Every networking event has its individual dynamics, benefits and drawbacks. Many, if not most, networking events include a meal. The act of breaking bread with another person is a powerful relationship-building vehicle. In order to maximize your investment, review the information below.

  1. Networking Breakfast. Networking breakfast functions are usually high-intensity events. People who attend these are generally early risers who see this as an opportunity to start the day with a bang. There is a strong business context here and attendees are usually focused and business-oriented. These events have a forced deadline as participants know they have a full day ahead. Social conversation is usually at a minimum, even over a quick coffee to start things off. Expect conversation partners to be direct and to the point. This is a key benefit to these sessions.

    Breakfast Success Strategy:  Be prepared. Have a plan. Know whom you want to meet and keep your conversation focused. This is the most effective networking venue for fostering business-to-business networking. Many small-business owners and sole entrepreneurs use early-morning networking as their main marketing strategy. They then have the rest of the day to manage their company.

  2. Networking Lunch. The Networking Lunch remains the main strategy for the corporate world. This type of event still starts with casual conversation around the bar then moves to a formal meal environment. There is an emphasis on social interaction as the event unfolds. There is less pressure with respect to time as participants add a more social perspective to their luncheon conversation. Expect to see representatives from larger firms or from more established companies. They are interested in investing time to get to know one another. The conversation tends to focus as much on personal areas as business issues. There is a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

    Lunch Success Strategy: Don’t aim for, or expect, immediate results. The Networking Lunch pays the greatest dividends when used as part of longer term marketing strategy that focuses on relationship-building. Joining colleagues or clients for a Networking Lunch Event with your group or organization can offer incredible opportunities to meet new contacts and develop key relationships.

  3. Networking Dinner. The networking dinner meeting is essentially a social activity that may or may not include a business context. This is the end of the day. A time for reflection and discussion. There is a formal feeling to these events, which often include an entertainment component. A meal might include wine.

    Dinner Success Strategy: Networking in this environment is an exercise in diplomacy. There is little emphasis on business or business development. Conversations may refer to a business issue but this is not the place to flog a product or close a deal. It is, however, the ideal environment to foster and solidify relationships. The relaxed atmosphere allows for conversations that elicit the important issues for others, as well as their areas of highest interest and need. Using the evening networking event with your closest colleagues or most important clients is a powerful marketing strategy.

  4. Wine and Cheese. This event is usually the exception rather than the norm. Its stand-up format means that there is less emphasis on creating an intimate connection. Stand-up conversations tend to be shorter, contain less strategic information and are less impactful from a relationship perspective. This is a social setting that may have business overtones. Don’t expect to accomplish much from a business point of view. Most people are here to see or be seen.

    Wine and Cheese Success Strategy:  Use this type of event to create contacts. Make sure you collect business cards as follow up is required to build a stronger connection with your new conversation partners. Keep your dialogue light and seek to elicit the information you can use for follow up. This is one event where it’s more beneficial to try and connect more people than usual.

  5. Trade Show. These events are an exercise in “speed networking”. Whether as a visitor or exhibitor, be prepared for networking at warp speed. The pace and content of conversations is quick and dirty, as attendees want to experience every part of the event and exhibitors are focused on connecting with multiple contacts. Don’t expect any deep discussions but you will connect with many more people than at a regular networking event.

    Trade Show Success Strategy: In a word: preparation. Trade show success requires preparation and planning. Know which exhibitors you want to visit with or which attendees you want to touch base with. Your best option here is to continually meet, greet and move on. Have an answer to “what’s new?” for all your existing contacts and if you do make a new connection, get a business card and commit to following up.

Whichever event format you chose, make sure you maximize its impact and your results.

Technology and the global mindset are prompting more and more companies to increase their reach into new cities, markets and countries. Whether because of an expansion strategy, merger/acquisition opportunity, or some other innovative marketing concept, long-distance relationships are becoming the norm.

Being dropped into a leadership role where the team is scattered across different time zones can be difficult enough; when you add geographic disparities and culture, it can be quite overwhelming. The key to success is focusing less on results and more on relationships.

