by MSM Coaching on 25th February 2013

OK, so we're pretty unanimous that networking is a highly effective way of gaining business and finding suppliers. However there's still the issue of that period of open networking which you want to work well for you - how to best go about that?

Well, I'm a great believer in listening and whilst, you are of course heading into a networking meeting to pitch your own business, you'd be absolutely amazed what there is to learn if you listen. Listen to what others are saying. Don't feign interest, be interested! Not only will you learn a huge amount about different businesses but probably also a considerable amount about the networking group as a whole. By listening rather than pitching, you'll learn a lot about the individual you're talking to and you'll be able to decide whether this is someone worth getting together with for a subsequent one to one meeting. And should it so happen that they disappear over the horizon, the instant they've finished telling you all about themselves and their business without learning anything at all about you and yours, don't be put out. You've just learned an awful lot about them. Take note, not umbrage.

My conviction is always that the benefit you get from networking is in direct proportion to how well you're able to package your business. If you are unable to wrap up what you offer in a nice neat verbal package then people simply won't remember it, they certainly won't be able to take it away with them and refer you on to a third party.

Into this package you don't have to cram everything you do - try that and you'll defeat your own purpose. You simply need to put into a simple sentence or two, your main business message. When I coach clients on this, we take it right back to basics and build from there. You need to make that message succinct yet memorable isolating your unique selling points - what makes you different from competitors who do the same thing as you. It's often surprising how, even working with very well-established businesses I'll find that along the way they've simply neglected to spend time on the clarity of their message. And an unclear business message is an opportunity missed!

The other networking bugbear that rears its ugly head is the 'elevator pitch', how to stand up at meetings and deliver a minute on your business, conveying your message in ways that are similar enough for people to learn exactly who you are but different enough at subsequent meetings to prevent them glazing over.

Standing and presenting a successful elevator pitch depends a lot on good preparation, it also brings us on to the issue of speaking in public. Public speaking is an issue for so many people at so many different levels - I've worked with some pretty high-powered executives who pale at the thought of giving even a short presentation, so you're not alone - although take heart, there are any number of methods for calming your nerves and honing your presentation to RSC standards!

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