Last month, I shared the Networking Fundamental Laws 1-4, which included Law 4 about how to “work the room” if you are an introvert who is shy in group settings, versus an extrovert who typically bursts in the door with Kramer-like enthusiasm from Seinfeld.
The laws described in part one were:
- Law 1: Consistency is Key
- Law 2: Track your Effectiveness
- Law 3: Set Quality Goals (not quantity)
- Law 4: Working the Room
This month, we will be learning how to view body language during an event as either an invitation to join a conversation or a warning sign that you need a new strategy, along with several expert tips on how to follow up after events to ensure you are building a solid relationship for future referrals.
Law 5: Seek Open Body Language
During a networking training session, I will pull up five volunteers to the front of the room and ask them to stand and talk as they normally would if no one were watching. It is human nature, that 100% of the time, they close ranks into a circle with all five men and women looking at one another, with their toes pointed toward the circle, and even their hips and shoulders are angled at each other. This is what I call closed networking language, which I learned from Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of Business Networking International.
Everyone has felt like an awkward pinball at one time or another, standing on the edge of a big group of people, feeling invisible because you are never quite joining the conversation or group, then bopping over to the next group, only to have the same thing happen. You feel as though you have bounced around the room more than a pinball machine at a local bowling alley, but never scored a genuine conversation—yet!
This cheat sheet will help you quickly identify how to set yourself up for success when reading the room to look for open networking body language versus closed. Seek out odd numbers like one particular wallflower or a group of people standing casually in a V shape formation where there is plenty of room for them to see you want to walk up and enter their circle. Avoid even numbers like two and four, where it is clear that each person already has a partner to engage in deep conversation (you will be walking up to a potential landmine).
Cheatsheet for quick memory:
- Five People: Avoid closed circles of five people with no inch to spare. You will end up feeling like a pinball machine bouncing from one clique to the next, hoping someone eventually lets you into the busy, loud conversation circle. You are setting yourself up for failure by approaching a closed circle of body language.
- Four People: Avoid even numbers of people because there is no odd man out. Even numbers ensure everyone is already having a one-to-one conversation that you may be awkwardly interrupting.
- Three People: THIS IS THE GOLDEN TICKET YOU WANT TO FIND! Easily open up your group conversation by standing in the “The Mighty V” formation to invite others in with your body language. After all, the key to business development is networking to meet new people, right? If you and your friends have ever seen the movie The Mighty Ducks, you know exactly what a V formation looks like. Three people standing this way while chatting at a networking event allows your eyes to scan the room, see newcomers, smile at them, and invite them into your conversation. Your hips, toes, and shoulders are not closed off from welcoming others to your crowd. (Extroverts should avoid a closed triangle where your hips & shoulders are locked to the ‘no-go’ position, giving off warning signs to introverts that you are not approachable.)
- Two People: When both feet are pointed inward, they could be deep in conversation and taken aback by someone butting in, so if you are an introvert, feel free to avoid sets of two. If you are an extrovert, this is probably never a deterrent for you anyhow, as your social skills will slide you right in like a DM.
- One Person: We Love Wallflowers—they are NEVER closed (unless using their cellphone in a corner, which is a huge no-no at networking events). Introverts are usually just shy or new and would love for someone to come break the ice and get to know them. The next time you enter an event and see someone standing alone with their cheese plate, be the first to introduce yourself and ask a question about them to help them open up.
Law 6: Dos and Don’ts
After decades of utilizing networking channels like the Chamber of Commerce, BNI, or the Better Business Bureau, I have learned several dos and don’ts that can help guide you toward a more fruitful business development plan of action.
- Do have a goal. Example: Making two quality connections.
- Don’t try to “make the sale” in the crowded room.
No one wants to be cornered for over 20 minutes, listening to your entire sales pitch while you pull folders of branded materials out of your bag of tricks. The purpose of meeting at least two people with who you build a quality connection with at the event is not to sell to them. Sales meetings happen outside of networking events.
