Friday, September 26, 2008

Business Networking - Top Ten Traits of Successful Networkers

While running a Word of Mouse Focus Group on the needs of business networkers in Bournemouth yesterday, I asked the group for their top ten traits of successful networkers. I then posed the same question in the evening when giving a presentation on Advanced Networking to a meeting of Dorset Junior Chamber (DJC).

Here are the two lists:


1. Good listener
2. Well rounded
3. Interested in others
4. Reliable
5. Trustworthy
6. Proactive
7. Approachable
8. Focused
9. Organised
10. Confident


1. Good listener
2. Pays attention to others
3. Makes eye contact
4. Smiles
5. Broad conversationalist
6. Well presented
7. Considerate
8. Business acumen
9. Focused
10. Confident

It was interesting to see 'good listener' come up first time on both lists, with a lot of the key traits on each list being based around how good networkers act towards other people, listening to them, being aware of their personal space, being able to talk about a range of subjects and being approachable.

For the last three questions on each list I asked which traits would be important for you, the individual responding, to make networking successful. That is where focus and confidence came to the fore. It was interesting that these traits only came up when I forced the groups to shift their focus.

Are we concentrating on the right things in our networking? Is everything focused on how we behave at the event and not what we need to do to make our attendance a success overall?

Do you think anything is missing from this list or would you come up with similar answers? And how well do you think you measure up to these qualities?

Is there room for improvement?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Do you hand out more than one business card to a new contact at a networking event?

Someone has just commented on one of my videos on a social network with the comment that they always hand out two or three business cards whenever they meet someone. This is my reply:

I never, ever hand out more than one business card. In fact, I don't even do that unless they have asked for it or there is a specific reason why I want them to have it.

Why hand out more? In the hope or expectation that they will pass the spares out to others? That may happen occasionally, but in most cases your spare business cards go in the bin and you are your printer's favourite client!

I must have collected thousands of business cards over the years, some of which I actually wanted! There is no way I could carry them all around with me, and duplicates, to hand out when I see the opportunity.

If you want people to refer or recommend you, they need to see your face in their mind, not your business card in their wallet. If they then connect you by email, you are in far more control of the connection than if they had just given your business card to the other person.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Will Kintish's Top Ten Fears and Concerns of Working the Room at business networking events

Last week I joined a networking skills webinar presented by my good friend Will Kintish. Will is an expert at helping people understand how to work a room at business networking events and has spent many years training companies how to do so.

At the beginning of the webinar, Will shared the results of research his company have conducted into people's top ten fears when working the room. I thought they were very interesting and I would share them with you here.

It would be interesting to hear from you whether you share the same concerns, how do you address them and what other concerns you have.

Will's top ten are:

1 Where do I start in this room full of strangers?

2 How do I break the ice?

3 How do I create a good first impression?

4 How can I make myself interesting and exciting?

5 How do I keep the conversation going?

6 When do I move from the small talk to business?

7 How do I move on after a conversation?

8 How do I approach groups?

9 How can I ensure it won’t be a waste of time?

10 How will I manage rejection?

Watch this space for more on Will's webinar, where I'll be sharing his 20 warm up mental exercises before you go into a networking event. I'll also be presenting a webinar on networking strategy for Will in November, more information to follow.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Scene is Set

This article originally appeared in The National Networker

There are so many opportunities to network in the UK now that many business people are more than spoilt for choice; they are becoming increasingly confused by the range of choices available to them. Once they have decided whether it is more convenient to network locally or regionally, they then have a range of events to choose from at all times of the day, with the opportunity to network over breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Part of the problem has been actually getting enough information about what is available to make an informed choice. There are a few local websites that list different events, and local newspapers sometimes have a section with that week’s networking events, but there have been few, if any, national resources bringing all of the networks together and offering businesses the chance to get the information they need to make a decision about which network is right for them.

