business people to connect with each other, these networks are the key to doing business in these cities for people based elsewhere in Wales, or from across the border.

Always renowned for its sense of community, there remains a strong sense of local identity for businesses in Wales. It’s not just about Welsh companies working with fellow nationals, where you are based in Wales is equally as important.

“In Wales, life is based very much around community, so ten miles counts. It’s tough for Cardiff people to do business in Swansea, or the Valleys above Pontypridd”, says Ian McAllister, a West Country born but Welsh educated and based businessman. “You have to be more network orientated over less. In England I could pitch on a whole region or even national level, in Wales it’s Cardiff at best unless I am introduced. Network and knowing people is EVERYTHING in Wales.”

Despite living in Wales, Ian bases his offices across the border in Bristol to take advantage of the greater population density in surrounding areas. He therefore ensures that he mentions that he lives in Wales as early as possible in his conversations with new Welsh connections.

“I state early in any conversation that I live in Wales – that’s as important as where the business address is. For instance, Bristol based businesses will find it difficult to sell in Wales. Hiring a Welsh home-located salesman or opening a Welsh based office will change the effect dramatically – reputation and being part of the Welsh community is of key importance.”

That’s not to say that Welsh companies won’t do business with others from outside their area. What is clear, however, is that you can’t simply walk in and expect to win business. It is important to immerse yourself in the local networks and build a strong reputation. Once you have done that, the Welsh marketplace can suddenly become a lot more accessible.

Cheryl Bass runs Prosper Business Referral Network. Prosper is a new and exclusive business referral network where membership is by invitation only Prosper currently runs networking groups in Cardiff and Swansea in Wales and Bath in Western England, and Cheryl believes that the openness of Welsh networkers lowers, rather than raises, barriers to trade.

“It is very easy to network in Wales. From what I have experienced to date the Welsh members are naturally inquisitive and interested in other businesses and are so willing to work on developing a wide range of stakeholder relationships. The Welsh scene is very closely knit and individuals recognise the value of supporting one another in achieving success.

“It doesn’t take long to work a route through the system to speak to anyone anywhere in Wales.”

So, if people are so welcoming and inquisitive, why is there still so much focus on local communities? Almost everyone I spoke to told me about the importance of the ‘three villages’ of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport and of the difficulty of doing business outside of your home area.

It seems that there are a mixture of factors at play. Certainly, the geographical make-up of Wales has an effect; as, to a more limited extent, do language differences. Much of Wales is rural, meaning that the population density outside the main commercial centres would not support the range of networking seen elsewhere. Additionally, the Welsh language is more commonly heard in some areas of the country than others, and that provides another, natural barrier to people from outside.

Hedd Adams-Lewis runs Red Dragon Events. Originally based in Tamworth, in the English Midlands, Hedd moved his business back to Cardigan in West Wales last year. Networking locally is, however, difficult for Hedd and most of his efforts are still concentrated in England, or online.

“If you are outside of the 3 major population centres of South Wales then business networking is very much limited to your local chamber of commerce - if there is one! Representatives from business from the three centres are often reluctant and sceptical about venturing outside of their comfort zone and focus their efforts within their geographical area. Businesses from outside these areas are often faced with scepticism as to how worthy or genuine a business they are because they are not based within the major centres.

“The population density and correspondingly business density outside of the three major areas is significantly reduced, especially the further West you venture. A lot of businesses in rural areas would be cynical towards the idea of networking with strangers and struggle to understand the potential value to their businesses – ‘we’ve always done it this way and it’s always worked’ kind of attitude - even though they might be working every hour possible and struggling to make any headway! It’s as if working every possible hour is seen as an honourable thing to do, or a sign of success to the outside world!”

The North/South divide in Wales also comes into play, with the geography of the country making it difficult for business relationships to develop between the two areas. Gareth Davies, a professional speaker based in Cardiff, doesn’t see this changing, despite efforts to bring the two communities closer together.

“North Wales does very little business with South Wales and vice versa. The government has tried to help this situation by providing one off events but the geography of the country is such that it will always be a barrier. Therefore it is far easier for companies in the south to deal with Bristol or London or anywhere in between and for the North Walians to deal with Liverpool and Manchester.”

Political machinations and inter-city rivalries also play a key role in maintaining the village feel of Welsh networking. Ian McAllister feels that this is a major issue and points to problems following the collapse of the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce earlier this year as indicative of the wider issues.

“In the solution for a replacement that’s being negotiated, Cardiff people want it their way, while Newport and Swansea don’t want to be seen being wholly consumed as part of Cardiff’s solution for Cardiff’s problems. There is much in-fighting between the communities at many levels – government, socially, business, sport, etc. For inward investment projects, communities will fight and try and out-bid each other – the inter-community politics at times can be awful. It’s no different for business.”

