Talking to strangers, getting out and about – the value of face to face meetings

Zoomless, teamed out and hop-in to hop out…how humans handle change badly in business in a time when change is the only permanent and now it seems more than ever. I hear of extortionate deals being done to bring in new staff, to hang on the current ones and the stupidity of poor cultures thinking they can ignore the importance of staff development and the value of shadow learning. 


This month I want to talk about the enormous value of meetings, networking benefits and the value we create sometimes by just turning up. Yes it is pain, I got up at 6am, (at least no longer getting dressed on dark early mornings and the frost is nearly gone,) Always one to beat the traffic I’d rather get to my end destination and then have time to prep for a meeting rather than be stressed and less organised. Recently I have loved the interactions and the out and about and I feel the gains I am winning in turning up will well outweight the default to lazy zoom that I hope companies will not adopt as their preferred sales method. 


Today I was in QVC for a TV early recording and whilst in the waiting room made connections with other brand owners whom I did not know were going to be there, might have found a new presented and learnt more from others about live TV in a few minutes by listening and talking to the professionals that I ever would have done had I stayed home and broadcast on a dodgy skype line. I also at short notice met our new buyer and managed to personally hand over samples, meet a presenter whom helps us sell our brand. Not bad all by 11am.  


Having calls in the car is not impossible when set up weel so I made use of time before my next meeting and caught up with internal team members whom called me, one button and in some cases more stable call lines than from home. 


Tonight I attended a networking event after a long day, not that I felt like turning up, I have a zillion emails I can send, stuff I can progress but as always, we turn up and we win more times than most. Never have loved going into a room of strangers. Loathed it more when I was completely out of place as a young business start-up female unproven beginner entrepreneur but I did it anyway. Once I started to realise the uniqueness, indeed I’d say benefit of being young, female and in a room of males suits I realised I had the upper hand. Better still once I learned the secret of breaking into conversations with strangers I have never looked back…not that I don’t still get nervous. 


I would say that the majority of people loathe networking unless they are super confident and enjoy what can be really difficult social situations.  You might be the best sales person, marketeer or the expert in your chosen field, and still, those networking events are your idea of hell.  I am hoping to debunk the myth that everyone in any given room is loving it all and are super pleased to be involved, because on the whole they are probably not.  Even I, used to many years of introductions to complete strangers, whom I would probably never have anything in common, outside a business forum, struggle sometimes.  It is true that not everyone will like us, and we will not like everyone we meet, but networking is an essential part of making our businesses work, reaching new untapped audiences and revenue possibilities.  People buy from people, whether it is a product / process or service, so these events are essential to get a grip on regardless of how you feel socially.  


I remember a member of staff came with me to an event at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saison, her idea of absolute hell, shy, quiet and new to my business, but she got there, got through it, still alive and kicking, prospered and is still with me twenty years later.  It can be done and using these tips and tricks below, I hope that it will help the many that struggle with this potentially intimidating part of our business lives. 


One of my favourite tips is the rule of three.  Two’s company and all that…..there is always the possibility that the third person is left out of a conversation. When you enter a room of people, none of whom you may know, there are inevitably groups of three people (as well as groups of two’s). Always head for groups of three. Two of the people in that group have eye contact and someone is left standing, catch their eye and they will be delighted to build a new conversation, your attention will win. The third person needs someone to include them and thus you can start your interest in why they are there. Give first and the get will come. 


Essentially there is nothing like face to face meetings and the last couple of years has really tested this particular facet of business life, but there is no comparison to being out and about able to present product, relate, socalise and get to exchange learnings more. Always show interest in other first. People buy from the person, the product and then the company. 


In advance better still when being more tactical find out 

  1. Who is going to be there?  
  2. Who do I want to see? And could the organiser introduce you?
  3. Sales people should always go to events early and try and take a photo of the name badges on a table at the door…that could be priceless, a name is everything, spell it right, pronounce it right and if you do not know how to pronounce it – ask, that starts a conversation every time. 


Most event will publish a delegate list prior to the event.  If you can’t get one in advance, ask for one when you check in … if it’s not given as part of the delegate pack.


Make yourself known easily

Pin your name badge on your right side. Usually it is pinned it on the left as easiest if you’re right handed, but science has shown that it’s easier to read and more memorable if it’s pinned on your right side … as people’s brains are trained to read left to right


Share the knowledge and target people 

If you are with other delegates from your company, split up and network separately. Sit separately on different tables (if laid out cabaret) or in different rows if theatre style .. max your mixing opportunities. BUT keep an eye out for each other and use a secret sign (I normally use a subtle ear rub with your thumb and forefinger) as a sign to your colleague to come and rescue you from a useless conversation if you get bogged down with someone who isn’t a target avatar and you can’t escape. Then when your colleague comes in to rescue you, same something like … ‘I’m so sorry to interrupt but Emily, do you mind if I pull you away, there’s someone I need you to meet.’ This could be better than ducking for the toilet excuse.. or calling a child to say goodnight. 


How to get attention (politely)

Think of a couple of really fabulous questions to ask the speakers (make sure they’re corkers … intelligent people ask intelligent questions. Also-rans ask also-ran questions) … but asking questions of the speakers usually gives you an opportunity to stand, introduce yourself and be seen by the room. 


Elevator pitch

Practise what you would say as your introduction (brainstorm this together on Monday – as this needs to be a punchy one-liner ideally linked to the value of your proposition, the solution you provide and how it is better and different than others. 


Tailor your approach

If you have managed to get a delegate list and know who you want to speak to, you need one-liners nailed, for every person you introduce yourself to. Like all sales efforts be targeted putting your customers benefit always at the heart of the conversation. Be humble, sense check, make no over bold assumptions and get people’s mobile phone numbers by asking. Try to find out when the best part of their day is to follow up. WE are mostly creatures of habit. 


Essential, do what you say you are going to do….ie follow up post event

DO – link with everyone you’ve personally connected to at the event, saying how lovely it was to meet them, and for those who are target avatars, don’t pitch, instead write something like …. If there is anything I can help you with as you continue to outgrow your XYZ or…, then you know where I’m at and you can always pick my brains.


Missing delegates

If you get the delegate list, but don’t meet them at the event, then still Link with them, but with a different message. Something like .. I’m so sorry I didn’t get a chance to connect with you at the Elite Business Event, I was excited to put a name to a face, so it would be great to meet virtually at least.


Obviously, it goes without saying to make sure you have plenty of business cards.


Dress ( if you look the part you are the part)

Finally, look sharp. Entrepreneurial communities don’t require suits (most of the blokes will be in jeans with an open neck shirt and a jacket … and women a variation of that) … but hair, make-up, nails, shoes … the details… even down to how clean your keyboard is if you open your laptop …. Need to be perfection. You need to command an air of authority, confidence and gravitas.  Dirty shoes, disorganisation and grubby clothing will create an impression you don’t want to leave!!

Ultimately use your personality to work it all to your advantage, do things your way, be amiable , affable, genuine and above all listen… works….. you can do it !!!!


Author Lara

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