Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Dr. Sharon Porter, who is an Educator, Author, and Speaker. She is also the owner of Perfect Time SHP LLC, Coaching and Consulting Firm, Founder of the GRIND Entrepreneur Network and Write the Book Now! For more info: www.sharonhporter.com
SmallBizLady: WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT WHEN NETWORKING?
Dr. Sharon Porter: The need to focus on giving rather than taking, having a clear focus when participating in networking events, and do not wait for opportunities to network, create opportunities to network. In order to maximize your networking experience, you really should proceed with a “give then get” mentality. “In order to withdraw, there must have been a deposit previously.” Having a clear focus allows you to know exactly what it is that you are desiring. Take the initiative to create their own opportunities. You can’t sit idle waiting on a specific invitation.
SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES OF BUSINESS NETWORKING?
Dr. Sharon Porter: Increased visibility within your industry or business, the expansion of your network directly and through the networks of others, and you can surround yourself with a cadre of individuals who will undoubtedly influence you positively as well as motivate and inspire you to always do more.
SmallBizLady: WHAT ADVICE OR RECOMMENDATIONS WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE INTROVERT ENTREPRENEUR TO SUCCESSFULLY NETWORK?
Dr. Sharon Porter: Plan ahead for networking events. Build in your “energy breaks” throughout the event. Focus on quality over quantity. It is not necessary to talk to everyone in the room, but it’s important to make the most out of the conversations you have Be ready to clearly and concisely describe who you are and what you do (Practice your 30 second elevator pitch). In the Introvert Entrepreneur, Beth Buelow writes, “Feel the fear & do it anyway”. Networking is a must to build your biz.
SmallBizLady: IS IT STILL NECESSARY TO EXCHANGE BUSINESS CARDS AT NETWORKING EVENTS?
Dr. Sharon Porter: Yes. The business card captures my mental and written notes – also you can use symbols that indicate the first impression. Business cards can help identify the individuals that you can add value to and those who can help your business move forward. The follow-through to begin establishing a connection and building a relationship is imperative. Although every person you meet is not for you, you may be able to forward that person to someone else.
SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE KEY ELEMENTS FOR NETWORKING VIA SOCIAL MEDIA?
Dr. Sharon Porter: Interaction and engagement. In order to successfully network online, you must be consistently visible, and you MUST add value. Be intentional about expanding your network. Don’t just connect with individuals who you know personally or who you have mutual friends on social media.
As an entrepreneur, it is completely opposite. Connect with individuals that you do not know and have mutual connections. Being consistently visible on social media can be time-consuming. Use the scheduling tools available and consider using a social media manager to assist with social media posts.
SmallBizLady: WHY IS IDENTIFYING AND NARROWING YOUR NICHE IMPORTANT BEFORE NETWORKING?
Dr. Sharon Porter: Your focus, time, and energy should be spent on people and things that will catapult your business. Strategically networking helps reach more of your target audience, potential clients and business partners.
SmallBizLady: AS A DUAL OR PARALLELPRENEUR, WHAT ARE SOME NETWORKING ALTERNATIVES FOR INDIVIDUALS WORKING A 9-5?
Dr. Sharon Porter: Joining different MeetUps are a good way to find networking events. Many of the events featured are evenings and weekends. If opportunities are not convenient or made available for you, nothing stops you from creating your own opportunities.
Oftentimes, networking events are held during the day, which is definitely convenient for the full-time entrepreneur, but not so much for those who are career professional. Therefore, consider hosting your own monthly networking events.
SmallBizLady: IS NETWORKING REALLY A BIG DEAL?
Dr. Sharon Porter: Networking is vital to your business. To begin building relationships, you first must meet people to make a connection. You have heard it before, but people do business with those they know, like, and trust. When you network correctly, you can establish relationships with potential clients as well as business partners.
You must attend different events. If you continue going to events with the same audience, you cannot expand your network.
SmallBizLady: ARE NETWORKING GROUPS OR ORGANIZATIONS BENEFICIAL?
Dr. Sharon Porter: I have benefited greatly from being a member of professional associations. In professional networking organizations is where you will find potential business partners and mentors. It doesn’t matter where you’re in your biz, always surround yourself with individuals who are steps ahead of you to serve as mentors.
My business has a Three Point Thrust focus; Educators, Authors, and Entrepreneurs.
Participate in online or social media networking groups that your potential clients and target market is a part. This not only helps build your visibility, but builds your credibility if you are engaging in the group with added value.
SmallBizLady: IF AN ENTREPRENEUR JUST CAN’T QUITE FIND THE TIME TO MAKE NETWORKING EVENTS LIKE DESIRED, WHAT CAN THEY DO?
Dr. Sharon Porter: Really, wherever you go in your daily journey is an opportunity to network. Your focus should be on finding and building mutually beneficial relationships in all you do. If you are in business though, you must invest in networking. That includes your time. Just like money, you will need to budget it in your schedule. Make networking a priority on a consistent basis. While weekly may be too frequent for your schedule, you can commit to attending a networking event monthly.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz