“When you are the leader of a networking group, it’s important for you to provide activities that get people to actually network. I have found that people tend to be like water – they tend to seek the path of least resistance. Without some structure at networking events, they will often do what is easiest, instead of what is best. This is why it’s very important that you offer activities & exercises which will remind them that it’s not called “netSIT” or “netEAT; it’s called “netWORK”.” ~ Ivan Misner
Almost 60% of Americans say they feel shy and unsure about what to say in a variety of business and social settings. Structured networking with group activities helps your networking group avoid some of the tension associated with networking. It takes about six conversations with someone before he/she knows who you are and has some idea of your character and competence. It’s called building relationships. It’s important to design creative activities for your group to keep things moving and to encourage members to actually network.
Networking leaders must take the initiative to actually lead, not just conduct a meeting. If you’re waiting around for someone to tell you what to do to make your networking group work better, then you aren’t being a leader, you’re waiting for a leader. The best way to look like a leader is to actually lead by example. It’s important for Network Leaders to use at least one networking activity at every meeting to encourage involvement and commitment to the process of networking. One such activity can be to have each person who give their “30-second connection” (or elevator speech) to describe the value they received and the connections they have made by being a member of your group. This is especially good for newer members to hear.
Encourage all members to wear their name tags after they enter the meeting. Easy-to-read name tags are essential for a successful meeting. If you print them out on a computer ahead of time, use a very large font size for the first name. If you ask people to make name tags as they arrive, encourage them to write their first names big. Name tags are easier to read when worn high on the right shoulder.
As a leader, make certain that everyone knows each other. Make a special effort to introduce new members to others in the group that might be someone they need to meet.
Appoint someone to be in charge of keeping a list of “current” attendees. List their names, business classification, e-mail, and contact information and make them available to every member. Have copies of the list in a prominent place and remind people to pick one up. Encourage them to carry this list with them as they go about their daily business. That way they can be ready to give a referral to some of their clients.
Encourage members to plan to meet other members outside of the meeting to get to know each other better. Ask for a brief comment from members who did this each week. What did they learn that they didn’t know about the member they met with? Asking your members to report their network activities can lead to some new ideas being passed around. When members know they will be asked to report on their network activities, they tend to become more active.
Invite someone who’s comfortable in front of a crowd and whose enthusiasm will be contagious to lead special activities. Don’t automatically assume that the President of the group should lead the activity. He/she has lots of other responsibilities. Look for a new face or invite someone whom you’d like to be more involved. The success of these activities depends, in large part, on the personality and energy of the person who leads them.
Each week choose someone special to act as a greeter. Position them at the door to welcome everyone. Their job is to warm up the group and improve the quality of networking that goes on. Advantage: each greeter gets to know individual members more intimately. Part of their responsibility is to:
• Arrive at least 15 minutes before the meeting begins.
• Greet people near the door.
• Introduce yourself.
• Shake hands with everyone.
• Show people where to find their name tag.
• Introduce the person you’ve just greeted to at least one other person before you leave to welcome another new arrival.
• Be on the lookout for people who may be shy about participating or who might be left out when there’s a group activity.
Always remember, leaders are responsible for enlisting the help of certain members to help create an exciting and highly valuable networking experience each week. You may want to have a special outside meeting with a few of the more outgoing members to discuss new and exciting ways to keep the members active during the meetings as well as outside of the meetings. Always focus your attention and energy on the people who are eager to participate. Makes notes at each of these meetings and no matter how far out the idea may be, spend some time reshaping it so that it fits your group.
I once asked members to face the person to their right, each member takes 5 minutes to talk about anything BUT business. Two of the members discovered that they had common outside interests and not only did they get to know each other better but used their new found knowledge to develop a unique way to give each other referrals. The group loved this idea and about once a month would feature this activity. Another idea was to take turns telling your partner the 2 truths and a lie about yourself. Listen to their 2 truths and a lie and then have a conversation in which you try to figure out what’s true and what’s not. You can learn a lot about someone with this activity. I also asked them to share something new that they learned.
Some groups have a member speak about their business each week for 10 or 15 minutes. I would often ask the members to sit with someone that they need to know better and instead of having a speaker, have them turn to that member and talk about their businesses for 10 or 15 minutes, then ask several members to talk for 2 or 3 minutes about something they learned about the person they talked with. Discourage members to always sit with the same people. I’ve seen several groups break apart because some of their members became involved in cliques. When you see this happening… it’s a red flag and you need to design something to get everyone involved with each other.
Another idea is to invite an outside speaker to talk about various business strategies, or invite an author to talk about their book. About once each quarter I would invite 3 business people outside of the group to participate in a panel discussion where members could ask questions. I called it, “Meet the Pros!” This would usually take about 30 minutes. Tell the pros to make their time with your group strictly educational and never sales-oriented. Be sure to introduce them and tell about their business before the panel discussion begins.
I don’t think its a good idea to ever not have members give their 30-second connection at the beginning of the meeting. By the way, many of you know that I have written a book about networking and would be happy to speak to your group. Call me for details: 480-205-3694.
As a leader, with the tone you set and the activities you lead, your networking members are sure to make networking an art.
Interested in learning more activities for networkers, Google “activities for business networking!”
Copyright © 2014 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
Subscribe to “Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James” and receive a fresh networking article or tip every 4th day by e-mail. Click on the “Email Subscription” link on the right under the “search” box. You can unsubscribe anytime!
NOTE: All articles and networking tips listed in this BLOG – written by Larry James – are available for reprint in magazines, periodicals, newsletters, newspapers, eZINEs, on the Internet or on your own Website. Click here for details.
Add Larry James as a “friend” to your Facebook page: http://www.Facebook.com/larry.james
Follow Larry’s “once daily” Relationship Tweet at: http://www.Twitter.com/larryjames
Follow Larry’s “Relationship BLOG” at: http://CelebrateLove.wordpress.com/
Follow Larry’s “Wedding BLOG” at: http://CelebrateIntimateWeddings.wordpress.com
Follow Larry’s “Authors & Speakers” BLOG at: http://www.AuthorsandSpeakerNetwork.wordpress.com/
Visit Larry James on LinkedIn
Follow Larry’s Networking Pintrest Page @ http://www.pinterest.com/larryjames2012/networking-blog/!