Firestorm Forums

Have you ever been on an online forum, sharing words of wisdom with fellow business owners, vacation goers, cooks, surfers… or what ever the focus of the forum is… and suddenly you realize that the discussion has gotten out of control?

Sedona 2011 statue of painUsually what happens is some topic hits a nerve for at least one of the participants.  They see RED!  They can’t understand why the others do not understand the underlying issues (as they are convinced them to be) and feel compelled to write responses to push their idea on the others.

Next, others who may think of themselves as the voice of reason, or maybe they have a totally opposite point of view, get in front of their keyboards and click out a reply.  The first person then usually reiterates their viewpoint, only taking up more space to do so, and feel they have gotten their point across.

Not so.  Others chime in and on and on it goes.

I am not on a lot of forums, but I would say that everyone that I am on has at some point taken a momentary turn for the worse.  What is it about the forum format that pushes people into putting their ideas out onto an exposed forum and why does it get out of control?

First, I think that we feel that when we are on a forum, we are amongst like minded comrades.  If we are all interested in the topic and helping each other through participation in the forum, then we must all think alike, no?  NO.

Next, this is not a discussion where you can see the other person’s face, their body language, and hear the tone of their voice.  When we talk in person, we get immediate feedback from the other person as we are talking and as we are listening.  We know how to moderate our responses when we see that we are hurting someone else, if they are dead set against hearing our point of view, or if they are receptive to even one little point that we just made.

When we are chatting via keyboard and screen, it just gets thrown out there, we feel better that we have said our piece, and had a chance to be heard.  Many times we are just stunned that someone has joined the conversation and started picking on us.  What?  We were the voice of reason and suddenly someone has pulled us into the fray and torn us apart.

At this point people either recognize that the conversation is not going to be productive, or they get fired up and throw out another comment.  It is like watching an accident happen.

So what do we do short of divorcing ourselves from all forums?

Participate in forums that you feel give you support or that you can help others.  If you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a fire storm, recognize it for what it is… a discussion that is not going to have an agreed upon conclusion.  Don’t be offended if someone starts to pick on you… just back out.  That person has some issues that are not yours to deal with.  Or, if you see a discussion that is out of control and you have not put in your 2 cents… DON’T.  Just move on.  Getting yourself all worked up and in the middle of the fray will not make you feel better.  I can practically guarantee that no one comes out of these discussions feeling triumphant.

Solving big problems takes talking, listening, and compassion.  I am not so sure that this is all available when we are in the forum setting.  Take the setting for what it is worth.

PS – I realize that I am sitting at my keyboard, just spewing out information with no one to challenge what I am writing (at the time of the writing).  Yes, I see the irony.

Speed Networking – Get Prepared

Speed Networking with All Island Networking

I recently had an opportunity to attend a speed networking event. In case you haven’t heard of it,  you are paired with each person in the room for 5 minutes at a time. Each one has a chance to tell about themselves for 2 minutes and then you move on to another partner. I am sure that each one is run a bit differently, but the concept is the same.

There are some real advantages to networking in this way.

  • You get to have one-on-one attention of each attendee for a solid 2 minutes.  You get to tell them about your business and their only job is to listen to you, and you only.
  • You get to listen to each attendee’s talk for 2 minutes and 2 minutes ONLY.  No being stuck with someone who goes on and on and is not respecting your time.
  • You get to talk to everyone.  You will not walk out thinking that you missed half of the crowd because they were tied up with other people.
  • In this case, we had exclusive categories for our businesses.  No competition.  Just makes it more interesting and relaxing.

That being said, it is wise to come prepared to these events.  You do get 2 minutes of undivided attention, but it is ONLY 2 minutes.   You want to be as productive as possible in that short amount of time.  Here are some tips to help you to prepare:

  • Say your name and a give 2 or 3 words that set the scene for the business you are in..

“I am Joe, and I am in the Financial Services business.”

  • State who you work with.  This helps others to narrow in on who you are looking for as clients.

“I work with young professionals who are just starting to build a nest egg.”

  • State the benefits you bring to your clients.  You can say it just like that too.  Make it easy for them to put together what you do and how you help.

“The benefits that I bring to my clients is not only sound investing advice, but also the security of knowing they have someone who is watching their money every day.”

  • State why you are different.  This helps the listener to differentiate you from others in similar businesses.

“What makes my service different is…”
or
“What separates my service from others is….”

  • Wrap it up with an action statement.  Help the other person to know the next step in getting to know you better or how to refer you.  If you have an offer, come prepared with it in writing so that you can hand it to them.  This gives them even more information about you.  It gives them something more than your business card to look at when they get home and are trying to figure out what to do as a next step.

Tell them, “We are currently running an introductory special.  If you or anyone you know are interested in knowing more, please call the number listed here on this paper.”  Then give them the paper with your offer.

It takes a little bit of time to do your preparation, but it is worth it.  Because your time is valuable you want to make the most of your networking time.

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There is Networking and there is Networking

After spending 2 years going to ‘free’ networking events, I finally figured out that it is a worthwhile investment to join an organized, dues collecting, structured networking group, like LeTip or BNI.  I resisted it for so long because I thought that all networking groups were the same and that they had the same intention.  Boy, was I wrong.

