Saturday, January 24, 2015

Want a Network-Building Shortcut? Start Your Own Networking Group

Want to know how I built my network and met thousands of people?

I attended over 2,600 networking events in the last 12 years. Just went out and did a boatload of events. 

Ugh. Most of us don't have time for that. I don't have time for that now. If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't do it that way.

What I would do is to start my own networking group. Oh, it's more work – especially in the short term – than just going to someone else's already established group. So how can it be a shortcut?

There's nothing wrong with going to events, meetings, receptions, mixers, luncheons and chamber of commerce meetings as an attendee. I still highly recommend it as a core activity in your networking success plan.

Build your own networking group if you want to rapidly build a strong reputation as a great connector and as a leader in your community and industry. You'll quickly become known as a powerful networker within your own and other's organizations.

Don't Let Anything Hold You Back

  • Time – In my personal experience, there is a much greater return on the same investment of time in being the leader of a group you built yourself.
  • Competition – There is plenty of room in your community for more networking. As with any marketing endeavor, having a specific target and purpose is the key to success.
  • Expertise – There are no prerequisites! To be qualified to start a group, you need to have the desire to start a group. To be a leader, you set a goal, announce yourself as the leader, give people a compelling reason to follow and then you take action. You don't become a leader,then do things. You do things, which makes you a leader. (Click to tweet this)
  • Fear – What if nobody shows up? I've had some pretty small turnouts at the beginning of some groups. You must be resolute and stick with it, give great value and keep the momentum showing up. Fine-turn or ramp up your marketing and recruit some champions (see my tips here).
  • Introversion – One of the great benefits to leading a group is that you don't have to go to people, they'll come to you as the leader. You can be there at the entrance, checking them in or at least greeting them without having to “work the room.” A lot of introverts have no problem addressing a crowd, as long as they know what they're talking about. Since you've created the thing, you have that completely taken care of!

How to Start Your Own Group

  • Pick a regular date to meet - once or twice a month is achievable for most people.
  • Finding an attractive location – restaurants and coffee shops can make it good for lunchtime.
  • Invite people you want to spend time with – think of those you can help as well as they can help you.

It's almost that simple. I've started dozens of groups. One of the best experiences I ever had was the launch of a Toastmasters Club. They usually begin with an “opportunity meeting.” This can involve an entire mock meeting to a two-person demo meeting to a simple presentation by a local member. Then at the end of the meeting, you “close the sale” by asking for signups.

It takes 25 people to charter a club. Rarely does it happen at the first meeting. Usually there's a core group and then the regular club meetings start, with a few people joining at a time as the group gains momentum.

Because I has already been building my reputation as a networker, our club chartered in the discovery meeting! It was a heady experience and being a member of that club was an incredible professional growth opportunity.

From then on, I was hooked on the idea of starting my own networking groups. I went on over the years to create many more: a weekly lunchtime casual meet and greet, a women business owners' group, a leads club, a mastermind group and - one of my recent favorites – a running/networking event once a month.

The Benefits to Starting Your Own Networking Group

  • Exposure - As the leader, you always get face time with the members. Every meeting. Every time.
  • Efficiency - You get a lot more “bang” for the investment of time and effort.
  • Professional Development - If you don't have the chance to lead at work, this is an incredible opportunity to prove to future employers that you are self-motivated. It might even show your current employer that you're ready for a promotion.
  • Personal Development - No better way to grow than by doing. You'll develop skills you never imagined.
  • People – You can choose who you need to spend time with and who can contribute to yours and the group's success.

One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself is to surround yourself with people who lift you up and make you grow. Building your own networking group means you can craft the exact environment with exactly the kind of people you need to be around to help you develop.

Networking Tips for Starting Your Group
  • Recruit - Find a core group of two or three people to help you get started. You can't be the only person giving the group the energy and enthusiasm that's needed, especially in the early growth phase pains. Make sure to do this vital recruiting first and have those people on board. Maybe they won't do anything other than promise to show up as often as absolutely possible, but just having them be as excited as you are about the networking group is incredibly valuable.
  • Purpose - Have a reason beyond networking. Groups with general, non-agenda networking doesn't help people stick together for the long term. You need a reason for the group that goes beyond "meeting and greeting." Are you going to be a leads club (it's a tough one to start with, by the way)? Will you focus on speakers to educate and share valuable information? Or, is the group going to be for a cause?
  • Market - Tell people what they'll get. Yes, you're building a group to build up long-term networking success, but don't forget that you get what you want by giving other people what they want first (thank you Zig Ziglar). You should be able to describe specific benefits people will get from being part of the networking group. Time is a valuable and people won't show up more than once - or even once - if they don't know what they'll get for their investment. Focus on what they are going to get out of the group and you'll get what you want, too.
  • Persist - Be consistent. It's tempting in the beginning to skip meetings if there aren't enough RSVP's. Or to leave early if it's a small crowd. Create an agenda, both for individual meetings and for your long-term purpose, and stick with it. No matter what. If someone finds out about your group and shows up on a day you decided to cancel, they will never, ever join.

Starting new networking groups may become addictive. It's a great feeling to come up with an idea, find like-minded people and watch things get started.

I'm working on another new group of my own right now (if you're a non-fiction business author in the Fresno area, let me know (email me: beth at and I'll tell you more. I've got a good idea of how to get this going by taking my own advice, of course.

I'll let you know how it goes.

If you've got an idea for a networking group and you'd like some feedback or even just some encouragement, email me and I'll be happy to help.