  1. Do your homework. Whether it’s a colleague in a different country or a team spread across a continent, technology (e.g. LinkedIn) offers a number of options to gain more insight into their background, competencies and interests. This is a quick and easy way to get a head start on relationship-building, no matter where the other person is located.
  2. Expand context. Even though business is the launch pad for your relationship, it’s not enough. Exploring and expanding areas that you both have in common and finding areas of complementary interest will always accelerate the relationship process. This is even more important because of the lack of a face-to-face interaction.
  3. Balance communication frequency. Early on in a relationship, more communication is better. Once the relationship stabilizes, it can be sustained with less frequent contact. Take charge of the communication process by making sure that every interaction includes a next-contact component. It’s your primary measure of relationship growth.
  4. Humanize communication. Long-distance communication is often technology-based, which can be curt, cold and over-structured. Learn to craft messages that reflect emotional content. Take the time to incorporate a personal perspective. Review your email or text message to ensure the other person feels a personal connection.
  5. Emphasize communication quality. When it comes to a long-distance relationship, the quality of your conversation will determine the trust level. Wherever possible, try to expand electronic communication by adding other options (e.g. phone, Skype) that allows you replicate the live interaction experience. Doing so will exponentially drive communication quality and have a positive impact on trust.
  6. Over-deliver. In a business-focused long-distance relationship, delivering on your commitments and obligations is the main way to earn trust. The lack of human contact needs to be counter-balanced with a strong sense of professional competency. Professional trust is the precursor to personal trust in a long-distance relationship.
  7. Contribute. Long-distance relationships require more time, investment and energy. It’s easy and convenient to simply focus on getting the job done and moving on. But this unique environment can open doors to new experiences and opportunities. Why not embrace this brave new world and seek to contribute the lives of those you connect with?

Relationships, especially professional ones, have a life cycle. They ignite, grow, peak, and then decline. Any number of reasons can contribute to a relationship’s decline: a project’s conclusion, a career transition or promotion, or maybe a geographic relocation.

But a relationship’s decline doesn’t mean it’s over; it simply means that the relationship’s context (the glue that held it together in its current form) has eroded. If you still want to leverage the relationship, use these five surefire strategies to rekindle it.

1. Information of value

Thanks to today’s wired world, you can easily keep track of others even if you’ve lost direct contact. Forwarding a relevant article with the message €œsaw this and thought of you€ will always resonate positively. And it often generates a response. This small action can have huge leverage potential in starting a conversation.

“Hey Sue. Saw this article and thought of you. Love to have a quick chat and catch up on your success.”

2. Professional connection

A change in a colleague’s professional status or position often doesn’t mean they disappear; it’s just an indication that they’ve transitioned to a different role. Staying active in your business community and attending networking events is an ideal strategy to create opportunities to re-connect with and leverage contacts who have new responsibilities.

“Hi Bill. Great seeing you. I bet your role is keeping you busy. How about a coffee or quick lunch? I’d love to hear about your new responsibilities and see how I might be helpful.”

3. Event invitation

One of the most effective strategies to renew a lapsed relationship is to invite a contact to an event. The invitation itself acts as a leverage point, but make this strategy even more impactful by ensuring the event is of interest to the person you invite. In addition, since you’re hosting your invited guest you can dictate the quality of the conversation over the course of the event.

“Hi Betty. I wanted to let you know I have an extra ticket for the Business Achievement Awards. I’d love to invite you as my guest. I think it’s an ideal opportunity for you to connect with some great professionals.”

4. Personal issue

Business relationships span much more than professional areas. They often encompass personal areas that are as (if not more) important. It can easy and enjoyable to use a personal area to re-connect and re-ignite a relationship. Often, it’s all that is required.

“Hi Ron. I wanted to let you know we skied at Whistler last week and stopped in at the Red Crescent Inn for dinner. I still remember our lunch there and how great the food was. Hope all is well at your end. I’d love to have a quick chat and catch up.”

5. Serendipitous meeting

Sometimes the universe does the work for you. All you need to do is be aware of the opportunity and leverage it into a relationship-building moment. Take control and launch the relationship by sending a short follow up note with a call to action.

“Hi Luigi. What a surprise bumping into you as I left the restaurant today! I hope your soccer team won. I was thinking it has been a while since we chatted. You up for a quick coffee? I’d love to hear about your success.”

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Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. Find out more about his programs and services at www.NetworkingForResults.com”

Linkedin represents an enormous opportunity when used effectively. Unfortunately, most professionals have no idea how to leverage this invaluable resource for optimal results. Here are my most powerful and productive strategies and tactics.

1. Focus on the highest-value connections.

For the longest time, I felt overwhelmed and intimidated every time I opened my Linkedin newsfeed. My eyes would wander endlessly and I’d wind up confused and confounded about what to do and where to go.

To help me focus I created a one-page list of the primary markets I wanted to connect with and now use this list to drive my efforts every time I visit Linkedin. This list represents the top companies I want to connect with and a profile of the typical decision maker for my services. It acts as a compass that points me in the right direction.