I thought that everyone at a networking event had the same intention as I did:  Meet business people that you could collaborate with, meet those whose service you could use now or in the future, and get the word out about my own business too.  And sometimes I did accomplish this goal.

Where things were falling flat was that follow through was not usually happening.  Not just on other’s part, but I was not following through either.  For some reason I would let things just slip away and hope that the other guy would call me.

When I finally got serious at looking at LeTip, I saw that not only was I making a financial commitment to the group, but I was also making a commitment to support them.   LeTip has many rules and regulations.  Many people don’t like this.  I personally find that I work better with structure and also knowing that we are all under the same rules.

So what are some of those rules and how does it help my business?

Meetings are weekly and attendance is mandatory

Yikes!  Every week?  It allows us to get to know a bit more about others’ businesses and find ways that we can refer them to our family and friends.  Because attendance is mandatory (vacations excepted) you know that others are making the commitment to be there, just like you are.  When we meet weekly, it is like seeing good friends again.   Many look forward to seeing everyone.

Meetings start on time and end on time

Do I really need to say anything about this?  How great is that!   They start early (in our case, 7 a.m.) and you know when they will be over.  You can schedule your day.

You must bring a referral each week

Well, on average, one a week.  This keeps you on your toes.  This makes you find out more about other’s businesses so that you know what a good referral will be.  You also know that others are looking at you and your business more carefully.  They don’t want to miss an opportunity to refer your business.  There is something very satisfying in being able to connect people to good services.

Each week you give your 30 second commercial

This makes you focus on how you are going to market your business. Instead of being able to conveniently put off looking at the marketing of your business, you now have incentive to look at it at least once a week.  You also get to think about something new that you want to share with the group about your business.  You get to help others understand what you do 52 times a year, not just hit or miss.  Many also report that this helps them to feel more comfortable speaking in front of groups of people.

I am sure that there is more to mention, but you get the picture.  The key factor is that all of those in your group are committed to each other.

If you are looking for an effective way to promote your business through networking, please give LeTip serious consideration.  It is not for everyone, but if it is for you, you will wonder how you ever promoted your business without it.

Oh yes, I am a member of LeTip of Manorville, here on Long Island.  If you are local and interested in checking out our chapter (or another one), please let me know.

Why Smaller is Better – Collaborate or Compete?

Is this you at a networking event?

When you go to a networking event do you always see that same person who has a business ‘just like yours’?  You cringe.  You wish that they would get out of your way and let you just be the shining star of your marketplace.  Kind of silly when you think about it. How can their business be ‘exactly like yours’?

 

If you find yourself in this situation at a networking event then it sounds like it is time to clearly define your strengths and focus your business offerings.

Wouldn’t it feel better if:

  • You could confidently express to anyone and everyone (even the so-called competitor) exactly what you do and how you help people?
  • Talk to someone in your industry to see how your service could augment theirs.
  • Know how to recognize when someone’s need is outside of your expertise and refer them to others.

Taking the time to clearly define your business focus goes a long way.  It makes finding collaborators much easier.  It also gives you the confidence to express what you do, even to those that look like they have a business ‘just like yours’.

One of my goals at a networking event is to meet other business people that I can potentially collaborate with.  Maybe not the next day, but maybe in the future.  In order to do this, I find that it is much easier if I can clearly define what it is that I contribute to the process.  It is also easier if others have defined their focus.  Then we can easily see where we might join in order to give the client a better outcome.  By collaborating, you not only bring business to fellow entrepreneurs, but you also have a better chance of having new customers referred to you.

Eliminate the competition by narrowing your business focus and clearly defining it. Become the expert in your field.  Confidently express what you do and how you help people. Then you can make your competition into collaborators and everyone wins.

Networking Groups – Have a Goal

Networking, networking, networking!  All of the small businesses are networking.  As a small business owner you may ask yourself if you are missing out on something if you are not in the networking loop.  How do you know if a particular group is right for your business?

Like anything that comes out to benefit businesses, you as the owner have to make a decision as to whether or not to spend your time or money networking.  Ask yourself:

  • What is my purpose in going to a networking event?
  • Am I looking to find clients at the gathering?
  • Am I looking to get my face and my business name known in the community?
  • Am I looking for others to refer clients to me?
  • Am I looking for others to collaborate with?
  • Am I looking to meet other business people so that I can decide who I would like to know more about at a later date?
  • Am I looking to support and educate?

Your answers to these questions will help you to decided if a particular networking group is appropriate for your goals.  Some times you can not tell what a group is really like until you attend a function.  Some functions are strictly ‘business card exchange’ and chit chat.  Others have strict rules on bringing referrals to the table or have a strict format.  Some are there to provide education for their members.  Each one is different, so you might have to try out a few before you find the format that you are comfortable with.

You may also decide that you are just too busy to be able to get to a networking event.  That is OK too.  Many a retail store owner finds themselves minding the store from 9 a.m. until after 7 p.m.  Until they can get some help, breakfast, lunch, or dinner meetings are not going to happen.  Other means of getting your business known are available.

Whatever you decide about networking, I urge you to have a goal in mind.  This will help you to get the most out of the time that you take to attend networking events.

So, let me ask you… Does the thought of attending a networking event scare you?  Let me know.