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.

From the desk of Michael J. Hughes, Canada’s Networking Guru.

The approach of Valentine’s Day always revives the interest in, and the impact of, my good friend Cupid. For those of you who may unbelievably still be blissfully unaware, Cupid is a mythological winged cherub who acts as a catalyst for romance. His escapades are well-documented. He surprises unsuspecting couples, stabbing them with his invisible, love-laced arrows. Once Cupid has awakened this emotion, the two parties involved see one another in a completely different light. Their mutual attraction is almost overwhelming. Is this a myth that we should simply discard, or is it fact? Let’s take a look at how life operates.

You attend a networking event. A conversation partner, whom you’ve been more or less putting in time with until someone better comes along, mentions, almost off-handedly, that he has a strong connection with a prospect you really want to meet. Your attention snaps back to this person and you immediately see him in a different light; it’s almost as if you’ve been prodded in a Cupid-esc fashion to see the value in the other person.

You are about to leave your association’s monthly meeting when a colleague you barely know approaches with another person in tow. She introduces her contact, adding some comments about an event that her conversation partner has mentioned. She is adamant about the urgency that the two of you connect, as she feels you have the perfect topic to present at their next conference. You look at her, shocked and overwhelmed by this unexpected act. Her Cupid-esc networking strategy has given you a sudden, incredible appreciation for her value, both as a professional and as a person.

I believe our friend Cupid is continually at work in our lives. This time of year brings to the surface the powerful effect the Cupid Factor has, when applied strategically. An unselfish act, done to support or strengthen a relationship, always leaves both people enriched. How can you put the Cupid Factor to work as you network in coming days and weeks?

  • Increase your awareness of the Cupid Factor, and trust in its effect. You will immediately see opportunities that you never thought existed.
  • Become a Cupid by consciously investing time and effort to discover whom others want and need to connect with as you network.
  • Create networking Cupid-esc connections with others. Simply setting this principle in motion produces unexpected and unanticipated results, for yourself as well as your Cupid Factor targets.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Well over 95% of professionals who attend my networking seminars and workshops admit that they have a problem remembering names. Most people realize that using someone’s name is beneficial, yet just about everyone admits this is something they don’t do well.

Remembering someone’s name is a fast way to establish rapport by making the other person feel important. Just about everyone knows this. So why is it that we can’t remember names?

The issue has more to do with timing and value than anything else. Remembering names is not easy, particularly during an introduction when focus is on eye contact, smiling, shaking hands, and stating names.

Here are some ideas to help you be more effective at remembering names.

Increase your awareness. Most people are not aware that the main reason they cannot remember names is due to the timing of the information. By increasing your awareness you will tend to listen better and remember more.

Recognize the impact of names. Remembering and using a person’s name is one of the simplest and most powerful ways of building trust. We love the sound of our own name and hearing it out loud makes us feel warm and comfortable.

Increase the value of a name. If the person were a long-lost cousin who was going to leave you a million dollars, would you remember his/her name? By focusing on the value of the other person, you will remember her/his it more easily.

Get into the habit of remembering names. Remembering a name is simply developing the ability to retain information at a more conscious level. Developing the discipline of consciously retaining this information really helps.

Focus only on the first name. Instead of trying to download and remember both a person’s first and last name, try to initially focus on just the other person’s first name. This simplifies the process and allows you to reap the benefits with half the pressure.

Repeat the name. Finding a way to repeat the person’s name within the first few seconds of hearing it is an excellent way of helping lock this information into your longer-term memory. Adding the name to your first question increases your chance of remembering.

Relate the name. Relate the other person’s name to someone in your personal database. As you think through your list of contacts or friends, you will identify better with it. Mentioning “I have a sister named Sue will help you greatly.

Associate the name. Sometimes it is easier to try and associate the other person’s name to some physical object or issue. Associating the name to their profession (Len the lawyer) or a physical attribute (Harry has a hairy beard) can be helpful.

Use tools. Look at the person’s name tag, ask for a business card then keep it in your hand to refer to while speaking or listening. In fact, asking for a business card at the first opportunity can easily eliminate the whole name issue.

Accept reality. Accept the fact that you will never be able to remember every name you hear. When you forget someone’s name, simply apologize, ask for their name again and use one of the techniques above to help retain the name.

Do you have additional tactics to remember names? I’d love to see them so we can add them to the list.

Many people believe the upcoming holiday season means networking becomes unproductive. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, holiday networking is one of the most effective strategies for accelerating business results.

Too many professionals see the non-business emphasis of events such as Christmas parties, gift exchanges or formal holiday banquets as a waste of time. They either skip them entirely or skip out early, once they feel they’ve made the show of being there.

The dichotomy of business networking is that it’s about developing relationships, not driving revenues. Doing business with others is, in fact, a by-product of relationships. So participating in holiday events is an opportunity to develop more and deeper context with clients, colleagues and contacts, and accelerating your chances for success.

Here are five strategies to maximize holiday networking.

Embrace these events. They are powerful and productive relationship-building experiences due to the shift in focus from business to personal areas. Meeting spouses, asking about family or sharing holiday plans are excellent opportunities to demonstrate you care and develop new areas of interest. And people are naturally more open about these areas at this time of year.

Prepare for holiday networking success. Discover who will be in attendance that you might want to meet or connect with. Can you arrange to sit with an influential colleague or key prospect? Remember, investing an evening with someone, especially when it focuses on personal areas, creates an incredible connection. What better way to jumpstart your revenues for the new year?

Maximize the holiday networking process. Accept that this is not a night off, it’s one of your most important and effective business development activities when used properly. Be on your best behaviour; limit (or better yet, abstain from) alcohol intake; keep conversation topics positive; watch your table manners; respect your table partners. And lastly, make this an evening to remember for those around you. You will then be remembered.

Accept that business is secondary. Put business on the back burner. You will, of course, be asked what you do. Have a strategic and succinct positioning statement prepared and ready, But resist the temptation to expand on your product or discuss your company. Rather, ask for a business card or your conversation partner’s contact info and suggest you will follow up after the event. That way, you won’t bore others and keep the focus in the right place.

Follow up after the event. It is proper etiquette to thank the host/hostess. Send a personalized note or call to thank the person for inviting you, even if it’s a company event. Express appreciation and compliment something relating to the event. This should be done within 48 hours. And don’t forget to contact those people you connected with, They’re waiting for your call. Use the common interest areas you discovered to create additional contact.

Holiday networking is an excellent opportunity to renew relationships and create new ones. They hold incredible potential when used wisely. What ideas or insights do you have to help others maximize networking during the upcoming holiday season?