P.S.: It only takes five minutes to create.

2. Put your avatar on steroids.

Every time I receive a request-to-connect, the first thing I do is look at the person’s profile. It takes no more than five seconds to do, but is the basis for not only whether I will accept or reject their request, but also how I feel about them as a person. Don’t you do the same?

Your Linkedin profile is your online avatar. It shapes the perception of your professionalism and your value. Use the inverted writing style to help visitors zero in on who you do business with and what your value is to them. They should be able to do this without scrolling down.

P.S.: Most won’t.

3. Reach out.

In the past, when I received a request-to-connect, I’d usually accept if the requestor’s profile had any semblance of professionalism. What happened next was€¦absolutely nothing. Is that what you do?

I remember thinking €œThere has to be a reason why this person reached out to me.€ So I decided to start asking. After agreeing to connect, I now send a brief message asking why the person invited me to connect. I’ve been amazed at the responses.

P.S.: I dare you to try it.

4. Reach in.

I use to think of Linkedin as a numbers game. I was singularly focused to building new Linkedin connections. After all, isn’t a key point of Linkedin creating new connections in specific markets and with new professionals?

Don’t be afraid to leverage your existing connections. Many of your connections end up being past contacts and clients. It’s inevitable we lose touch with some of them, but Linkedin lets you stay aware of their journey and progress. In fact, it can act as the perfect vehicle to re-connect.

P.S.: Who should you reach in to today?

5. Think strategy not sales.

The majority of Linkedin users are business and sales professionals. They understand and appreciate the culture of networking. Yet, when interacting online, many lose their sense of perspective and propriety, misconstruing a connection as a buying signal.

Whether online or face-to-face, a connection is not equal to a relationship. Online connections are simply the first step in building a relationship. Relationships take time, need to be nurtured and require investment.

P.S.: How long is your sales cycle?

6. Start conversations.

Too often, we want to jump right into sales mode after a brief introductory exchange with a new Linked connection. I know I used to. Then I realized that we buy people first, ideas next and things last. Now I focus on building a relationship first.

Online, there is lack of human dynamic. I call it relationship inertia. To move a relationship forward online, start by using Linked in for small information exchanges that get the relationship pendulum swinging back and forth. It doesn’t take long for momentum to build.

P.S.: Isn’t that the way it works?

7. Let’s talk.

Online interactions can be cold, overly structured and one-sided. The lack of human dynamic tends to focus on a one-way communication style that can be misinterpreted. After all, you can’t see the other person so your words will always be filtered through the other person’s perspective.

One of the secrets to building powerful and productive relationships is the ability to bridge from the online environment to a live conversation, which exponentially drives the relationship process. When two humans connect and communicate, all is possible.

P.S.: Isn’t it about people?

Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. To get more info about his services or to have him speak at your next meeting or conference, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com”

Have you thought about what is takes to be the best? Being the ‘best’ is a relative term and can apply to any company irrespective of its industry, scope or size. Here are some characteristics that (in my mind) define being the best. These are based on my recent experiences in working with, or interacting with, the ‘best’.

Presentation. In every experience with these ‘best’ companies, I was overwhelmed by the visual impact. From exterior views to interior decor to intimate detail, the presentation was exquisite and extraordinary. This sense of visual impact was consistent throughout my entire experience in each case when involved with a ‘best’ company. The resulting emotions I remember most vividly were feelings of security and well-being. In a word, I felt comfortable.

What do you do in the areas of personal and professional presentation to demonstrate that your colleagues, clients and contacts are dealing with the best?

Quality. Plasma screen television instead of the standard model. Snacks shaped like golf tees. Fresh orange juice delivered to the room each morning. A high-quality, monogrammed decal produced and delivered within minutes. A choice of the finest wines. Fairways groomed to perfection. A patio bar that can be accessed from both inside and outside the house (this was my favorite). Your choice of newspaper delivered to your room. Each ‘best’ company delivered a quality experience that left me with an unbelievable, lasting effect.

What do you do to produce a quality experience for colleagues, clients and contacts as they interact with you and your company

Value. As a business concept, value is both a pre-requisite for, and a passport to, increased fees and additional profits. As consumers, we seek value. In fact, we are prepared to pay more once we have established value. Each ‘best’ company contact delivered value that not only justified price, it made it (to a certain extent) irrelevant. Communicating value was an integral part of the experience as we were informed about the various items, from explaining how to use the plasma TV to the purpose of a runner as part of our golf foursome to spot our drives and rake the sand traps. And in every case, these ‘best’ companies confirmed that we realized the value we received. What a concept!!