BethBridges is The Networking Motivator and the author of the Amazon top-selling book (in two categories) “Networking on Purpose: A Five-Part Success Plan to Build a Powerful & Profitable Business Network” which is available in paperback and Kindle.

She is a business speaker and an ideal presenter for chambers of commerce, associations, and conferences on the topic of networking (of course!) and influence and has a motivating keynote on overcoming fear.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Networking Tips: Don't Tell Them How You Really Feel

There are two questions you're almost always guaranteed to get at a business networking event. "What do you do?" 
and "How are you?"

If you've had a bad day, you're sick, or just not feeling it, it's tempting to tell them how you really are. And while transparency and authenticity are good things, it's better to be your highest and best version of your authentic self when you're networking.

Resist the temptation to lay it all on the line. Because they don't want to hear it.

Now, if it's a close friend, and they know you've had problems, then they probably do want to know how you are and how you're dealing with your difficulties. Everyone else is just being polite. Whatever you do, don't answer this question with a list of your problems.

We've all been on the receiving end. You see someone you have a passing acquaintance with. "How are you?" you ask. They proceed to give you a long list of their problems and difficulties. By the time they are done, the load of negativity you picked up from them has put a damper on your day and you just want to go home and hide under a blanket.

Don't do this to other people. Regardless of how bad you might think things are, leave your problems outside the business networking event. It's not lying, it's using good social skills. If you need positive feedback, let your friends know you need support, but otherwise, there are plenty of good reasons to avoid discussing your problems with someone you just met:

  • Unless that person is the cause of your problem, there's nothing they can do about it.
  • If this is the first time you've met them, you're now labeled as a complainer in their mind.
  • If you have to mention a body part that we can't see, that's way too personal!
  • You're injecting negativity into a business networking event.
  • You're wasting time whining about your life when you could be building a connection that could solve your problem.
  • Everybody has problems. And someone in that room has a worse one than you do.

Put your positive self out there and you'll get positivity back from people. Having a bad day? A networking event can be an opportunity to get lifted up and to be encouraged. Keep your problems to yourself and you'll probably see them fade away!

Beth Bridges, The Networking Motivator TM

Sunday, January 04, 2015

How I Transformed Two Decades of Fear into Accomplishment

I'm a swimmer.

I can freestyle, sidestroke, breaststroke, dead man's float, tread water and even get places with a strong dog paddle. Which is funny, because a year ago I would have told you I was afraid of the water. Couldn't swim. Didn't like to swim. Didn't even want to swim. Had a water phobia which was a lot of fun when I combined it with claustrophobia.

Beth Bridges, The Networking MotivatorI had a regular childhood, swimming in the family pool every summer until my fingers and toes were completely pruned. What happened? Did I almost drown? Have a traumatic water experience? Nothing. I can't even put my finger on it when it happened but something changed and the story I began telling myself was one of fear and incompetence.
How did I change this up so completely?
One day, I just decided that I was done with being afraid to swim. I remember the moment very clearly. That feeling of personal power. Of making a final decision. How could I just decide one day that I wasn't going to be afraid any more? 
I think there are several things that made this possible:
1) I Wanted Something ... Badly
Beth Bridges, The Networking Motivator and Triathlete

I've been running for about six years. A couple years ago, my husband and I started biking. Then my (competitive) running buddy took up cycling as well and the talk about triathlons began. Oh... to be a triathlete. It seemed so cool. And it seemed like it would be easier than marathoning (yes, sounds crazy but wait until you do one). Less time consuming and overall easier on an older body with the built-in cross training.
I had the two longest, most grueling segments down. Many triathletes dread the running, but it would be something to look forward to at the end. We looked for duathlons with a ride and run. There were a few, but not many. We talked about the possibility of doing triathlons. But too bad I was afraid of water. What a shame I wouldn't swim. Too bad... what a shame... can't ... won't ...
It just kept echoing in my head. And the desire, the determination to compete, warred with the fear of water. Until one day the desire won. "I'm not afraid of the water anymore!" I announced to myself. Then I suggested to my running buddy we do a triathlon. He readily agreed (I should have been suspicious - turns out he had trained for the Junior Olympics in his youth) and off we went to sign up. After the fees were paid, I said, "Well, I guess it's time I learned to swim."
The decision had been made. The commitment was made. And I had never felt better, stronger or more fearless than I did at that moment. I'll never forget the sensation.
2) It Wasn't a Real Phobia
I don't want anyone to think that I believe people with phobias can "just decide to not be afraid." I know it's not that easy or simple for someone who has a deep-seated phobia. But I now believe that I didn't have a real phobia. I think I had the habit of being afraid. There was some reward - physical, psychological perhaps - to avoiding the water. It started as a reaction many years ago to a (temporary) stressful situation. The fear should have faded along with the stress. Instead, I had invested time and effort into thinking about and feeding into it. 
It had become a habit. I automatically reacted to water situations with stress, avoidance and even panic. For the most part, it wasn't really a problem. I live in reclaimed near desert. I wasn't interested in cruises (at the time due to the phobia, still not interested because they seem so boring to me). So there wasn't much loss or consequence. Except for the time I almost got stranded in China because I couldn't get on a boat. And not being able to do something I very badly wanted to do. The only answer was to completely break the habit.
I also realized I had some recent experience in conquering some other fears. I had been afraid to ride my bike in traffic. A new bike, a group of friends and some safety lessons led to confidence on the roadway. Funny how it didn't occur to me at the time that familiarity and knowledge could overcome a fear. It was only afterwards that I realized I had practiced not being afraid in another arena.
3) I Trusted Myself, Other People and the Process
So perhaps that experience of getting on the road subconsciously helped. I had a concern, I took action and experienced a benefit. I didn't blindly jump onto the bike and into traffic. I also didn't just jump into the water and expect to swim like Michael Phelps. Actually, I expected to look like a complete newbie dork in the water.
I trusted my own ability to learn and execute a plan. I started with YouTube videos for absolute beginning swimmers. I spent the first couple sessions sticking my face in the water and blowing bubbles like a five year old. I did floating drills and one armed swimming drills. I walked around the pool practicing my arm motions. I didn't care what anyone thought. I was like a beginning swimmer and approached it that way. No false pride that I "knew" how to do this. It was a process of learning and I trusted my ability to work through it.