Your job at the event is to be genuine and listen. Ensure that the two-way conversation is memorable enough that when you email asking for a follow-up coffee meet-up, they know your name versus the 100 other attendees and business cards still sitting in their truck cup holder.
During your conversation, you can discuss business, family, or anything in between as long as you are listening more than you are talking. Keep in mind, there is a reason we have two ears and one mouth. Be inquisitive. Ask them questions like how they became passionate about their career or how long they have served in that industry. What type of ideal clients do they hope to meet when they come to events like this?
- Do know your social media faux pas
- Don’t Facebook friend (at first)
- Do connect via LinkedIn
- Don’t forget to send a message with the LinkedIn connection request
When you went to the networking event, were you looking for business connections or personal friends? Connections, that’s right! LinkedIn builds “connections,” whereas Facebook is for adding “friends.” If you and I just met for the first time at a large conference happy hour and had a great 10-minute conversation, exchanged business cards, and then floated to our next conversation opportunity, we are not yet friends, but connections. LinkedIn is the more appropriate social media channel to look up their name and send a connection request.
Be sure to Google instructions on how to “add a note” with your connection request. It is a different set of steps on the laptop version versus the mobile app version of LinkedIn. Sending a note with your request will help remind them where you met, what you discussed, and why you are asking to connect after the event.
- Do follow up.
- Don’t follow up with open-ended, “When can we meet?”
- Don’t ask yes/no questions that kill two-way conversation
What is the point of being “Queen Busy Bee” at ten networking events a week if the business cards you exchange are just sitting on your desk in a rubber band, or worse—they never made it to the office because they are stuck in your car cupholder collecting dust? Following up is a part of Law 1: Consistency is Key. You must consistently walk into a networking event with a purpose and walk out with a plan of action. What is your plan of action to ensure the time you are spending meeting new people is developing into eventual referrals for sales?
Personally, I used to sit in my car before leaving an event, search through the business cards on the LinkedIn app to connect with each person with a brief note about how nice it was to meet them, then, the two quality connections who I had deeper conversations with, I had a goal to follow up by setting up a networking one-to-one. Right there in the driver’s seat, I would email them before I even put on my seatbelt or pulled out of the lot.
This kept me focused on results after each event before I jetted off to my next appointment or became overwhelmed by opening up unread emails. Make sure the time you just spent networking is valuable by ensuring the follow-up is completed the right away.
Law 7: Be Specific
When you follow up with an email or a voicemail, be specific in knowing what works best for YOU! As Okies, we are uber polite, so we are used to saying things like, “I’d love to meet up when it’s convenient for you.” I teach that this puts all the pressure, action, and coordination on the other person, so while we think we are being polite, we are really punting the ball to them.
Do not punt the responsibility. You want the meeting, so make it as easy as possible for them to say yes!
First, assume the meeting in your email. Never ask, “Would you like to meet?” which implies a person could say no thank you. Instead, your goal in the email is to assume they want to meet, and merely ask which time is best for them.
We do not want to make the mistake of asking an open-ended question, such as, “When would you like to meet?” because that makes the email recipient have to stop what they are doing, open their calendar, look for dates and times, calculate the drive time between meetings, and type an email reply to you. That is guaranteed 100% to be a much longer reply process than if you provided two complete choices. By not offering choices, you created a stumbling block that may make the person not reply to your email for hours, days, or weeks.
My favorite takeaway from attendees is when they learn “The Power of Or.” There’s power in only offering a choice of two dates, times, and locations in your networking follow-up email while securing the next meeting.
Law 8: Power of Or
“Power of Or” is in full effect in this example email. Imagine as you read it, a busy CEO who went to bed at 10:00 p.m. last night with zero unread emails, yet awoke to 30+ unread emails in their inbox. As they swiftly breeze through each one—delete, reply, delete, reply—they get to your email requesting a meeting. Can they swiftly check their calendar for your two dates, times, and locations in under one minute and shoot off a reply email? Yes, they can—with the “Power of Or!”
