Some things to do AND to avoid at networking events

I’ve had a few emails following on from my last blog post about BNI.  That’s great.  Some of the questions were a little surprising however, so I felt that I should offer some advice to those who attend different networking events.  Here are five golden rules.

First tip – be a good scout and arrive prepared!

Find out what the culture is within the group you are going to visit.  By knowing what’s expected, you will make a great impression.  See if you can identify any of the attendees and if any of them would be on your introductions wish list, perhaps you know a person who could introduce you to that potential contact while you are all in the room together.  Bring your business cards and a small notebook so you can write things down as you go.  Don’t use those moments after a new introduction to scour the room for your next prospect – write down as much as you can about that chat you’ve just enjoyed and make sure to write down what had been agreed as a follow up.

Second tip – know what you’re going to say

You know that people will ask you to tell them what you do, so have something interesting to say.  You’ll have about 30 seconds to impress or they’ll mentally check-out of the conversation so don’t start telling people what you are – it’s much more interesting to tell them what you do.  So in my case I could say:

A)     I’m an internet marketing and sales consultant who focuses on systems and service       OR

B)      I help people make more money in their business and have more fun doing it

Which answer above leaves the door open for more conversation?

Third tip – respect other people’s time

DON’T BE A BORE OR A STALKER!  If you know people in the room that’s great, but avoid them.  The point of networking is to make new connections with people.  Look out for new faces, read name badges and do not stick like glue to the first person who’s nice to you and follow them around for the night.  Remember that everyone is there to make new connections.  Establish if you can help the person you’ve met or if they could help you.  If they would like to meet, exchange contact details and agree to make contact and arrange a conversation over coffee sometime in the next five working days (Don’t let the grass grow under your feet).  This allows you to meet others but also allows them the same opportunity.  Like I said, respect their time.

Fourth tip – ask about others first

Everybody loves to be asked about themselves and to feel as though you are genuinely interested in them (Which of course you will always be) – nobody likes to hear a person rattle on for ages about who they are or what they do.  As a rule of thumb, if you are trying to develop a relationship with a person it starts with you showing them lots of attention and listening rather than talking – think about having two ears and one mouth, use proportionately please.

Fifth tip – follow up

If you have met a great contact and think that you could help them and they could help you, please follow up on the items you had agreed to.  Your great start could come crashing to a bitter end if you fail to call them when you said you would or by failing to carry out an action that you had promised.  That’s why it is really important to take notes and have a system in place.  Great things rarely happen accidentally.

Within BNI our members can avail of training and development in all of these areas.  This learning can be applied to other networking groups, your own business or even dating (But I wouldn’t recommend the latter).  People who get nervous about going into open rooms for networking events are normally suffering from the same type of anxiety that’s brought on by not being prepared.  Networking can be great fun and a massive source of dream clients.  Before your next event, have a plan, set a target for the people you would like to meet – even if that’s just a number and NO STALKING.  Keep moving around the room and be alert for new connections.

As a closing thought, networking should be treated in exactly the same way and any other marketing strategy.  You need to have a plan, know the desired results and measure your investment of time, energy or money.  It has never been so important to reach out to other local businesses and pull together so plan to visit networking groups and have a plan for what to do once you get there too.

What is Google Hummingbird?

Google Hummingbird is a new search algorithm announced by Google as part of their 15th birthday celebrations at the end of September 2013.  The salient part of the previous sentence is a new algorithm; this is a totally new departure and potentially affects over 90% of searches. Interestingly, the algorithm was changed about a month before the announcement and received no noticeable negative feedback from users – a sure sign of success!

Why a new algorithm?

Users’ searches have been getting longer and more specific over time. As search queries became longer and more conversational in style Google had to understand the meaning of those queries and to adapt search results accordingly. As always it was about giving the user the information that they wanted.

Give me an example

Google wants to understand what you mean when you type in a search term. First off an example: Think of some interchangeable search queries – say ‘the best ice-cream shop in my area’. You could also mean ‘the best ice cream parlour in my area’ or ‘where to get the tastiest ice-cream in my area.’  These are all long tail conversational style queries, and Google needs to know the best pages to return as a result. Hummingbird is the new algorithm that Google hopes will provide the solution. First off they need to know where you are, which they do if you have set your location.

How does Google Hummingbird Work?

To put a very complex process in simple terms, Hummingbird uses Google patents to re-write queries using synonyms, and by paying attention to all the words in that query and how they relate to one another Google Hummingbird hopes to provide the most relevant search results based on that particular query.

In other words, ice-cream and ice cream mean the same, tastiest and best probably mean the same, and shop, parlour and where to get all mean an actual place.

Here is an excerpt from one of Google’s patents:

A search query for a search engine may be improved by incorporating alternate terms into the search query that are semantically similar to terms of the search query, taking into account information derived from the search query. An initial set of alternate terms that may be semantically similar to the original terms in the search query is generated.

Hummingbird ties together the query re-writing patents that Google has filed and also builds on the latent semantic indexing that is the discovery process for finding related terms and phrases. LSI plays a key role in what is returned on search engine results pages (SERPs), learn about LSI in my earlier blog – Why content is king, the science behind the statement.

What does Hummingbird mean for me?

It seems clear that Google is working towards returning the most relevant content to any given search query. In practical terms this means that Google will continue to reward good quality content. Having a content strategy based around long-tail keywords, and paying attention to the 5 W’s (what, where, when, who and why) will pay dividends in the long term.

Bill Slawksi,  Rand Fishkin, The Moz Blog.

Google Patent Examples:
Search queries improved based on query semantic information
Synonym identification based on co-occurring terms