I also studied the art and science of triathlon swimming because knowledge builds trust. I
learned about the "scrum" that takes place in the open water. I know what to do and how to relax if I get a cramp. I knew that the organizers and even my fellow competitors will be willing to help if I'm in distress. I knew that my husband - who swims like a seal - would not let me drown. I prepared and trusted my preparation. I didn't anticipate being in distress but I had a plan if I did have problems. I trusted in myself and others for my safety.

Did I Do It?

Oh, yes I did. I competed in my first triathlon on September 5, 2014 at Shaver Lake. I swam and even though I was one of the last out of the lake, I was probably one of the happiest! Even though there was a lot more work to do, I knew - as I burst out of that lake - that I had already triumphed.


Beth Bridges, Speaker

I want to share my experience with others, to help them overcome their own habits of fear. I've created a keynote presentation called "Everyone in the Networking Pool: Fearless Networking (and Life) Strategies from The Networking Motivator - A Former Waterphobe Turned Triathlete."  Find out more about this presentation and how to book me as a speaker.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Get Yourself a Crew to Help You Succeed in Life

I Realized I Had One …

Last Saturday, as I was barreling down the road, third in line of six cyclists, I realized I was part of a crew. A rat pack. A band of friends. A gang in the old-fashioned, positive sense of a bunch of people who hang out to do stuff.
It happened by accident. A couple of us wanted to ride, then a few more. At a certain point, it gained momentum.
There’s power in a group of friends who get together to accomplish a purpose. Positive peer pressure keeps you going when you’re not feeling motivated. Everyone’s learning curve accelerates. Your personal branding benefits when you spend time with people who are perceived as ambitious do’ers who have something good going on.

You Want Your Own Crew

Want to bring that kind of influence into your life? It could be for fitness – a running, riding or walking crew. It could be for business – a brainstorming, marketing or networking crew. It could be spiritual – a bible study group. It could be for anything you need to accomplish or just for the camaraderie of friendship.

How to Create One

So if you don’t have a crew of your own, it’s time to get one. Here’s how to deliberately and intentionally create your own CREW:
C – consistency.
Pick a day of the week or month, set a time and find a place. Make that your time. All else has to fit in relation to that. Not the other way around. For me, Saturday is riding day. Sunday is running day. Want to schedule something with me on one of those mornings? Better lace up the ol’ sneakers.
R – results.
No one else is going to want to join your unofficial club if it’s not doing any good. I started my running crew with one friend who wanted to get in better shape. After we both started showing results, other people wanted to be part of it too.
E – enthusiasm.
Whatever your purpose – fitness, business, worship – it’s still important to have fun. If you’re not enjoying it, why would anyone else want to chime in? No one has a crew and considers hanging out with them to be work or drudgery. No one in my cycling group ever complains (okay, sometimes when the headwind is really bad) and there’s sometimes a bit of moaning and groaning when we say “just one more lap” on Sunday, but everyone is doing this for the enjoyment.
W – word of mouth.
When you’ve got something good and you want to grow it, talk about it. Tell stories. Share your successes. If you spend time handing out with people in your crew, you can’t help but relive the fun you had the last time you got together. Other people will want to be part of that. Go ahead, invite them.
Do you have a crew? How did you come together?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Please Visit Me on Facebook!

Hi Friends,
Yes, Facebook has (for now) taken over this blog! Please join me on The Networking Motivator's Facebook page for more stories and tips about networking.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where to Start Networking or What to Do Next

Wondering where to start networking? Or wondering what to do next? Choose your level of networking experience (increasing experience as you go up) and your personal preference for details (more detail oriented to the right) and find your best option on what to do!

With all respects to Jessica Hagy of Indexed.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Be a Memorable Networker

You've worked hard to remember other people you meet when networking, but are they remembering you? It's great to keep other people in mind, but if they can't remember you, your name, or what you do, it's going to be difficult for them to help you out or send you referrals.

There are some guaranteed ways to be remembered: Be obnoxious. Try to sell them something when you first meet. Interrupt them. Don't listen. Be very strange.

Obviously, this isn't the way you want to be remembered. But you also don't want to be so blandly nice that they can't remember you except for a vague "umm, he's nice." Here are several ways to make sure that they remember you in a good way.

  • Be Interested in Them: There is nothing nicer than feeling like someone finds you fascinating. You'll remember their interest and studies show that they'll think you're smarter, funnier and all around more interesting yourself! We know this because people generally don’t remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. If they feel like you listened and were interested in them, like you thought they had something valuable to contribute and that you liked them personally, they will feel great and they’ll attach that feeling to you.

  • Help Them Remember: Unless you have a very unusual name or occupation, assume that they need some help remembering you. Since one of the most common networking problems people say they have is remembering names, try to make it as easy as possible for them by giving them a memorable association to your name.

