Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James

Monday, January 11, 2010

Breakfast or Lunch? Getting the Greatest Bang for Your Buck!

Hmmm. Me thinks that is the wrong question!

Why?

Well, where do I begin? There are actually three times to network in groups. Breakfast, lunch and evening meetings. Each has it’s own unique benefits. Some have speakers and others offer people the chance to eat and circulate without any formal meeting. Many have a meeting charge. Most guests can usually attend one meeting without having to join the group.

Some will have a special time for members to offer a 30-second connection. Larger groups my have one member give a brief 10-minute presentation plus a speaker. Do your best to find a group that allow you to utilize your time optimally. Find a group that is vibrant and is actively growing. Check out these groups to find out if you’re compatible with the individual members and their professions.

One of the toughest things to decide is which networking group to align yourself and your business with. I personally prefer a group that has attendance requirements. The ones that do usually have more consistent attendance from their members. In addition to going to the meetings, call some of the other member businesses and ask if the group has been a source of good clients and business leads. Call the group’s leaders. Ask other members what groups they attend and ask if they will invite you as a guest so that you can find out more about the group.

It pays to check the group you are interested in very thoroughly. I look for people who are willing to brainstorm about ideas that have helped their business to grow vs. idle chitchat. I call this “collaborative sharing.” Be the one to nurture an emerging idea. I like to develop relationships with people who are big thinkers and to be able to bounce new business ideas off them. Beware of groups whose members are usually just salespeople trying to sell their stuff to other salespeople.

breakfast_networking_cartoonAre you a morning person? To me, the bacon and eggs crowd seem to be some of the most serious networkers. They have to make a special effort to get up and get going early in the morning. This plays a big part in getting your morning off to a great start. Meeting someone for coffee or breakfast at eight o’clock in the morning is a wonderful way to accomplish your relationship-building goals while saving time and money. Breakfast is rapidly becoming the new lunch.

The constant for all groups is that the participants will have the chance to talk to each other and begin to build business relationships that can grow and last. Morning meetings are sometimes problematic. How many times have those meetings with clients gotten rescheduled, or worst – forgotten? Always call to confirm to avoid any embarrassing miscommunications. Many people are more mentally alert and most creative before noon. If you don’t have time or the budget for a high-end lunch, then breakfast may be the best way to build relationships. Members can start their business day uninterrupted.

The lunch bunch were going to eat lunch anyway so it might as well be with other business professionals with the chance to mix, mingle and talk. In Robin Jay’s award-winning book, “The Art of the Business Lunch: Building Relationships Between 12 and 2″ she says, “There is nothing as effective as breaking bread for getting to know a client, to learn more about their business, understand their needs, and find better ways to help them achieve their goals. Something magical happens when you are in a social setting, sharing food.” Skip the alcohol at lunch. Keep your mind clear.

People often will let their guard down and open up during a relaxed lunch group. “A 1:00 p.m. appointment allows you and your guest to complete a full morning’s work and be ready for a more relaxed meal,” advises Beverly Langford in her book, “The Etiquette Edge.”

Evening – Most evening meetings offer a more relaxed, casual atmosphere while meeting other businesses. Some offer hor d’ourves and a cash bar. 99% of my clients have 9 to 5 p.m. day jobs. That means they’re looking for my services after work and only available to work with me in the evenings. So, for me – unless I don’t already have an appointment with a new client – mornings or lunches are best.

“Choose only foods that are easy to eat, like grapes or crackers – nothing messy. Steer clear of the chewy, dripping, garlic-laced, hard-to-eat items at the hors d’oeuvres table,” suggest Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon in their book “Make Your Contacts Count.” Don’t forget to take small bites. When you will be socializing and making frequent introductions, it’s important not to talk with your mouth full or make others wait for you to swallow before you can speak.

Regardless of which group you choose to attend, you are encouraged to bring your business cards and brochure for distribution to the group. You will have an opportunity to network, ask questions, and conduct one-to-one meeting before and after the meetings. You may want to try all three to see which group serves you the best and where you can find friendly and supportive people to assist. Look for a creative melting pot of friendly, ambitious people.

Each category of networkers have advantages and disadvantages. The breakfast and lunch groups don’t interfere with the working day. Some groups are made up of one representative from each type of profession to eliminate competition within the group. I never worried about the competition. I focused on making myself and my business “remarkable!” Some people waste a lot of energy being concerned about their competitors rather than using that energy in a more productive way to market themselves and their business.

Look for a group whose members make you feel welcome and take the time to greet you rather than hang with everyone they already know. All offer business networking opportunities and you must follow the “collaborative etiquette of networking.

My friend, Larry Winget, in his book, “It’s Called WORK for a Reason: Your Success Is Your Own Damn Fault” says, “Get involved. Get known. Go to charity events, civic events, wine tastings, art fairs, church, whatever. Be around people. Not with a handful of business cards to pass out. Don’t even go with the idea of getting more business. Instead go there and get involved in the event. Be the kind of person others admire, can count on, trust, and enjoy spending time with. After you have developed that reputation, people will start to ask you what you do and you will be amazed at how many people will want to work with you.”

The popularity of networking meetings and events continues to grow as businesses find them to be a very cost-effective tool for increasing sales or simply building relationships with others. Schmooze like there’s no tomorrow, befriend everyone. Remember to participate fully. Don’t expect immediate results. Business does not always come in the first contact or meeting. Be consistent for best results. I belonged to one networking group for almost a year before I started receiving referrals. This type of business comes with trust and trust can take some time to develop.

And one final though: Remember, networking is about cultivating long-term relationships. If you approach someone under the guise of making a new friend, while your hidden agenda is really pure business exploitation with no genuine interest in the relationship or the person beyond what they can do for your bank account… that relationship will never end well. Be a giver! The return on your investment is exponential.

Read, “The Networking Collaborative” and “Networking Events are a Waste of Time. . .

netHQ

Copyright © 2010 – Larry James. Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. His latest book is, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Visit ” Networking HQ!”

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6 Comments »

  1. […] BONUS Articles: Networking Events are a Waste of Time… Choosing a Networking Group Shop for a GREAT Networking Group… Then STOP! Breakfast or Lunch? Getting the Greatest Bang for Your Buck! […]

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  6. You should also consider attending your local networking events such as the Chamber of Commerce meetings and all local investor meetings in order to hand the card and network with potential clients. The more you out there, the better chance you have to secure some large, long-term customers!

    Comment by Angie — Monday, January 11, 2010 @ 9:01 am | Reply


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