7 Tips for getting the most from One-to-One Networking meetings.
By Gery L. Deer, CEO
At GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd., we spend a great deal of time on the subject of business networking because of the important role it plays in the overall success of a business, whether it’s the owner of a small mom-and-pop shop or the lead sales executive for a fortune 500, it’s all about who you know – and, more than ever, how you got to know them. Networking is one of the three most important aspects of your business marketing plan. Along with Advertising and Public Relations, it makes up what GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. refers to as *The Marketing Triad.™ But simply attending a networking group meeting or chamber event is only the beginning of a successful networking plan. Yes, you read that right, a “networking plan.”
When we think of networking, it’s generally associated with standing around making small talk with people at a chamber of commerce after hours or attending a weekly business group function. It seems a bit random because you never know who you’re going to meet and what will become of those connections later. The thing to remember however is that you have ultimate control over your networking and it should be carefully planned, with defined goals and careful execution.
As we discuss in The Marketing Triad workshop and videos, networking is the least expensive but must time consuming part of your marketing activity. Long-term success requires commitment and effort, along with the desire to be a good resource for the other person as much as you want them to be that way for you. BNI calls this “Givers Gain,” but whatever the terminology, you must have a genuine willingness to be a partner to the other person. The end goal is always the same, to make connections that will turn into lifelong, mutually beneficial resources, and sometimes, friends.
Speaking of friends, it should go without saying that your goal here should be to build business relationships, not simply to be a social butterfly, bouncing from café to café discussing your kids’ soccer achievements.
So, to be effective, your one-to-one should be a mix of structured business and social discussion. Keep your focus on the goal, however, discuss networking circles that create natural referral sources for each other and collaborative partnerships. The social aspects of these activities will present themselves naturally. Keep your eyes on the prize, as they say.
And it’s unlikely you will have a need or reason to connect with everyone you encounter in your networking. Create a “most wanted” list of those contacts you’d like to get to know better.
Here are 7 tips for getting the most out of your One-to-One time.
1.Choosing When and Where. Set a time and location for your meeting that creates the least amount of stress on scheduling and offers the least possibility for disruption. We’re all incredibly busy and sometimes it might seem that a breakfast or lunch meeting is the best option to schedule a one-to-one.
However, and this is going to be an incredibly unpopular statement, do your best to avoid meeting over meals. Squeezing in a sit-down with someone over lunch might sound like a good idea from a scheduling standpoint, but the process of ordering and then eating can take up valuable time. And, let’s face it, no one wants to try to talk while chewing. Again, minimize distractions.
One final recommendation, unless it cannot be avoided, it might be best for first-time one-to-one meetings to take place outside of the office. Yes, it’s great to give people a look at where you work and how you do business, but there’s also more opportunity for interruption. Your second and third sessions, about 4-6 weeks apart, would be a great opportunity to meet at your respective places of business.
2.Exchange Basic Information. If your One-to-One partner is a new acquaintance, it might be a good idea to exchange a bit of preliminary information beforehand. Going into a meeting like this can be less stressful and far more productive with a bit of background on each other.
Create a short bio sheet that can be emailed ahead of time. Include information like what kinds of jobs you have had before, how long you’ve been in your current position, maybe a bit about your family and personal interests, and what kinds of referrals or partnerships might be a good fit for you.
3.Define an Agenda. One-to-One meetings have two possible outcomes, either they’re incredibly productive or they’re an unbelievable waste of time. Take the time to list three or four goals for the meeting. For example, maybe you’d like to learn about your partner’s business goals for this year or what other networking opportunities they would recommend. Just as long as you have a plan of attack for the meeting.
And remember, focus on them, not you. Don’t be the “talker,” the one who jabbers throughout the entire hour with no direction, goals, or respect for the other person’s time.
4.Set A Time Limit. It’s always fun to be so engaged in talking that you lose track of time. But, just to reiterate, we’re all very busy and most of us do not have time to waste. Setting a time limit for your meeting will keep things on task and get everyone back to their day in a timely, more focused manner.
Ideally, these meetings should not exceed one hour, but 90 minutes would still be OK. The problem is that the more time you have allotted, the less likely you are to stick to your purpose and goals. Put a stopwatch on it and set a hard-stop time.
5.Ask Questions &Take Notes. Go to your meeting armed with a pen and paper. Have some questions ready before you go to your meeting, personal and professional. What do they do for fun? Where did they go to school? And so on. Write down those bits of information that will help you to help them. Keep an ink and paper or digital notebook on your one-to-ones. Take note of the date, time, and location of your meetings and any highlights of the discussion.
Here are some great questions to include in your discussion:
- How did you get into your business/career?
- What do you like about your work?
- What makes you stand out from your competitors?
- Have you celebrated any milestones recently? (Awards, recognition, years in business, etc.)
- What kinds of customers/business are you focusing on?
6.Turn Off Your Phone. Be respectful of your meeting partner’s time and attention. Turn your phone off and put it away, that means any other electronics as well. If you take notes better on a computer or tablet, then turn off your device’s Wi-Fi receiver so you won’t be distracted by incoming messaging, emails and notifications.
7.Follow Up with a Thank You. Sometime within 24 hours of your meeting, send a “thank you” note via email or even mail a hand-written one to your one-to-one partner. The note should convey sincerity and appreciation for his or her time.
These are just a few suggestions to help your One-to-One meeting time be more productive. There are many other pieces to this puzzle that can turn your networking time from wasteful to profitable.
For more help with building Networking Success, read our special publications on Networking with Confidence, or contact Gery L. Deer, at GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. 937-902-4857 / email firstname.lastname@example.org
*The Marketing Triad.™ Is a product of GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd., all content and concepts are copyright, 2017, Gery L. Deer. All rights reserved.
(c) 2017 GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd.