Mind Your Business

Mind Your Business Week of August 20, 2014

Socializing and networking, two different things

Often, our mentality at business events and conferences is that we’re there to take away something, whether it is information, education or free samples while overlooking the potential for making connections that will further endeavors down the road. Conferences and events offer prime opportunities for networking and, if you’re not intentional about it, you might miss many of the ways you can make new contacts and get the word out about your business. Now, I am not saying walk in the room with a bullhorn and brag to everyone who you are and make it all about you. That would be like Connie Harper walking in a room shouting, “I am the editor of the Call & Post.” I can not count the amount of times people ask about Connie Harper and even to this day John Lenar. There are three people that you always want to be sure to network with at an event: the speaker, the event host/organizer, and the person doing registration and sign-in. The person at the front door sees everybody, including their name and also is usually aware of where the host is and can point you in their direction. Plus, it just starts you off on a positive note as you enter the room. You’re not a movie star hitting the red carpet. Your goal isn’t to make a grand entrance but to leave a wake of happy people behind you. Networking is something all successful business people need to be skilled at, if they want to establish new business relationships. If you’ve been to conferences seminars and other types of business events, no doubt you’ll have encountered numerous people who have been able to work a room. For some, it just comes naturally. They have that type of personality to work a room. In other words, they seem to be able to introduce themselves and strike up conversation with complete strangers seemingly effortlessly which, in turn, can open up business opportunities for them down the track. However, what might surprise some people is that, for many, networking doesn’t come easily and it takes plenty of practice to become good at it. Networking is about meeting new people. If you’re going into conference sessions, don’t sit beside someone you’ve already met. Instead, sit next to different people all day long. This may mean you have to move out of your comfort zone: Attendees tend to stake out their spot at conference sessions but, normally, there’s no assigned seating. You should move around during the day. One of the first things you should know going to these events is to be prepared. I can still hear Don Graham telling everyone “make sure you have your business cards” to pass out. These events are just to get acquainted and to meet new people. Don’t view these events as the chance to close a deal but rather as the chance to take the first step down the long, profitable road of friendship and mutual benefit with a new word-of-mouth marketing partner. The most important thing I can impart to you is that you must approach this with a sense of wanting to learn as much as you can about the other people you’ll meet instead of trying to tell them all about you. Networking Guru George Fraser has been trying to connect the dots for the African American community for awhile now. Each year he has a Power Networking Conference in Atlanta (Cleveland had it for awhile) that brings together a lot of great talent. That first impression may mean a lot, not all can dress to impress quite as well as others but we should have formed some kind of image of the way in which, as business people, we appear to others and how we would like to be perceived. Now LaRese Purnell has The Real Black Friday which just happen this weekend. The Real Black Friday is to reenergize the power of the black dollar. Purnell has spearheaded this initiative in order to encourage all consumers, but black consumers in particular, to reach into their pockets and spend their money in businesses that serve the underserved.

Enjoy your summer and remember to mind your business.

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