As a result, most people tend to select the events they attend by the invitations they receive, from associates, suppliers and customers. If they like the atmosphere at that meeting they may join. Perhaps it’s appropriate that the networks that create the best word of mouth buzz are the most successful; my concern is that this process does not necessarily lead to people making fully informed decisions. If the choice isn’t the appropriate one for them, they don’t commit to the network and they don’t benefit from their participation. Nor do their fellow members. is trying to change this. By bringing local networks together across the UK, giving them the opportunity to advertise their meetings online and arranging events where business people can meet a range of networking groups, their focus is on raising the awareness of all of the choices available and allowing networkers to select the group to suit their needs.

Business-Scene was originally founded in the South West of England as Networking Swindon in early 2006 by a local events company run by Warren Cass and Simon West. Warren and Simon were aware that they wanted to generate more local business. By profiling the range of events in the local area, they felt that they would get the reputation as the ‘go-to’ people for events.

They immediately started listing all events put on by local networking groups and within three months they had a quarter of the local business population as subscribers to their newsletter. Within the first month the ailing Swindon Chamber of Commerce had approached Warren and Simon to run their events, and attendance at Chamber events had quadrupled within the first quarter.

“From 2005 businesses were suddenly becoming aware of networking and the need to include it as a key part of their marketing strategy”, said Warren. “The main reason people join Chambers of Commerce is for the networking opportunities but now businesses in Swindon were looking to see what else was available.

“There were a couple of referral-focused groups in Swindon but not much else. I started a local group for Ecademy, the online network, and a couple of other networks soon opened in the area. There was a hunger for networking and people needed, and wanted, the information about what was out there.

“The networks liked us because we weren’t trying to be a network and they could see that we would be a valuable part of their own marketing strategy.”

Warren and Simon looked at why they had achieved such quick success with the Networking Swindon concept. They found that 99.3% of businesses in the UK have fewer than 50 employees and that the vast majority of small businesses deal primarily within a thirty mile radius. They realised that their new concept had flourished because people were looking for more local opportunities.

Understanding what they had with Swindon, they decided that there was scope for a nationwide brand but with a local identity. This meant a name change. Their original name of ‘Glued In’; “because we would be the glue that would hold the networks together” was too vague, so they opted for ‘Business-Scene’.

As Business-Scene spread its wings across the UK, they brought Regional Leaders on board, people who had a desire for increased visibility and brought with them knowledge of, and contacts in, their local areas.

One of the first Regional Leaders, Simon Phillips in Dorset, took up Warren’s suggestion that he run an event to bring local businesses and local networks together. The event, in early 2007, attracted over 140 registrations and a number of local networks participated. The model was attractive, put Business-Scene on the map locally, and the decision was made to replicate it elsewhere across the country.

“In putting these events on, we publicise them through a number of routes”, said Warren. “These include the local media, the networks themselves, business support agencies and word of mouth from a range of contacts. As we are promoting all of the local networks, rather than competing with them, it means that people are more enthusiastic about spreading the word.

“As a result, the more successful events achieve a high profile, putting networking on the map for people who may not have ventured down that route before.”

A recent event in London really showed the potential for Business-Scene’s events. Over 1,200 businesses registered, far beyond the numbers achieved by similar networks. The success of such events has seen Business-Scene achieve something that, so far, individual networks have failed to do; widespread corporate recognition.

The recent addition of Microsoft as a National Sponsor has seen an already impressive portfolio grow. Microsoft have joined 02, Blackberry, The Daily Telegraph, Oracle, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB, and HSBC as household names to have worked with Business-Scene.

O2 and Blackberry in particular have worked closely together as National Sponsors of Business-Scene and the reach into a very fragmented market place is potentially very valuable to them. While it is a lot easier for these companies to sell in bulk to fellow corporates, the value of individual sales to small businesses makes it a very expensive market to target.

However, as the vast majority of the British workforce work within small and medium sized businesses, the exposure and personal contact gained through Business-Scene can be invaluable and the Partnership is a very efficient route to market for them.

The involvement of the Sponsors means that events are free for members to attend and can be organized to a higher standard. Warren explained the importance they have to Business-Scene.

“Effectively, it means that we can provide more opportunities to members than we could if they weren’t there. Aside from the special offers and competitions that engage members more in the Community, we have been able to reach far more people than we could have done otherwise and our credibility has increased.”