Caroline Newman, of XL Results Foundation, an international network of social entrepreneurs, believes that a result of this inter-city competition is that the Welsh are too inward looking. She believes that the over reliance on government grants and funding has had a negative effect on Welsh business and fostered a dependency culture.

Caroline wants to see a future where Welsh businesses are more outward looking and connecting with business owners all over the globe through on line and off line networking. “This is now a truly global economy and Welsh business owners will miss out on opportunities if they are not actively looking to network and do business with people in the rest of the UK, Europe and worldwide. They will not survive and grow if they only do business with who they know now.”

This inward focus and community structure means that businesses looking to develop markets away from their home area must be prepared to invest time and effort in building strong relationships and, most importantly, trust. What is clear from the discussions I had is the importance of building those relationships city by city. You won’t build a cross-Wales network by focusing your efforts in just one area. Local relationships really do matter.

“While the people in both areas are business focussed, I find over the Bridge (in England), people like to do business first and get to know you afterwards; in Wales it is definitely the other way around”, said Lynne Orton, who runs Business Network, one of the longest established networking organisations in Wales, with networks in Carmarthen, Swansea, Bridgend, Cardiff and Newport. .

“In our networking groups in Cardiff and Newport we have had many visitors from England; they have recognised that the Welsh way of doing business is different from the English way, and that is where networking groups come to the fore when trying to break into the business market in Wales.

“There is no great divide between Welsh & English businesses; but particularly in Wales people like to do business with people they know – and if they get to know you through networking they will be comfortable working with you.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Secrets to Successful Connecting - Jill Lublin

I'd like to welcome a guest blogger this month. Jill Lublin is a renowned US author and has just published her third book in the States, 'Get Noticed… Get Referrals: Build Your Client Base and Your Business by Making a Name for Yourself'

Connecting is the art of building relationships; relationships that last. It’s the forming of bonds with people that can grow into deeper, closer, more meaningful relationships.

Making close connections is essential because people prefer to work and interact those with whom they feel connected. They share common interests, feelings, values, and beliefs. They trust them and want to help them more. Instead of concentrating on closing one-time sales, it is better to build close, long-term connections that will endure.

Be honest and build trust. Exaggerating and falsifying may help produce quick sales, but over time, they will do you in. Overstating and failing to deliver as promised kills relationships because customers want what they were promised. Few will continue to conduct business with those who have not kept their word. Not delivering precisely as promised is the best way to ruin your reputation and brand.

To create solid connections, follow these suggestions:

• Perfect your art. Deliver top quality. Do what you do excellently, as well as it can be done. “There is no substitute for quality,” T. Harv Eker states. If the quality you provide is outstanding, you don’t have to do lots of networking. People will network for you. They will tell others about you and recommend you. People love to refer others to those who provide the top quality.” It makes them look good.

• Stick to the facts. It’s easy to exaggerate and promise more than you can deliver, but it doesn’t pay. Be honest. Connect with potential customers by telling them the results your goods and services have achieved. Better yet, document the results, put on demonstrations, and show them proof. Provide them with endorsements from satisfied customers; take them to sites to your goods or services in operation with other customers. Then explain to your prospects exactly how you can help them.

• Don’t promise too much — especially if you may not be able deliver. Be completely honest. It’s better to lose a sale and stay on good terms with the prospect than to land the sale and subsequently alienate the customer. If your honesty costs you a deal, think of it this way: the customer may remember your truthfulness and call on you again. However, if you over-inflate or fail to deliver, your future with that prospect will be doomed, over, kaput. Plus, aggrieved customers tend to tell their friends about their dissatisfaction — especially when they feel they were intentionally deceived.

• When you’re looking for business, offer your goods or services at an attractive price. Be fair and don’t gouge; build trust. Give potential customers a price incentive for giving you their business. When you have performed well for them, you can use them showcase to sell future customers. You will also have forged connections with satisfied customers who will give you repeat business and recommend you to others. Ask satisfied customers to give you endorsements or letters of commendation. Have them write on their letterheads how excellently you performed. Post the commendations on your Web site, hang copies in your office, and keep them in a scrapbook that you can show potential customers. Insert them in your brochures and sales materials.

Your Outlook

Remember back in school how different personalities emerged and distinguished themselves. Every school had characters such as the nerd, the rocker, the jock, the babe, and the brain. Yet the one we tend to remember most fondly is the clown.
We all noticed the clown because he made us laugh. He connected with everyone through his humor; by making everything funny. The clown could make the most ordinary situation, the gravest circumstance, and the blandest personality absolutely hysterical. During the darkest moments, his quips broke the tension and lightened the mood. Humor was his focus, his outlook, his forte. His wit was what distinguished him and how he connected.