    And, give them a signature story or characteristic that they can attach to you. In the future, don't make them uncomfortable by assuming they remembered you. For more on how to handle that problem, check out this issue of The Networking Motivator (tm) Newsletter.

  • Remind Them: In advertising the general rule of thumb is that it takes seven exposures to a message for someone to remember it. Why should we expect to be clearly remembered ourselves with just one meeting? There’s a saying that “the fortune is in the follow-up” but so is the formation of memory. Increase your number of exposures by sending them a thank you note that includes a brief summary of what you discussed (include a reference to your memorable “hook” or one of your stories).

    You can continue to follow up with relevant information that they would appreciate (and that would show you are a good listener). For example, they may have mentioned that they were considering advertising in a particular publication. If you know someone else who also advertised in it, consider connecting the two together. Your new contact will get the benefit of someone elses experience and your existing contact will get the benefit of making a new connection.
I have some other methods that I personally use to make myself memorable, but these three points are a great way to start. It takes practice to make it easy for other people, but once you think of it from their perspective you'll find it to be a habit you want to keep.

Do you have a way of making sure that people remember you?

Photo courtesy of teclasorg from Flickr

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Central California Women's Conference 2010

My tote bag was full, my water bottle empty and my feet were sore. Marie Osmund was so funny, the lunch was very good and I saw so many great people. It was the end of a wonderful day at the Central California Women's Conference in Fresno. Did you go? And did you get out of it what you wanted? Here's how it went for me and how I'm going to fine-tune what I do in future years:
  • What a dilemma: Wear fabulous shoes because everyone is so beautifully dressed up or go for comfort. Right now my feet say "comfort" but that will probably wear off by next year. You don't want to miss potential connections because you had to sit down: wear comfortable shoes.

  • Stay longer. I had to leave to speak with one of my favorite groups (Central Valley Professionals), so next year I'll check the calendar for September. But I had to rush through part of the display. With an event this big, plan to stay all day.

  • Even if it's not something you think is relevant to you, be curious about every booth. I paused at the Community Hospital booth where they had the Da Vinci Surgical System on display. It was a nice surprise that several of the doctors who use the system were in the booth. I had a long conversation with Dr. William Carveth not only about the machine but about Clovis and the development of our hospital. You can get unexpected information you wouldn't have had the chance to learn otherwise.

  • It was a very big event with hundreds of booths and 3, 400 attendees. There were times when the aisle was so crowded that you had to be very patient. There were amazing sessions, but it was more important to me to see people I knew, make connections with new people working for existing Chamber members and to see what companies were still doing some marketing. When an event has that much going on, you should narrow your focus.

  • Thom Singer, The Conference Networking Catalyst, has a great deal of information and ideas on getting the most out of conferences on his blog at
I had a great time and saw people I hadn't seen, got updated on changes at some companies and was very encouraged by the excitement and enthusiasm of the companies here in our valley. Congratulations to the organizers... once again, a fantastic event for the women of the Central Valley. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lessons from a Community Resource Summit

Last week I attended the Community Resource Summit as a presenter and an exhibitor for the Clovis Chamber of Commerce. I had heard about it before, but until I got a call from one of the organizers, I have to admit that I hadn't thought about attending.

There were many networking lessons learned from this:

  1. Your network will find and suggest opportunities for you that you would not have discovered on your own. I was asked to participate for the Chamber because of the involvement of one of our board members, but then I tapped into my network to find out more about the event before I made the commitment. They all said it would be a good opportunity. Let other people's experience guide your choices.

  2. There are industries, professions and groups of people you haven't begun to tap into. I had no idea how many non-profits we have here in the valley and how much work so many of them do. I would not have been able to learn about these organizations and their activities so easily in one place without the event.

  3. You might think you know "everyone" but you don't. I spend the majority of my time networking with people who are in very similar circles. So I usually know quite a few people wherever I go. It would be easy to think that this "microcosm" is the entire business world. Events that are outside your usual are a great way to be reminded that there is always room to expand your network.

  4. Social networking and social media are still very new to many people. I presented to a group of about 50 people who mainly represent non-profits. Some have taken small steps into Facebook for themselves personally but are still looking for ways to expand their usage to help their organizations. I think that social media sites are a powerful tool for these organizations to leverage their resources.
If you work with a non-profit organization, I recommend that you put this on your calendar for next year. It usually takes place in early September, so put it in your tickler file for August.

And, if you'd like a copy of the slide show that I presented at the event, you can get it at

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I Get So Much More Back Now ...

I'm not complaining in the slightest, haha! I just sometimes wonder why it feels like I get so much back from other people in the form of referrals, suggestions, resources, ideas, compliments, feedback and all the good stuff that comes to those who network. I work hard to give just as much if not more out to my network, but some days it feels like I get so much more back than I put in.

I call it the multiplier effect of networking. The helpful and positive things that I do for other people gets paid forward, expanded on, turned around, and value gets added. The group as a whole is lifted up. People find it easier to do good things for each other. And then it comes back around to me, my work is enhanced and it gets passed along again.

Like pushing someone on a swing. Each push adds a little more momentum so the rider goes higher and higher until there's hardly any effort involved at all. You only need to give it little pushes to keep going. But you can't stop. Eventually the momentum runs out and everything stops.

It's the same with networking. It's hard at first and you seem to get so little back from your effort. But then it starts to add up. A little bit of energy goes a longer way. Until all you need to do is give it regular small pushes and momentum keeps carrying you forward. Your effort doesn't add up, it multiplies.