What do you do to deliver value to colleagues, clients and contacts, and how do you confirm they understand and appreciate what they have received?

Impact. I am convinced that a key to attaining and maintaining ‘best’ company status is to continuously strive to deliver high impact in the three areas identified above. My recollection of every best company experience includes the impact of the presentation, the quality and the value. Whether the impact was visual, visceral or value-based, it had an impact that will stay with me for a long time. P.S.: I now measure other experiences on a scale that is based on the impact these supplied.

What are your ding in your everyday activities that will deliver a high-impact experience for colleagues, clients and contacts?

Want to discuss how you or your company can “be the best”. Contact me at info@NetworkingForResults.com”

Professional relationships are the foundation of future success. Are you clear on the companies, contacts and criteria required to achieve this by strategically and proactively seeking out, and investing in, relationships with the right people, in the right organizations, for the right reasons?

The most dangerous time in a relationship is when you take it for granted. This causes you to overstep your bounds, overstay your welcome or abuse your trust. Continuously check your ego and your emotions, asking yourself “whose motives will this action best serve?”

From the desk of Michael J. Hughes, North America’s Networking Guru. It’s time to assess where we’re going for 2012. Here’s my take on the top networking-related trends for the coming year.

  1. Return of F2F. The explosion of interest and involvement in social networks has, in many cases, only served to confuse the marketplace about products or services. There is a resurgence of face-to-face contact as a powerful, productive business strategy. In fact, face-to-face networking is now considered a “differentiator” that uses the human dynamic to positively impact context and credibility.

    STRATEGY: for more success in 2012, implement a bi-weekly networking strategy that allows you to connect directly with your highest-value clients and prospects.

  2. Rise of the machine. Having stated the above, there is to question that social networks have become an integral, necessary component of a personal marketing strategy. You cannot afford not to be visible and active online. However,  as social networks have matured, it has become obvious that their true benefit is not as an either-or networking option, but as a compliment and contributor to accelerating client and professional relationships.

    STRATEGY: In 2012, make it a priority to get online, get educated and get active.  Networking is now a holistic strategy that incorporates both online and offline activities as part of the relationship-building process.

  3. Confirming networking ROI. Today’s competitive marketplace is forcing professionals to justify every investment. Joining a group or attending events without a proper plan and solid evidence of results is no longer acceptable. The opportunity cost in both time and resources is just too high. The good news is that networking is still your highest-return leverage strategy when used effectively.

    STRATEGY: In 2012, invest more time and effort planning and preparing for networking success. Develop clear objectives and measure your progress on a monthly, even weekly basis.

  4. Personalized value. The old adage of unique value as a benefit area is dead, as is the over-used analogy of being better by supplying added value. The new competitive difference lies in creating a value premise (or package) customized to each client’s situation and/or needs. The shift from delivering a value statement to discovering the value gap, and having prospects see you as the bridge, has now become your most important networking tactic.

    STRATEGY: In 2012, commit to changing your networking paradigm from a self-focused agenda and make it “all about them.” I consider this trend and corresponding strategy a critical success factor in the coming year.

  5. The relationship factor. Professionals, entrepreneurs and corporate managers agree that relationships are the basis for success in business and in life. Creating and nurturing relationships in today’s matrix-oriented, the technology-driven world is now a required skill. Relationship-management is a social process that can be learned and managed. Networking, with its capacity to ignite and accelerate relationships, is the perfect resource for our time.

    STRATEGY: In 2012, invest in building your networking skills. Your survival and future success depend on it.

  6. Collaboration nation. The idea of being a unique entity is fast fading into the sunset. Consumers are now in the driver’s seat, with more options and opportunities than ever before. The business world is now a buyer’s market. How can you offset this shift in positioning and power? Networking creates connections and builds relationships. Entrepreneurs and business professionals are more open than ever to collaborate with trusted partners for mutual gain.

    STRATEGY: In 2012, instead of seeing competitors at networking events or in the marketplace, explore how you both can benefit from working together.

  7. Adapt, expand, innovate. We are in an age that defines constant change as “the new normal.” Geographic boundaries have disappeared, generational disparities complicate our lives and the lines between work and home seem to be blurring. Rather than lamenting this brave new world, why not use 2012 to embrace it?

    STRATEGY: Adapt your networking behaviour and tactics for this new environment, expand your networking reach by taking on new roles or adopting new resources, and commit to networking innovation.