Mrs. Smith, It was great meeting you at the Edmond Chamber event this week. I enjoyed hearing about your kids and hope your son won his soccer game later that evening. I’d love to learn more about you and your company. I can come to your Edmond office Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. or we can meet at “this Kool Kat coffee shop” Thursday at 11:00 a.m. Which do you prefer?
I am looking forward to it!
Law 9: Go the Extra Mile
You have attended a successful network event, met a few quality connections, exchanged cards, connected on LinkedIn, and two people have replied to your “Power of Or” emails to set up a one-to-one. Terrific, now let’s be sure to go the extra mile to guarantee the meeting is a success!
Send a calendar invite if you want them to remember your meeting. Never make the mistake of being vague in your calendar invite with “Starbucks.” We have all showed up to the wrong one across town at some point in our professional careers. Nothing is worse than being stood up at a coffee shop when you could have prevented it by emailing the other person a calendar invite with all the relevant details.
Give them the date, time, and full address with zip code so they can tap to get a map from their mobile device. Make sure to copy their email signature line and yours into the body of the invite so they have quick access to remembering who they are meeting, what company you are with, and your title. If they need to cancel in advance, your email is handy. If they are running five minutes late, your phone number is handy so they can call to tell you.
Make it easy for them! In fact, set the 30-minute pop-up reminder on the event so they get an alert when they need to leave their office to come meet you.
You can even go the extra mile by calling them just before you drive to confirm you are on your way and looking forward to meeting them. You can even share via phone what you are wearing that day, or where you are sitting in the coffee shop so they can quickly spot you upon arrival. Remember, they only met you once for 10-minutes a few weeks ago, so without a LinkedIn connection photo, they may forget what you look like.
Law 10: Finish Strong
Stand out! How many people did they meet that night at the networking event—50, 100? Don’t only email if it is an important connection with who you just wrapped up one-to-one with. I teach that email is three E’s: Everywhere, Everyone, Easy. It can accidentally come across as average or lazy. Treat that one-to-one the same as you would an interview for a job. After all, you are basically interviewing for future referrals and business. You would tell any of your nieces and nephews to write a handwritten thank you card after a job interview. It is expected. Do the same for your one-to-one’s as well.
As a CEO at the height of my networking days, I was often attending ten networking events a week, and at least two one-to-one’s per day, yet barely even 50% of the people I met with sent a thank you email afterward, and worse yet—maybe 10% of the people I met with would take the time to send a handwritten thank you. Only one person ever went so far as to make me feel really special and smile when I received a quick voicemail that said, “Hi Stacy, just wanted to thank you for your time. I enjoyed meeting you at the coffee shop yesterday and learning about your passion for your work. I don’t need you to call me back. I don’t need anything from you, just calling to say thank you for making my day.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you learn to network effectively toward a specific business development goal. These nine fundamental laws of networking that I have personally developed over the last two decades have led countless people across a variety of industries toward successful sales. Whether you identify as an introvert and recharge your batteries after an event with alone time or silent drive home, or you are lit up like the Energizer Bunny as an extrovert feeling fully charged after an event, everyone can be successful at networking.
If you have enjoyed this series of parts one and two of the article on networking effectiveness for introverts and extroverts, reach out to me on www.StacyEads.com for a free PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation, given to 50+ professional businesswomen at the Edmond Chamber event. Happy to share!
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About Stacy Eads
Edmond native & UCO Alumna, Stacy Eads, is an award-winning “Most Admired CEO” who scaled her company as a Woman in Tech before becoming an International Scaling Up Business Coach. She now empowers other CEOs from $2M to $200M to embrace their leadership potential through quarterly strategic planning. Her talent is in high demand to CEO Coach, Train Teams, and Speak at Events in both the U.S.A. and Canada.
Stacy Eads’ career affiliations include 50 Women Making a Difference award, Circle of Excellence award, Torch Ethics award, Most Admired CEO award, Edmond Chamber & UCO Mentor, Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma Board of Directors, TEDx OKC Speaker Coach, and Ambassador Chairwoman for the Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce.