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Networking -- Savvy Socializing!

By Karen Booy, Crafting the American Dream,
CRAFTLINK NewsletterEwe & Me Pattern Co.

Upon returning from the recent HIA (Hobby Industries Association) wholesale trade show, many people asked, "How did you do at the trade show?" If I had simply looked at my sales order book, the answer might have been, "It was really slow, we had a very poor location, attendance was down," or any number of excuses. Instead, I was able to look at the sales order book and despite slow sales, answer "Fantastic!" Why, you ask? The answer is NETWORKING.

Success in any business venture is a combination of hard work, planning and persistence. Like a farmer  -- you must first prepare the soil, plant the seeds and then patiently water, weed and fertilize your garden. You don’t prepare to enjoy the fruits of your garden BEFORE you do the necessary work! Why is it that so many people expect business to come easily and then are disappointed when it doesn’t? I have learned to be like the farmer. Patiently tending my garden, knowing that if I do the right things eventually success will be mine. I have learned to always try to optimize any situation. A slow trade show is the perfect opportunity to network with other business owners, publishers, manufacturers and sales reps. Since I wasn’t rushed off my feet with customers, and neither were many of my neighbors  -- I was able to meet and get to know some exciting new people. By taking advantage of the situation I made valuable contacts and gleaned gems of information that it might have taken me years to find. (Not to mention all the new friends I made!)

I was blessed with the "schmooze" gene, as Lisa Julson tells me and just love to meet other people, but believe it or not, I wasn’t always so gregarious! It just takes a little practice and a little thought beforehand. I think it really helps to clarify in your mind "what am I here for?" If you are at a trade show, craft show, or business meeting the answer will probably be "to make money!" You need to clarify for yourself why you are there. Identifying the benefit by asking yourself what you hope to achieve will help you to focus and act on purpose. I relax as I approach people thinking, "this is business." Here are some little tips and points to help you network effectively.

1. Prepare a 30 second verbal business card. "Hi, I am Karen Booy, I am the owner of CRAFTLINK, we offer services and products for professional crafters. Think about the people you are likely to meet and change your 30 second verbal business card to fit the occasion. "Hi, I am Karen Booy, I publish CRAFTLINK. Taylor your verbal business card for the event.

2. Always offer your name when you introduce yourself. Don’t forget that even though you know who you are — others don’t. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to offer you name first.

3. I was recently at a meeting at HIA for the Society of Craft Designers. I was standing there thinking I should really "circulate" but I was frozen to the spot. I thought how stupid I must look standing there all by myself, when suddenly a friendly face and outstretched hand interrupted my thoughts -- Cindy Groom-Harry (a leading craft designer) cheerfully introduced herself. We had a great talk and she even introduced me to a manufacturer who I had wanted to meet! Instead of thinking how scared you are, why not look for someone else who is standing alone and make them feel better.

4. Focus less on yourself and more on others. Do you ever notice what you are thinking about when you are introduced to another person? Usually you are so busy thinking about what you are going to say next, that you don’t hear their name. Try it next time you are introduced! Pay attention to that little voice in your head. And you thought you just had a bad memory for names!

5. Ask QUESTIONS!!! Most people think that the success to networking is TALKING to other people, I think true success lies in LISTENING to others! You can a learn a lot more by listening than talking. I’ll admit, I still need to work on this tip. My, I do love to talk. (Remember they say that God gave us two ears and one month)

6. Dress comfortably. You will have a difficulty being your best if you are constantly worried about your outfit.

7. Don’t forget your business cards. Don’t be shy about giving others your business cards. It will help people remember who you are and give them a way to contact you in the future. If you feel shy about giving out your cards, ask for their card first.

8. Make eye contact and remember to focus more on others and less on yourself.

9. SMILE.

10. Practice. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. As you feel more at ease, your networking contacts can and will do great things for your business, one of the greatest benefits will be the number of really wonderful people who you now call . . . friends!

I hope that one day we will get a chance to meet . . . until then . . . get out and NETWORK!

Karen

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