As a business consultant, I often talk with business owners and salespeople about the importance of networking: basically getting out and meeting people. Unfortunately many people aren't too positive about the whole idea. They tell me it's a lot of work, that they don’t know what to say and they won’t know anyone at the event. I would agree with a couple of them—it does take work and you might not know anyone. But as Woody Allen once said, "90 percent of success is showing up."
I guess to win the game you’ve got to be willing to play.
It’s more than just showing up, though. I would say it’s showing up with a purpose. Sometimes things "just happen," like forgetting your umbrella and getting drenched, but maybe that’s not even a "just happen" type of thing. As Dr. Ivan Misner, the Founder & Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization, put it, "Networking isn’t about netsit or neteat. It’s about network."
Many of you know or belong to BNI but might not know that last year alone it generated 5.6 million referrals resulting in $2.3 billion dollars worth of business for its members.
Last week, Internet Marketing Inc., located on 1115 Broadway in NYC, with additional offices in Las Vegas, San Diego, and Miami, hosted a networking party at their offices.
Who is Internet Marketing Inc. and what do they do? As they say, "They build, market and manage your online presence. They don’t create proposals and reports, they create and experience and build relations."
I would call them a company with expertise in the future. I haven’t met everyone, but if the rest of the offices are like the New York one, they do it with excitement, enthusiasm and good will. I recently met Todd Soiefer, President of the Northeast Region, when I was speaking at an event in Princeton, NJ. Speaking about networking, I offered a business consultation as a door prize and guess who won it? Now you know how I wound up speaking at the Internet Marketing event. What did I speak on? What else: Growing Your Business through Social Networking.
I consider Todd Soiefer and Nicole Stillings, Senior Marketing Consultant, as masters of networking. Throughout the night over 60 people stopped in to meet, enjoy some food and spirits as well as each other’s company.
The event was held at their offices, in Select Office Suites, on the 12th floor and all the businesses in the building were invited as well as clients and friends. Nicole Stillings was in charge of seeing that everyone got to the event and felt welcome. Nicole had mobilized her interns, had them on the phone calling people and seeing that the arriving guests were comfortable while she went off and managed the caterers. It was obvious that Nicole is comfortable making things happen as well as hosting large events.
"It’s most important for people to feel welcome and comfortable," Nicole says. "We appreciate them coming to join us in making the event successful so we want them to take away what they need. Not everyone is comfortable speaking to strangers so it’s our job to make sure that the event works for everyone."
After speaking, I took the opportunity to eat some good food and speak with a couple of the guests to see what would bring them out on a rainy, New York night. They came out to meet people and hopefully do business, since this was a serious crowd.
Drew Franklin, Senior Marketing Manager for ENT and Allergy Associates, LLP (the largest ENT Doctor group), headquartered in Tarrytown, NY, talked about building relationships.
"In order to be pioneers in our business, we have to know what we can do to attract customers," Drew said. "We might be experts in our own field but we have to learn from the experience of leaders in other businesses if we are going to grow."
Drew seemed to enjoy the event and meeting new people.
Jim Bond, Managing Partner of The Private Travel Group, a company providing customized private jet travel also located in New York City, was of the same opinion.
"The only way people will want to do business with us is if I can identify and fill their needs," he said. "It takes time to build relationships and the only way it will happen is if I spend time meeting and getting to know other people."
People were laughing, exchanging cards and really getting acquainted. Interestingly enough there were musicians as well as agents, bankers, investment brokers, teachers, public relations firms and people looking for employment.
One of the things that was most noticeable was the atmosphere of good will. Even though they say the economy is "challenged" this was definitely a positive place to be. I asked Todd what makes an event like this work and why do it.
"Everyone is so isolated and over worked that we that we need to have events where people can do business and have fun," Todd says. "Since we talk networking we should walk the walk."
Todd’s suggestions for a successful event:
- Make it simple — not too much to drink or eat, since the purpose is networking. Keep the party moving. The party doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, just inviting and friendly.
- When inviting people, consider who would benefit from the event. We like to invite our customers so they can make new contacts and hopefully do business from the event.
- Vary the age group and the experience level of the guests, this way people get to meet people they wouldn’t ordinarily meet.
- Hosting a face-to-face networking party is part of building your online presence. It’s important to take pictures and/or videos and then connect them to your social networking sites. Put out a tweet or two so people will know what you’re doing.
"The most important thing for us," Todd adds, "is to keep the buzz going. We are an internet marketing company; we need to show our customers how traditional networking events paired with social online marketing can help grow their business. They need to be comfortable with the social networking tools that we provide for them. This is a good way to show them we know how to talk-the talk and walk –the-walk."
Check out the recap of the event on Internet Marketing Inc.'s blog, which includes the below video they shot of my presentation.