BONUS: Here’s one final item on networking-related trends. Recent surveys confirm that, even with our expanded connectivity and the explosion of online activity, many people are feeling an increase in their sense of loneliness. Fight the urge to sit in front of your computer, perceiving that sending out requests-to-connect is networking. The real connections are waiting for you at the next networking event.

What’s your take on these trends? I’d love to hear your comments. Email me at info@NetworkingForResults.com”

From the desk of Michael J. Hughes, North America’s Networking Guru. Every time I sit down with a professional and discuss her/his success, we invariably zero in on a few key relationships that have been instrumental, even invaluable, during the journey. Initially, these are referred to as accidental or attributed to luck.

Further discussion, however, identifies a number of fundamental factors that created, caused or contributed to the outcome. A few years ago, as part of my networking research, I stumbled upon a body of knowledge surrounding the role networks play in our universe and our lives.

Networks are all around us and are governed by universal laws. Becoming more aware of these “secret” network laws and harnessing their incredible potential can dramatically accelerate your ability to succeed in business and in life. Listed below are the Seven Natural Laws of Networks and a practical strategy for each.

I- Law of Consistency. Networks are scientific entities that have specific and predictable properties. Strategy: Become more aware of the power and potential of your networks (the “real” network of contact, colleague and client relationships that are all around you). They are your most powerful and productive asset.

II- Law of Interconnectivity. Every link in a network is automatically connected, directly or indirectly, to all other links by virtue of the network itself. Strategy: Your network is waiting to serve you. Be crystal clear about what it is you want and need, then communicate it consistently to your network.

III- Law of Random Growth. Networks are in a continuous state of random growth. Strategy: your network is growing every day. In the world of networks, there are no accidents. Are you seeing each new contact as the launch pad for a relationship that will become your path to future success?

IV- Law of Strength in Weak Ties. New network connections can often have more power to impact results than existing ones. Strategy: make it a point to seek and out and nurture new contacts. These people only see you in the context of your current situation (instead of all the history that may be hindering a new role or mandate)

V- Law of Preferred Attachment. Some network connections, because of their positioning, maturity or influence, have far greater impact within a network. Strategy: Not all relationships are created equal. Identify the highest-value connections in your network, then prioritize your time and effort on these.

VI- Law of Context. The context of a network connection generally dictates its strength and positioning. Strategy: the foundational success factor of every important relationship is trust. Context (sense of familiarity, comfort and security with another person) is the easiest and most effective way to build trust.

VII- Law of Natural growth. Relationship-related networks follow the natural evolution process: slow start, rapid growth and steady decline (unless renewed). Strategy: Relationships take time, require investment and need to be nurtured. You must take full responsibility for growing the relationships that enter your life as networking contacts.

Would you like to know more about the Natural Laws of Networks? I have created a 10-page Executive Overview on this topic that has detailed information and specific resources to leverage each. Simply email me at info@NetworkingForResults.com to receive your complimentary copy.

From the desk of Michael J. Hughes, Canada’s Networking Guru. A long time acquaintance contacted me, asking if I could deliver a presentation on change management. It was beyond me that he would request I speak on this topic, given my on-going investment in promoting myself as a networking expert. The annoying part for me was that we’ve been colleagues for over 25 years. We worked in similar capacities at a previous employer. We’ve had conversations about our respective careers. And still, he wasn’t clear.

I did want to be helpful so, before replying, I contacted a colleague, asking if she knew anyone who might have expertise about this subject. She quickly responded that this topic was, in fact, her area of specialty. I had no idea. We were close colleagues and I thought I had a good grasp on her area of expertise. What a revelation!!!

Too often, we take for granted that those closest to us know what we do and why they should hire or refer us. We’re mystified when they don’t. When was the last time you gave those closest to you the opportunity to gain (or re-gain) more insight and information about your value?

Here are three proven, practical strategies that can accomplish this.

Share success stories: prepare “good news” updates to share with colleagues and clients, especially in response to the question “What’s new?” This information relays your success, speaks to a specific market sector and reminds these important contacts of your core value.

Supply free samples: everyone likes a free sample. Make sure you include your highest-value relationships when you think of this strategy. Offer to send them white papers, new product samples or include them in your information updates. It will make them feel special and act as a reminder of the value areas you represent.

Invite them to participate in your offerings. There is no more powerful strategy to get others to act on your behalf than to allow them to experience the value you represent. Invite them to a seminar, allow them to attend an event you’re hosting or supply them with a ticket to that special offering. This is the single most effective strategy I have used to get others to promote and/or hire me.