Great networkers also have special outlook. Like the clown who instinctively looks for humor, networkers are programmed to connect people. Great networkers constantly try to meet new people, learn all about them, and link them so that they can build close, mutually-beneficial relationships.

Distinguish yourself and boost your business by developing a connecting attitude. Be pleasant, friendly, and fun. People like to be with and do business with those they like, not with grouches. Train yourself to be a connector; develop a connecting frame of mind by constantly thinking in terms of whom you can connect. Here’s how to proceed:

Make two lists:
1. List people you would like to meet.
a. Create a plan to meet your targets.
b. Identify those who could introduce you to your targets or people who could
connect you to them.
c. List what you have in common with your targets such as common:
i. Friends.
ii. Businesses.
iii. Backgrounds.
iv. Interests.
v. Values and beliefs.
2. List people that you could connect with each other. List what they have in common:
a. Friends.
b. Businesses.
c. Backgrounds.
d. Interests.
e. Values and beliefs.
3. Create a plan to connect those individuals.

Connecting is addictive. When you make a strong connection it’s so satisfying that you can’t wait to do it again. It’s also rewarding because people are grateful for your efforts on their behalf. Successful connections motivate; they make you focus more on connecting and bringing more people together.

Since connectors are always trying to make matches, they become possibility people. Possibility people explore, try, and make things happen. They push the limits and don’t immediately accept “no” for an answer.

Possibility people stand out because they’re optimistic and more likely to achieve. They also tend to be creative, resourceful, and inspirational. If you want to increase your business referrals, develop a connecting outlook.

Jill Lublin is the author of two national best selling books, Guerrilla Publicity (which is
considered the PR bible and is used in university marketing courses), and Networking Magic (which went to #1 at Barnes and Noble). She is a renowned strategist and international speaker.

As the CEO of the strategic consulting firm, Promising Promotion, Jill has created successful techniques that implement bottom line results. Jill is founder of GoodNews Media, Inc., a company specializing in positive news. She is currently the host of the nationally syndicated radio show, Do the Dream, where she interviews celebrities who have achieved their dreams. Jill has recently been featured in the New York Times, Woman's Day, and Entrepreneur Magazine, as well as on ABC, NBC, CBS radio and TV national United States affiliates. Get Noticed…Get Referrals,

Jill’s third book, was just published by McGraw-Hill. Website:

For more information about Jill Lublin Author of Get Noticed… Get Referrals: Build Your Client Base and Your Business by Making a Name for Yourself (Touring July 7 - August 1) visit We invite you to visit various blog tour stops throughout the month to learn much more about Get Noticed… Get Referrals.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Guru John Popolini - The Press Launch

Last Wednesday saw the launch of Guru John Popolini's show at London's Hippodrome Club. Leicester Square TV were there to cover the launch...and catch a certain blogger on a night out!

Friday, July 04, 2008

LinkedIn - The Common Craft Approach

Those fine folk at the Common Craft Show have turned their attention to how to use LinkedIn. This is a fairly simple overview but I know a lot of people who have growing networks on LinkedIn but don't really know, or think, how to tap into them.

Maybe this will get you started...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Word of Mouse Roadshow

As we launch Word of Mouse to new areas around the UK, we are running a series of launch events. At each event I will be giving a presentation about developing a networking strategy for your business and there will be a brief outline about the new network.

The next events are:

Potters Bar, Herts 8th July 6pm-8pm

Reading 10th July 6-8pm

Bishop's Stortford, Herts 23rd July. 12.30-2.30pm

Click on the links for the full details and to book.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

...and Death Came Third! A minute to win it.

'...and Death Came Third!' was recently chosen as book of the month by a women's business book club in Nottingham as their book of the month. I joined the book club by phone for the second part of their discussions to answer their questions prompted by reading the book.

One of the club's members, Ros Horsley, surprised me at the end of our discussions with a poem she had written after reading the book.

and death came third! –a minute to win it

There are several networks in my life,
As a daughter,
A mother
And wife.

My father needs help as his garden grows
Who can help him? Lesley Brown knows

My son dreams of replacing John Motson,
presenting sport shows,
Who can help him?
A newspaper editor knows.
At a breakfast network he had to say
Where he looks for journalists with an NCTJ

My daughter wants an agent, to model beautiful clothes
A colleague at work has a model daughter who knows

One of my husband’s gifts was to teach me to sail,
The tiller girl maintaining course without fail,
He networks the deck for extra 1%s of air yield,
Which put us in front of the rest of the field.

The book asks you to focus on needs for help in your business plan
And gives tips to increase the quality and quantity of networks who can,
By giving and receiving solutions, your network grows,
Who can you be there for?
Someone knows.

Ros Horsley June 2008