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Make the Most of Networking

By: Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

Patricia Fripp CSP,CPAE is a San Francisco-based professional speaker on Change, Teamwork, Customer Service, Promoting Business, and Communication Skills. She is also a speech coach and author of Get What You Want! and Past-President of the National Speakers Association. Sign up for her free ezine www.fripp.com/speaking_newsletter.html PFripp@fripp.com.

Networking is indispensable these days, but if you go to business events and no one remembers you afterward, you've wasted your time. Such contacts only work if you make yourself memorable.

Happily, this does not mean you have to arrive on a pogo stick or be loud and boisterous. Here are some strategies that let you walk into a room with quiet self-assurance, confident that people will enjoy meeting you and recall you afterwards.

Arrive looking your best. If you are having a busy day before going to a business meeting, keep a change of clothes in your office or car so you can walk in unwrinkled.

"Work" your name tag. We're all more likely to retain information that we see and hear at the same time, so wear your name tag up on your shoulder. That way, people can read it as they hear you say your name. Some women put their name tags down on their handbags or in the most amazing places. Put it where people aren't afraid to look!

Develop a distinctive "signature." Men can wear ties that people will comment on. An investment banker I know wears a money tie. In business groups, I stand out because I wear a hat. When people are asked, "Do you know Patricia Fripp?" the usual reply is, "Yes, she's the one who always wears hats." Of course, if hats suddenly become mandatory fashion, I'd go bareheaded to get noticed.

Develop an unforgettable greeting. When you introduce yourself, don't just say your name and your job title. Instead, start by describing what you do for people. A financial planner says, "I help rich people sleep at night." One of my responses is, "I make conventions and sales meetings more exciting." Almost invariably, my new friend has to ask, "How do you do that?" Immediately I get to market myself: "You know how companies have meetings that are supposed to be stimulating, but they're usually dull and boring? Well, I present practical ideas in an entertaining way so people stay awake, have a good time and get the company's message. My name is Patricia Fripp, and I'm a professional speaker." People remember the vivid pictures you create in their minds more than the words you say.

Overcome any shyness. If you feel uncomfortable at organized events, volunteer to be a greeter. You stand there with a label that says "Greeter" next to your name tag, and you have a specific job. "How do you do? I'm Chris Carter. Nice to meet you. Name tags are here. Food is there. How do you do? I'm Chris Carter. Nice to meet you." Soon you start feeling like the host of a party. You've broken the ice with lots of people, so it will be easier to approach and talk to them later. Look for opportunities to be helpful at such events. I attended a Leukemia Society charity lunch and fashion show which was a funs raiser for a friend. My goal was to be emcee. They had never thought of having one, but I offered some suggestions and I was dressed for the part, offered to do it. My friend and her husband, experts at fund-raising events loved their idea!! I was highly visible, always feel more comfortable with a 'job' at any event, and my friends looked like heroes.

Greet everyone. Don't ignore people you recognize if you've forgotten their name. Smile and ask a provocative question like "What is the most exciting thing that's happened to you since we met?" "What is your biggest recent success?" or "What are you most looking forward to?" And never feel afraid to say, "The last time we met, we had such a great conversation. Will you remind me what your name is?" My friend Susan RoAne tells people, "Forgive me for forgetting your name. Since I passed forty, it's hard to remember my own."

Follow up. Always send a note or brochure the next day to the people you have met. Keep their cards, and make notes of what you said in case you meet them at another event.

These are all positive, pleasant, easy ways to be memorable. Get the most out of your networking time and energy by making yourself worth remembering!

© Copyright, 2002, Patricia Fripp

Other Articles by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

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