Here are the things I do that I think multiplies my networking efforts.
  • Long-term Consistent Networking: I've been in the same job in the same community doing the same events for nearly seven years. That kind of consistency adds up. It's a very different dynamic when you and someone else "go back for years." Do you think you'll know more about how you can help someone you've known for 10 years than someone you just met? A long history of being helpful, of being a resource goes a long way toward building a great relationship.
  • Regular Habit of Small Things: I look for things that I can do quickly when the opportunity strikes, rather than hold back all my effort for the big kill. This way I can help more people and I have the chance to do something maybe every day, maybe twice a day. The more often you do something, the easier it gets and the more of a habit you establish.
  • Helping Many at Once: A big part of my job is creating activities where a lot of people come together in one place at one time such as Speed Networking and mixers. It's an incredible way to help many more people, all at once, with the same amount of effort. Oh, I still connect people one-on-one, but for sheer momentum and compounding your effort, few things beat being the organizer of an event where 100+ people got to build relationships.
What ways are you multiplying your networking efforts?

Photo from Flickr by Marcin Wichary

Friday, May 28, 2010

Can I Give You a Compliment?

More importantly, can you take a compliment? For some people, I think they almost know how to deal with an insult better than a little appreciation. The conversation goes like this:

Me: “That is a really sharp outfit.”

Them: “Oh, this old thing?”

Me: “No, really, it’s a great color and very flattering.”

Them: “What!? It makes my butt look fat.”

Obviously, this is a conversation with a woman, haha. But I’ve had similar experiences with men.

Me: “Hey, that is a great tie.”

Them (looking at the tie with a perplexed expression): “What? Oh …”

When someone gives you a compliment, they are showing appreciation or gratitude. They are expressing their liking for you by noticing your clothes, jewelry, office furnishings, car or other material items. In commending your hard work, they are telling you that they are aware and responsive to what you are doing.

When you turn around and dismiss the compliment with “Oh, this is ugly” or “Really? I hate this desk” or “It wasn’t a big deal, anyone could do it” you are telling them that they are stupid, have bad taste, and don’t know what they’re talking about.

Now that’s definitely not what you mean. Mom taught us to not brag. Or we don’t know where to take the conversation from there. For many of us, it’s just a bad habit.

You need to break this habit and learn to be gracious in receiving compliments. They are giving you a gift. You need to accept that gift. Otherwise you are rejecting their opinion, their generosity, and ultimately … them.

What should you do when someone gives you a compliment?

Say “Thank you” in a very pleased tone of voice and then move the conversation to the next topic.
“Oh, why thank you. Hey, have you met Bob?”

Say “Thank you” and then compliment something of theirs or something that they’ve done. But be very careful because it could seem insincere.
“Thank you. I was admiring your jacket. What a great color.”
“Thank you. I appreciate you being here. You’ve helped make this mixer a success.”

Say “Thank you” and then tell them something interesting about the item.
“Thank you. This was my grandmother’s ring and it’s very special to me.” (This is my favorite because it makes the conversation a little more meaningful and they feel even better since they noticed something that was special to you.)

Are you now ready to take a compliment?

You’re a great blog reader. You’ve helped me talk about some very important networking topics.

Now … be gracious and say “thank you!”

Photo from Flickr by Daquella Manera

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Power of In Jokes for Networkers

A networking event without a little fun is like ice cream without chocolate syrup. Oh the ice cream is good stuff, but the chocolate syrup takes it to the next level.

I amp up the fun factor in my networking with laughter. And one of my favorite ways to have a laugh, especially with the people I've known for a while, is to have "in jokes."

Forgive me for quoting Wikipedia, but they explain it so very well:
"An in-joke (also known as an in joke or inside joke) is a joke whose humor is clear only to those people who are "inside" a social group, occupation or other community of common understanding. It is humorous only to those who know the situation behind it. Inside jokes may exist within a small social clique, such as a group of friends. They also may extend to an entire profession (e.g., inside jokes in the film industry)."
By it's very description, do you see where this might not only be fun in networking, but a helpful way to strengthen relationships? Networking is about saying "We mesh. We work well together. We can help each other. We've hung out together enough that we have these little jokes."

And to me, when I've got an in joke with someone, I feel like they're special enough to me (and hopefully vice verse) that I'm going to remember the joke and use it to remind them of our special bond.

Here's an example of some of the in jokes that I have going with people:
  • My co-worker whom I greet with "yo G" and she say's "What up B?"
  • My friend whom I refer to as my "gangsta coach"
  • My fellow Toastmaster whom I will introduce as a "former Ninja"
  • A Chamber member whom I now refer to as the "Ninja killer" (no relation to my Toastmaster friend).
Why have in jokes with people?
  • It reminds them of unique experiences you may have had together.
  • It's a bonding experience that emphasizes what you have in common.
  • It illustrates your sense of humor.
  • You remind them that they are part of your "in" group and that they are accepted by the social circle.
  • Professional in jokes show that you are current within your industry.
  • It illustrates and enhances your friendliness and your authenticity (vital components of Tim Sanders' Likeability Factor)
  • Clean and kind humor is always appreciated by everyone who shares in it. When you make people laugh, they like you more.
A few tips on using in jokes:
  • Never, ever create or perpetuate an in joke that is derogatory.
  • If they don't laugh, or repeat their line, it isn't funny any more. Drop it.
  • Ask. I checked with my friend on calling him the "Ninja Killer" and he thinks it's funny.
  • Be willing to let others in on the joke. The downside of creating an "exclusive" joke with one person is that they others are then left out. So expand your in jokes or create new ones with the people who know of your other special stories.
Do you have an in joke you're willing to share? Post your comment below and let us in on the joke!

