June 24, 2024
Annapolis, US 80 F

Happy New Year, Happy Networking! Tips for Breaking the Ice and Building Better Relationships


Photo by Visual Tag Mx from Pexels

Happy New Year everyone! May I hopefully be the last to wish you a blessed 2022. Although let’s be honest – we will probably be having people wish us a “Happy New Year” for at least the next 6 weeks …

But it is the New Year, which means New Years Resolutions. And I am guessing some of you are resolving to re-dedicate yourselves to getting out there and networking…along with eating healthy and going to the gym!

For those of you who hate the thought of it, get nervous meeting new people (even before COVID), or just don’t feel like they are any good at it, I want to provide a few thoughts to hopefully make you more comfortable, help you formulate a game plan going into the event, as well as tell you where to look for a few great local events.

Dress to Impress, But Be Comfortable

Humans, as a species, tend to make instantaneous impressions about someone even before we speak to them. If you are one of those people that don’t – good for you. We need more people like you. However, most people do and often those first impressions – right or wrong – are difficult to overcome.

With that in mind, you want that first impression to be strong. That means you need to look good, feel comfortable, and be confident. The good news, when you feel like you look good, you tend to feel more confident.

I’m not here to tell you what “good” is for you, but I will tell you what it is for me. For me, it is a suit… sans tie. My suits are dry cleaned regularly. My shirts are pressed regularly. My shoes are cleaned and shined. But something about that tie leaves me feeling stuffy, so I drop it.

I encourage everyone to find their “look” that gives them that confident but comfortable feel.

Dust-Off That Elevator Pitch

John Maggio of Hawk Marketing, who started and still runs the Facebook Group and in-real-life networking group Networking in Annapolis, has a locally famous line about your introduction/elevator pitch. He says, “some groups give you 30 seconds. Others give you a minute. Take as long as you want, but nobody is listening after 8 seconds.”

Your introduction needs to be short, sweet, and to the point. Do not be afraid to highlight specifically what you do, how you help, or what you are looking for – but don’t take too long. While my pitch changes often, my typical spiel goes something like “I’m Steve Palmer with Transworld Business Advisors. I help business owners sell their businesses. If you know anyone who is considering selling their business, I’d appreciate an introduction so I can tell them more.”

That’s 8 seconds – give or take. Try to keep yours to around the same length.

Bring Contact Information – Including the LinkedIn App on your Phone

What is the point of meeting people if you can’t follow up with them? What is customary here is an exchange of business cards…

…which is a minimum. Do not come to these events if you do not have business cards, or a flyer, or something that you can give another person with your company name on it. Period.

Now, let’s improve on that minimum.

Bring a pen. Blue or black, it does not matter. But you are going to want to jot down notes on the business cards you collect so you can recall what you talked about and follow up later.

If you discuss a time to grab coffee or lunch to continue the conversation, you will want to remember those details.

If they are going to buy from you or help you get more business, then you will definitely want to remember those details.

Level Up – Download the LinkedIn App

The LinkedIn app actually makes it super simple to connect to people on the spot. And, since most people I talk to do not know that feature exists, I am going to walk you through how to use it here…so you can walk them through how to use it later and earn style points.

To connect, simply open the App, click on the search box at the top, and then click on the barcode symbol at the top right (see the blue circle below)

This brings up your LinkedIn QR code, which should look like mine below.

If you click on the “Scan” tab, the app opens your camera, and you can scan someone’s code, which will take you to their profile, and you can send a connection request.

Super easy.

You will have to enable the app to access your camera. So, try it first at home or on your colleague. Or, if you would like, try scanning my code above. But do not just scan, feel free to send that connection request.

Ice Breakers

Often the most awkward part of networking is getting the conversation going. To help with that, I’m including a link below from Business Networking International (BNI) of the 10 most effective ice breakers according to science.

Please be aware, science backs some of these questions. But I do not. So, use it at your own risk.

And I don’t recommend simply memorizing these questions to ask people, but do prepare answers to them and use some of those answers to start conversations as the opportunity presents itself.  My preferred ice breaker, highlighting something that not only pleasantly surprised me recently, but something that has inspired me recently in my local community. Although, I am also a sucker for anyone that just finished a good book.

Where to Go

For those of you who want to get back out there, but don’t know where to go – please consider this an invitation to join me as I can typically be found attending events sponsored by one or more of the following groups.

  • Networking in Annapolis – John does a great job with this group, and they meet every Wednesday at 11:30 AM for lunch at Smashing Grapes in Annapolis. If you go, tell him I sent you…I may be able to guilt him into buying me a beer!
  • Link Networking – Curt is another person who does a great job putting on events. They meet every other Tuesday evening and the location constantly changes, so go to the link for more details about their upcoming events.
  • Just Show Up – This is a brainchild of Susan Wheatley and Bob Reedy. They meet every Wednesday at 9 am in the backroom of 49 West Coffee House. This is an incredibly welcoming group. It’s free. It takes an hour. You should join us sometime.
  • BNI “Big Deale” – This is my BNI chapter of choice. We meet virtually every Tuesday at 11:30 am. As of today, we have 17 members in our group, but we are always looking for new visitors. Fair warning, BNI is a category exclusive group, which is great for Business Brokers like me where there aren’t many of us – but more difficult for Insurance and Real Estate agents. If you would like to try out BNI, send me an email with your contact information and I will submit a visit request for you.

Also, do not forget about the local Chambers of Commerce. This area is weird as there are so many, but I currently belong to three – all of which I would recommend checking out. I have included contact information for the best points of contact for each below. Again, tell them I sent you and I will make sure to either a) join you at the event or b) make sure they roll out the red carpet.

Remember, Networking is “Work,” But It Does Not Have to be Stressful

It is right there in the name. Networking is “work.” Again, to reference John Maggio, “we aren’t doing this for fun, we are doing it for funds….” Still, it does not have to be stressful. If you go somewhere and feel stressed, try a different event next time. If you try an ice breaker and it does not work, tweak your approach. The bottom line, find something that works for you, that you can actually look forward to.

And as always, if you have any questions about the content in the article – do not hesitate to reach out. I am always available. And often, I can be found networking at one of the groups and events listed above.

Reach out to me at my email address, [email protected].

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