Aside from the events, Business-Scene also provides a range of online tools to help their Members access more information. People mainly use the site for local event listings but can also access a range of knowledge, from business information and forms, such as Non-Disclosure Agreements and Employment Contracts, to blogs and a directory of members to help them source local suppliers.

The initial success of Business-Scene in the UK has now encouraged them to look further afield.

“Internationally, the US is the next key area of development for us, but we also aim to have the site available in several languages by the middle of next year”, said Warren. “We’re already attracting membership in the States. I’ve been over there to understand the cultural and geographic differences and to open conversations with some of the business networks there.

“Looking at the American market has already helped us refine what we’re doing in the UK. In a year’s time we want to be multi-language and multi-country; not just bringing national networks together, but international.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Two Golden Rules for Business Networking

Regular readers of this blog may not be surprised at what is to follow!

I gave a brief talk last night at Business Scene's Herts Connections networking event. Some two hundred local businesses attended to meet representatives from a range of local business networks and to listen to a number of speakers, including Syed Ahmed, who originally found fame on The Apprentice.

My task was to get everyone networking, and to help them do so effectively. I frequently rage against people who treat business cards like confetti, but twice recently I have seen extreme behaviour by people whose sole reason for attending networking events seems to be to see how many business cards they can hand out. On one occasion recently, one person simply stood by the door giving every guest one of his cards as they came in!

I also wanted to help people have conversations they could enjoy, enabling them to get past stilted elevator pitches into genuine rapport-building.

So I made two rules for the rest of the evening and set people a task. I told the group that they should only exchange business cards once a genuine interaction had taken place and there were grounds for following-up on each other. And I banned the phrase 'what do you do?' as the ice-breaker for conversation.

As you may know, I call 'what do you do?' the networking equivalent of 'do you come here often?'! So, instead of 'what do you do?' I told the businesses present to ask each other 'do you come here often?' A few people seemed to like the idea!

An ice-breaker should be designed to stimulate conversation, not kill it. To do that, you need to find something in common. 'What do you do?' doesn't achieve that, there's no guarantee that the person you're speaking to is in the same line of business as you and, if they are, that they are the person you want to meet.

In a networking context, 'Do you come here often?' gets you talking about the group you're in, the people who invited you and your reasons for being there. You may not phrase it quite like that but the idea is key. Either way, it is much easier to find common ground.

As Business-Scene events offer the opportunity for local networks to showcase themselves, I suggested that people introduce themselves and discuss which local groups they attend and their merits or drawbacks.

Faced with this challenge, the room started buzzing again with more networking. This time people seemed more relaxed and conversation was flowing.

Just before the speeches were about to start again, one businessman came up to me, tapped me on the shoulder and said...

"It works!".

It does, I just wish that more people knew.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Business Networking with a spring in the step!

This was a Chamber of Commerce event as you haven't seen one before. Forget the stuffy suits, business card exchanges and networking huddles you might have in mind. Instead picture a team of Chamber staff performing a choreographed dance routine to 400 guests, include diplomats and business leaders.

Last night was less a networking evening and more a party at Studio Valbonne in London. Vodka cocktails flowed, everyone wore black or white with dinner suits and party frocks in abundance. A Rat Pack Tribute band played in the background and the evening ended to the sounds of Abba.

The occasion? Well, in case the inclusion of Abba didn't give it away, it was the 're-invention' of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the United Kingdom. After 102 years of existence, the Chamber felt the need for a rebranding exercise, and they celebrated with a bang!

I've been a member of the Chamber for a couple of years, having been invited to speak at their events twice. I have all of the time in the world for Christina Liljestrom, Elisabet Baldwin and their team. I know of few Chambers who put on such a variety of events for their members, work as hard, play as hard or are as inclusive and as welcoming.

I remember walking to the Chamber offices earlier this year, on a very rare sunny day, and hearing a lot of cheering, shouting and laughing from a nearby park. I thought I heard a couple of voices, so I looked over to see the whole Chamber team playing rounders. I later heard that this was compulsory!

Last night, during the entertainment, they announced a special act 'from us to you'. And out came the Chamber team, up to the Director, to perform their dance routine for the assembled crowd.

This is one network it's a pleasure to work with and be associated with.