P.S. I'm having a problem posting my own comments =-) and I want to respond to Susan and Susan:

Susan Brooks: Thank you. You make a very good point about using in jokes in public. By including one person, you don't want to make others feel excluded. Either leave the in jokes to non-public settings, or use them and then let everyone else "in on it" by telling the story.

Susan Whitcomb: Well, you should always be marketing ;-)

Photo from Flickr by The Hills are Alive

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You Look So Familiar... Is That Why I Like You?

If you're looking for an iron-clad excuse for avoiding networking, you can blame the millions of years of evolution that taught humanity to flee the unknown. The dangerous world taught us to fear the strange and the unfamiliar. We have a hard time liking things that we fear.

A strong networking strategy requires us to meet, get to know, and build a trusting relationship with people who've never seen our face before. But we're working against a deep and subtle distrust of the unfamiliar every time we meet new people. How can you overcome that? By becoming familiar. The "exposure effect" is what happens when people see or are in proximity to something: the tend to like it more, merely by getting used to it.

So the more you network and the more people are exposed to you - whether or not you even talk to them - the more they are going to like you. Other studies have shown that the more times someone sees a face, the more likely they are to rate it as good looking. It is absolutely not true that familiarity breeds contempt. It builds comfort and likability.

If you want to be an effective networker, you need to use this principal to become familiar to people through regular exposure and proximity.

Real estate agents are great at this. Look at their businesses cards. They spend the extra money to have a full-color picture of themselves printed on their cards. Their pictures are on their signs and any other marketing materials they have. By the time you meet them, you've seen their picture often enough that their face has become familiar to you.

This works for people on TV. Don't you feel like you know your favorite newscaster? You see them every night. If you ran into them at the grocery store, you'd talk to them as if you knew them (I know ... I've done this. Hopefully they get used to this effect and don't freak out!).

I did something interesting - by accident - to help people know me at an event this weekend. You can read about it in this week's issue of the Networking Motivator Newsletter.

What can you do to help people become familiar with you before you meet them?

P.S. Yes, that is my picture ;-)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Customize Your Personality ... The Lazy Way

I don't know about you, but I'll admit to my own laziness. I've learned keyboard shortcuts so I don't have to move my hand to the mouse. I keep my running shoes on my treadmill so I don't have to walk down the hall to get them. And now, I've learned that I can customize my own personality and habits just by doing something that I've always done.

James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis, professors of political science and sociology respectively, have conducted four studies in as many years that suggest that our weight, generosity, happiness and whether we smoke or not is strongly influenced by our social networks (i.e. the people we're connected to and surrounded by in real life).

We've probably all heard that our income is within 10% of that of our five closest friends, or that you are most like the five people you spend the most time with. I've suspected that those have been repeated so often that we believe they are true. But now, looking at the summaries of the studies by Fowler and Christakis, I'm wondering if they are true just by projection from the other things that have been shown to be true.

They've got studies showing that generosity is contagious within a social network and that what you weight and if you smoke or not is affected by the people you spend time with. Can you see how that might work? For example, if you're the only one in the group who doesn't smoke, eventually peer pressure (and standing outside by yourself) could eventually wear you down. If your friends all eat half a pizza for dinner, it's almost impossible to nibble at your salad while they've got pepperoni grease dripping off their chin.

So how can we all use this information to our laziest advantage? I'm assuming that as a reader of this blog, you network on a regular basis or in a systematic way in order to grow your business or develop your career. At the same time, you are influencing your own thought patterns when it comes to your weight, smoking, generosity and who knows what else.

Maybe you're increasing your tendency to get up and take action to achieve your goals. Why not? You're spending time with other people who chose to be at a networking event instead of vegging out on the sofa in front of American Idol. Okay, they might be DVR'ing it. They are still practicing delayed gratification.

Maybe you're working on a more positive mindset. People who network might be a more optimistic group of people because they believe that something good will happen from their efforts.

So ... by networking, you are using a lazy, no-extra-effort-required technique to improve your health, wealth and wisdom. Assuming you're spending time with people who have the positive characteristics that you're looking for.

And as any parent who has said #$%^ in front of their child knows, everything you do influences someone else. Would you have that extra donut if you knew you were eating - not for two - but for your entire social group? Now you've got an extra responsibility for the people who spend their time with you!

Personally, I feel like I've already got an amazing group of people that I spend time with via my networking activities. They are positive, upbeat, serious about their businesses, spend time learning, develop their skills and they are supportive of each other.

How is your social network customizing your personality?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is "Know, Like & Trust" Enough? For Some, It's not Everything, It's the Only Thing

Bob Burg, author of "Go Givers Sell More", says that all other things being equal (and sometimes not), people do business with those they know, like and trust. But in a series of blog posts this week, Bob has asked the question "Is it enough?" What!? Is he losing his faith in the value of networking? Am I? Of course not. By asking this question, Bob is taking us deeper into the idea of loyalty and the value of what we have to offer.

His first post asked "is know, like and trust everything?" Generally speaking, with all things being equal or close to equal, it is enough but not always everything. I've even done business with the more expensive person because I knew, liked and/or trusted them that much. There are times when it's not enough. Someone is much higher priced; although I think perhaps that's a trust issue. You don't believe that they are providing the added value. Someone might be very inconveniently located. Although I knew a woman who will drove over an hour each way to get her hair cut. And someone just might not have the exact product you wanted. Although if you liked them enough, they might be able to talk you into something else. Sometimes you just don't have the price/product/delivery options or mix that the customer wants, even though they know, like and trust you.

