How comfortable are you at networking meetings? Can you enter a room of strangers and confidently introduce yourself to people? Or do you do what I am so skilled at doing - slipping into the room just as the membership is taking their seats for lunch or dinner, carefully calculating the end of the cocktail portion of the event to avoid the awkward "walk-up introduction?"
The professional networking meetings are a terrific place to self-promote, but there are others just as effective. Here is secret advice on becoming the best self-promoter at a variety of promotion opportunities.
1. The Professional Networking Association Meetings - "The Soft Sell"
They come in two flavors: a) those composed of buyers and referrals to your product or service; b) those composed of your contemporaries and competitors.
My favorite was always (a) because that meant I was using the group to build sales. The invested time had a financial payoff.
In those groups I would quickly volunteer to be a greeter so that I would have a role and a purpose for interacting with the members other than just pitching my company. It would give me an identity other than my work identity. I would become a human being first, serving and facilitating within the group. This approach takes the edge off of self-promotion, and actually puts the member in the position of asking you what you do for a living.
If you can get on the board of directors, do so. In fact, you may want to volunteer for a job that is the most difficult to fill - like writing for the newsletter - insuring your nomination for a board position. Once on the board, you are recognized by the entire membership, and so is your company. You are even viewed as an expert in your field with board appointment.
2. Fundraising Groups - "The No-Sell Personal Promotion Campaign"
It is great to join a fundraising association and volunteer your time for a worthy cause. The results of volunteer work are twofold: a) you contribute to the common good, an activity that Benjamin Franklin insisted was the duty of every American; and, b) you get to showcase your talents and your personality.
You will find that lasting business and personal relationships are established through fundraising projects. When you're involved in these efforts, people exchange information about each other's backgrounds in a casual way. People evaluate each other as people first, followed by an evaluation of their work efforts. This opens the door for people to consider calling on you for your professional services for their businesses.
3. Dinner Parties and Social Gatherings - "Hard Sell with a Soft Touch"
Hosts and hostesses of dinner parties and social gatherings typically organize these events with the intention of their guests networking. Have hip-pocket stories available to tell that display some prowess you have at your work, or that encourages conversation among the guests with a philosophical point of view.
Definitely bring lots of business cards. Don't mistake a social gathering of related industry professionals for a social gathering. The underpinning of these events is for long-term business development. This goal is heavily veiled in five course meals and tray passed hors'deuvres. But you need to look your best, and be your best at these times. You are the main course under glass.
People find self-promotion tough because we think we have to be our own sideshow barkers. When in fact, all we have to do is use a little slight-of-hand to magically transform a standard marketing tool experience, the human gathering, into a human experience of service and contribution.
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Judy Weigle is the author of My Office Is A 3-Ring Circus! She is an expert
speaker, podcaster, and writer on the subjects of career, change, fear,
and repositioning. Feed the lions at her website www.circusoutthere.com
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