Monday, March 17, 2014

Small Business Tips from “People in the Know” Part 4 ~ Networking and Business Presentations

Tips to Help Your Small Business Succeed
Running a small business requires a lot of time, effort, and resources.  You are responsible for everything from the initial conception to the day-to-day operations.  Getting some help along the way can make that task a little easier.

In Part 4 of our series on Small Business Tips, we have gathered information on how 
strategic Networking and 
skilled business presentations 
can help You put your business 
in the best light.  
(If you have missed any of the previous installments in this series, click on these links; Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Strong Networking & Public Speaking Skills ~ Vital to Your Small Business  "Tweet This"

Networking is something that all small business owners do at one time or another.  Whether it is informally or as part of a networking group, making connections with others is essential to our growth.

Many times the word “networking” can bring up less than favorable images.  We may think of it as the “hard sell” where we need to be “on” and ready to pitch.  This is an antiquated view.

Real networking involves more listening than talkingFinding out about other businesses ~ their goals, needs, and problems ~ should always be at the forefront.  Only then can we determine if what we offer will be of real help. 

Sheryl Johnson is the founder of BD-PRo Marketing Solutions (*Source1).  Her goal is to help Small Business owners develop a sound networking strategy designed to grow their business.

Sheryl is also one of the co-founders of the only networking group to which I currently belong, The Inn Group.  Her relaxed but effective approach has made networking a much less daunting prospect.

Here are Sheryl’s Three Tips to Boost Your Networking Effectiveness:
  • Turn Your “Pitch” into a “Promise” ~ When you meet people it is a common practice to answer the question “what do you do?” with the infamous elevator “pitch” which can come across as “salesy” and impersonal. Instead, think in terms of a “promise”. Your “promise” should be positioned to share what you can do FOR someone. It should be less about you and more about how you can help the person you are talking to. This will come across more personal and genuine to the person you are talking to and open the door for further discussion.
  • Collect Fewer Business Cards and Have More Meaningful Conversations ~ Many times people measure networking success by the number of business cards they collect at an event. If you can’t match a face to the card then you probably didn’t have a meaningful and memorable conversation. Having a significant conversation with 3-4 people at an event will produce greater results while networking because you are building relationships rather than collecting contacts. Cultivating relationships is key to networking success.  
  • Qualify Your Conversations for More Productive Follow-up ~ Most people flop the follow-up in networking because they are meeting a ton of people, have collected a boatload of business cards and frankly don’t have time to follow-up with so many people. You don’t have to follow-up with everyone you meet but you do need to follow-up with the right people. As you are having more meaningful conversations with fewer people, you next need to qualify the conversations you have to prioritize your follow-up. You should assess your conversations based on how much rapport you have and to what extent you can help the person you are talking to, then you can follow-up as needed with a specific action. You may find you don’t have any reason to follow-up with someone, so don’t.

You can find more tips on Networking from Sheryl Johnson and BD-PRo Marketing Solutions on her site and in her Network PRo Toolkit.  This kit is a great guide with resources and concrete steps to elevate your networking skills to help grow your business.

There is no doubt that having the skill to speak in public is not everyone’s strong suit.  Many times it is easy to lose your train of thought or simply be unable to keep an audience’s interest.  

However, every Small Business owner will, at one time or another, have to talk about their business.  It may be at a presentation for a prospective client or even at a meeting where they have been asked to speak.  Having some tips on how to do it right can help.  

That is where Marla Zemanek of “Write My Speech” (*Source2) comes in.  Marla’s goal is to guide others on how to organize, write, and present a memorable speech so that they are “confident, credible, and focused”.  

Marla’s Top Tips:
  • When Networking or Talking about Your Biz Informally: Make Direct Eye Contact with Members of Your Audience ~ When you want to drive home a point or influence key people, hold the contact for 5 seconds.
  • Use Humor, Stories and Personal Experiences to make your talk more interesting and memorable.
  • Begin Your Speech with a Quote, Story, Interesting Fact, or a Startling Statistic – not “Hi, my name is Joe and my speech is about…”.  For example ~ (and this is something I used to do): "Did you realize that your home could be a toxic waste site? The average home today contains 62 toxic chemicals. I have a business helping people get rid of those kinds of products and start using safe green products. I recently talked to a woman whose tropical birds died. She told me she cleaned her mini blinds and 5 minutes later came back to discover her birds were dead. I asked her what she used and she said Lysol. I told her Lysol is a pesticide. She didn't realize how dangerous it was." So while looking the person in the eye, I used a startling fact to get her attention, then told what I do (not a title), then shared a quick story that shows I know what I'm talking about and that will create a lasting impression. This is what develops business.
Bonus Tips:
  • Keep It Simple ~ People aren’t motivated by what you say; they’re motivated by what they understand. The best way to ensure audience understanding is to break down complex ideas into simple components.
  • Find Out as Much as You Can about Your Audience ~ and then customize your presentation.  Your audience will feel cared about. This will generate valuable good will, which is especially crucial when you're delivering hostile or controversial information.
  • Plan and Practice a Strong Introduction ~ People make judgments about you based on the first 4 minutes they observe you.
  • Avoid Sounding Self-Centered or Self-Serving (unless the topic calls for it) ~ Use 10 “YOUs” for every “I.”
  • Practice Your Presentation out Loud ~ The way it comes out when you vocalize it is nothing like the way it sounds in your head. This practice will also help you gauge how long each section will take
  • Have a Backup Plan in case Your Technology (ie, PowerPoint) Fails ~ You may have to present from memory and without a single visual tool if you don't.

Marla's tips are sure to help You capture your audience, beat your nerves, and make you a more successful speaker.

Getting more comfortable with 
networking and public speaking 
is a great step towards helping you 
get the word out about your business.  
The key is to put yourself out there.  
After all, you know what you have to offer 
so now it is time to let others know too....
and these tips are sure to help!

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*Source1 ~ Sheryl Johnson, BD-PRo Marketing Solutions
*Source2 ~ Marla Zemanek, LinkedIn

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