So my concluding comment to this question was that it is "enough" enough of the time that you would be foolish to ignore it.

But now that I think about it, I know there are business people for whom it is everything. And if you don't put it at the absolute forefront of all that you do, you will completely fail in your business.

Which business people? Imagine two people. They have the same exact product. Same prices. Same marketing materials. Same business plan. Same distribution. Everything the same. Except for the person selling the product and running the business.

How could that be? What possible business is there where there could be not only two people with the same exact price and product, but hundreds of people with the same exact price and product?

Mary Kay, Arbonne, Avon, Tupperware, ACN, Fortune Hi Tech Marketing, Pre-Paid Legal, Juice Plus, Send Out Cards, Melaleuca ... all the hundreds of direct or "network marketing" companies.

Every person with every one of these companies has the same distribution, price, and product. The only reason you would do business with one person in the same company and not another is either: 1) you met them first or 2) you know, like and trust that person more than the other.

And you'll only stay with the first person you met as long as you develop the relationship. If your Mary Kay lady sells you once, then disappears and you need lipstick, any one of the representatives you know can get you the product. Why would you hunt down your original Mary Kay lady unless you knew, liked and trusted her more than you valued your convenience? If she hasn't created that relationship, no sweat. You can get the same exact price and product from someone you hope you'll be able to trust to stick around in the future.

So what makes the difference in whether or not you (as a direct/network marketer) will get the business?
Do they know, like and trust you?
YOU! Your personality, the way you make other people feel, your consistency and reliability, the number of people who know you, having people like you enough to refer you. These are the ONLY ways you are going to be able to distinguish your business from someone else in your company.

You'd better hope to hell that you've got this figured out. Or that you are well on your way to figuring it out. In a choice between learning more about your product or spending time developing your likeability (read Tim Sanders), getting better known, and becoming trustworthy forget about the product knowledge. People will forgive the details (come on, you've got catalogs, websites, and uplines) if you're nice. You're better off being super nice and friendly even if you don't know the details on the third iteration of the upline value proposition for the compensation plan. Tiziana Casciaro and Miguel Sousa Lobo proved it in their 2005 study titled "Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks." People would rather work with someone who didn't really do a good job, but who were really nice. And it didn't matter how good you were at the work if you were a jerk.

Since there's "only" 15 million people in the U.S. who are involved in network marketing, "know, like and trust" can't be that important, can it?

Oh wait. My brain just told me there might be a few other business people who have a similar situation: insurance agents, stockbrokers, real estate agents, mortgage lenders, grocery stores, franchises...

Do you now have a more urgent sense of the importance of getting known, becoming likable and developing trust?

Better pick up a couple of Bob Burg's books.

Better subscribe to my free weekly newsletter "The Networking Motivator."

Better do something ...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Two Major Ideas from The Time of Your Life

Last week Arsen Marsoobian made his platform speaking debut at an event called "The Time of Your Life is Now." There was incredible array of speakers including Les Brown, Lynn Rose and Jeff Eben. It was a great time and I had two "slap-yourself-in-the-forehead-networking-moments"... and of course I'll share them with you.

Les Brown has been named one of the top 5 speakers in the world by Toastmasters International. He has received the National Speakers Association rare and prestigious "Golden Gavel" award and he is a best-selling author. Les' rate is $30,000 for a keynote speech. Not the slightest bit of offense to Arsen, but I couldn't figure out how in the world he was going to be able to make enough on the event to cover Les' fee, much less all the other amazing speakers who were on the stage, plus the cost of renting the Saroyan Theater for a full day.

Maybe Arsen already had a thousand tickets sold. Maybe he was independently wealthy. Maybe he had massive sponsorship. I didn't know, but I wasn't going to question the chance to see Les Brown and all the other speakers up close and in person.

So how did he do it? How did Arsen afford the 30k to bring Les Brown to Fresno?

He didn't. Mamie Brown's baby boy did it for free. Zero. Nothing. You know why?

Networking. Les likes Arsen. That's all. They met at a speaker training event where Arsen was the learner and Les one of the presenters. Arsen had a huge dream to bring an event to Fresno full of amazing speakers (including himself). Les, Lynn Rose and the other speakers were so charmed by Arsen that they agreed to do it.

Never, ever doubt the power of networking. In this case, one relationship was worth $30,000, the launch of a speaking career and an opportunity for the people in Fresno to see presentations they never otherwise would have.

Next time you think you've got to meet 50 people to make your networking event worthwhile, remember Arsen. It took just one new friend to make it all worthwhile.

The other take-away for me was also networking related (surprise!). Speaker after speaker talked about the value of relationships. They quoted a study that said your income is within 10% of the income of the five people you spend the most time with. Other studies have suggested that obesity is contagious; if your friends are overweight, it's likely you will be too. You are defined by the company you keep.

If your friends are fat and poor, it's still okay to love them. But maybe it's time to add some new friends to the mix. Don't feel bad; if you get richer and thinner, you'll increase the average for everyone and help pull your friends up too.

But how do you find the kind of people who are going to encourage and push you to greater accomplishments?

Networking! Of course. You can tailor your efforts to find people you're interested in spending time with. You might even find that some of them want to spend time with you ;-)

Photos (top to bottom): Beth and Les Brown, Beth and Jeff Eben, Beth and Michelle Prince.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Derailed! What I'm Doing to Get Back on Track

It's official. I spent almost all of February being sick. I know a lot of other people who've been in the same boat. For me, the worst part about it is that it completely halted my exercise program and put several writing projects on the shelf. It has the potential to be very discouraging. Lost! An entire month with nothing to show for it except for sore ribs from all the coughing.

What to do? As I see it, there are only two choices. Give up and sit on my sofa eating Pringles until I weigh 500 pounds or...

Get back on track!

Get back to working out every day, even if it's just 6 minutes of strength-building exercises. Get back to writing every day whether it's the blog, articles or just a little bit of editing. Get back to eating healthful foods instead of eating for comfort (mmm, Pringles).

First thing I do is not get discouraged. It's a horrible emotion. Dissect the word: "dis" is a Latin prefix that means "apart" or "away" or having a negative or reversing effect; "courage" is a quality of mind or spirit that lets you face fear, difficulties, or unexpected changes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution.

Being discouraged means you've lost self-confidence and now you can't face the inevitable ups and downs of life. Gosh, the next step is hopelessness and I absolutely don't want to go there.

One part of getting back on track is realizing that it's a normal part of life. This wasn't the first time it happened and it won't be the last. Nothing goes straight up forever. Ask stock brokers.

Even world-class atheletes like Lance Armstrong don't expect to get infinitely better every single day. They take breaks so that they can come back even stronger. So I tell myself, "Hey, I'll come back refreshed with a new enthusiasm for exercise and writing because I haven't been able to do it in so long."

I also don't expect to get back to where I was, expecially with working out, in just a few days. In fact, trying to run two miles today would probably kill me. I'd cough up a lung in the first few running steps. So I've got to start slow. Just enough to rebuild the habit. It takes 21 days to create a new habit or break an old one. I've got to break the old "habit" of not exercising and then reestablish the new one. Figure 42 days or six weeks to really get back to where I was before I got off track.

Therefore, patience is the final key. In another week, I might be up to 15 minutes of brisk walking, not where I want to be, but a lot closer than I was.

I'm also looking on the bright side. The enforced rest has helped my very sore shoulder get much better. The break from writing has given me a better perspective and perhaps will release a new flood of creativity. And, for a couple weeks, I ate whatever I wanted!

Now, back to reality of a little bit of exercise, a lot less chips and chocolate, and a lot more keyboarding.

I'm looking forward to it.

Photo from Flickr courtesy of AussieGall

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

More Persuasive Coffee with Kevin Hogan

Today he's actually drinking green tea. Every week Kevin Hogan, body language and persuasion expert, sends out an email newsletter. For three weeks in a row, there's been something in it that is fantastic for everyone who wants to network for better results. How about we just make it a regular thing? He sends out the email and I blog about it, okay?

I can sum up this week's persuasive point in one small word: shh! Kevin says the reason we lose sales, lose people's attention and don't get the cooperation we're looking for is that we talk too much. Have you ever talked yourself out of a sale? I know I have.

And yet, he cites a study that looked at how willing people were to help a stranger. When they sat in a room together for just a few minutes, the helping rate was about 50%. When there was a conversation, the helping rate was ... about 50%. Just the familiarity of sitting together made people willing to help someone else! Not a word was said and they were still willing.

The practical application of this in networking depends on something called "oscillation." People generally decide subconsciously what they are going to do in the less than the first minute. But then they go back and forth between yes and no. The more you talk, the more likely you are to "help" them decide against what you're asking them to do. In networking, you're "asking" them to trust and like you. If you dominate the conversation, pound them with a sales pitch, and don't let them talk about their own interests, you've lost that trust and liking. You'll have to work harder to gain it back.

I think I've said enough! What's your take on this idea?

Related posts:
Does Admitting a Weakness Strengthen the Relationship
Why You Should be Sharing Your Favorite Things, Hobbies & Interests with Other People

Photo from Flickr courtesy of Desirée Delgado

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Does Admitting a Weakness Strengthen the Relationship?

Once again, Kevin Hogan, author and body language expert, has hit a home run for the networking team. After showing us a few weeks ago how important it is to seek out something in common with people, Kevin now points out that there's research showing it is incredibly important to share our weaknesses with people. It takes down the other person's defenses and shows you to be honest. A better and faster rapport is developed. People who use this approach in business sell 2 to 3 times more than those who try to appear perfect.

Let me state for the record that I am a complete kitchen klutz. Not only can I not cook, but I have burned myself, scorched pans and generally made a mess out of the food. I am absolutely banned from using sharp knives and if I do pick one up, my husband usually says "Put it down, you're making me nervous." There's a family history; Grandma got 7 stitches once by dropping a knife in the garbage disposal. (photo courtesy of Ongushi on Flickr)

The research that Kevin Hogan referred to is called the Omega Strategy, Persuasion by Removing Resistance and was developed by Dr. Eric Knowles. You can learn a little bit more about it on his website, but the main point is that there are different kinds of resistance. Each one requires a different approach to overcome.

Why is this important for networkers? Because you're trying to build credibility (NO selling!) when you network. Even if you're a laid-back, no pressure, get to know them first kind of networker, there is resistance in their mind. They are waiting for the other shoe to drop because they've been "chatted up" too many times in preparation for the big pitch.

Do you think it might be useful to learn how to get past that resistance when you network?

Oh, by the way, I would also absent-mindedly leave half-empty cups of tea all over the house if JD didn't keep track of them.