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Turn Your Group into a Networking Laboratory

Eric Byrd January 6, 2020 379


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Your group can be a valuable asset in helping you improve your effectiveness.

Episode 010: Your referral group meetings are a great opportunity to refine your message to get more business. But if you play it safe and do what’s expected how will that happen? You have to mix it up and stretch your limits to truly get the most out of your group. In this episode Eric talks about how to turn your group meeting into a networking laboratory. Experimenting and testing new content can also get you more referrals inside your group. And why taking a few risks can lead you to the perfect marketing message for the rest of the world too!
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ADDITIONAL NOTES AND TOOLS:


WHAT’S THE PERFECT SIZE FOR A REFERRAL GROUP?

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Episode Text:

Most people do the same exact thing in their lead cheer group. Every single meeting. Hi, I’m Eric. And I want to tell you the same thing I told you last time. Break the cycle. Be a networking rebel storm the castle!
Okay. We’re just having some fun, folks. In early 2013 I was actually sitting in a networking group meeting in Reston, Virginia. I’d been in the group for, I don’t know, a few months at that point and basically got to the point where I knew everybody in the group and what they did, At least generally I was waiting for my turn to introduce myself. You know how it goes. Everybody takes turns sharing their introduction and telling you who they’re looking for and want to be referred to. You know, it’s a normal meeting.
Now, this meeting, something happened, though. I was sitting on one side of the table, so it was a long table in the middle of the room. You know how it is. And I was sitting on one side and it turned out that we started on the other side of the table there, about 12 people or so and I was one of the last in line to introduce myself. So I was sitting there patiently waiting and listening, watching everyone do their thing, and something sort of struck me. I remember thinking So I really don’t care about any of these people were saying,
Okay, that’s a little harsh. Maybe “didn’t care” is too strong. It was more like, I remember thinking, this is really boring. No one was really catching my attention that day. So I was drifting. My mind was going off. I was thinking about first, What was I gonna say to introduce myself, which is probably a pretty normal thing to do in a meeting. And then I found myself thinking about what I was going to do later on in the day, and then I spent a moment or two, you know, worrying. Like what was I in the right group here? Is this actually helpful That I remembered? I’m supposed to be supportive and listening, so I refocused in while we’re still about nine people until May. Why is this so dull? Why can’t I focus on what they’re saying? Why are they all saying the same things that they said last meeting. Now what could they do to engage me more? What could they do to help me help them?
When it was my turn, I actually started to give my regular introduction and I stopped. Suddenly, I looked around briefly and then I said something like, Hey, I just want to figure out how to make all of you better at doing this, you know, introducing yourself and getting people to pay attention to you. And I’d love to talk to anyone after the meeting who would like to explore that people sort of looked around. That was a little unusual, not what I had normally been saying. They kind of nodded and smiled, and the next person in line I remember she hesitated briefly, and then she started on her regular introduction to. But I did get lots of looks and lots of knowing smiles, and several people actually came up to me and we talked after that, meaning so what had happened there? I think I learned a valuable lesson that day.
From that point on, I decided to use that group is a place to try out new things. So over the next several years in that and other groups that I belong to, I played around with a lot of different ways to introduce myself. Now, to be fair, some worked great. They were fantastic and a lot of them or not, they were frankly terrible. And in one of my groups that even became sort of a game in the group to see what I would try next. There were several members there who were very supportive of me, who we’ve developed a good relationship, and they were really good at giving me feedback when they liked something that I had tried. But also when I tried something and it obviously flopped and usually it was pretty obvious. I could tell I was looking around the room, what worked and what didn’t and that support was extremely helpful for me, and I used that feedback whenever I networked elsewhere so you can do the same thing in your group, and that’s what I want to talk about today, instead of just doing the same old thing everybody’s used to doing in the meeting.
You can use that meeting as an opportunity to expand your repertoire, and there are several reasons this is a good idea, and there’s some big benefits that you may not realize you’re gonna get immediately. I’ll get to those in a couple of minutes. First, though, I want to address the fact that in order to turn your group into a networking laboratory, you are going to need to be willing to take some risks. The good news is they’re not huge risks. We’re not talking about life threatening risks. I’m not asking you to go bungee jumping or anything like that. It could be that those experiments that you try are just the thing to take your networking and possibly your referrals to the next level. And here’s some reasons why your networking group is a unique place to try out new material. Good groups are safe space to explore. They’re places where people come together to support each other. I mean, where else are you gonna be able to try out new stuff at very low risk?
When you’ve been in a group for a while and you sort of have established yourself, This is the perfect place to be able to try some things and stretch a little bit. The whole purpose of the group is to help and support each other, and this is a way to do that that most people don’t really take advantage of and leverage their group for. By doing this, you’ll get more out of your group. It’s a whole other aspect of the group that becomes valuable to you.
And not only that, but you will be adding back to the group as well, because you’re giving them on opportunity to engage with you in a completely different way. That isn’t just the same old same old, and it will get them thinking as well. Now, before you do this,
I do recommend you give it a little bit of thought, and I recommend a couple of guidelines before you just start launching, often experimenting or it’s very possible that people are gonna wonder if you like, bumped your head or something like that. Make sure you tell your group what you’re going to do and why. Let them know that you need their help to figure out what’s the best way to talk about what you do. Nine times out of ten those people are gonna be totally happy to go along with us and be willing to work with you on this. It’s again. It’s part of what the group is for telling them.
Help set up the expectation of what you’re going to be doing, but it also sets an expectation for what you are asking from them. So they know that you want feedback on what’s good and what’s bad, because we are often polite in these groups and we don’t want to go up to somebody and say, you know, the way you just introduce yourself for that. When you told that story about that client, it was just really bad or it didn’t make any sense or I didn’t understand what you were trying to do there. So this is exactly the kind of feedback that we want.
Now that being said, you want to prepare yourself to get that honest feedback because that’s not always the easiest thing. It could be very difficult Thio here criticism about something, especially if you’ve worked hard on it. As a speaking coach, I run into this all the time with people who were preparing something. They put lots of effort into it and they deliver it. Then people say I don’t understand what you said, and it can be really demoralizing, but you have to have that feedback. It’s actually what gets you to the next level. So that you can start honestly, figuring out what’s making sense and what’s not. So when you do this with your group, don’t get defensive, keep in mind you are asking them to give you this feedback. Encourage them to tell you like they see it now.
That being said, you don’t have to agree with their input or their feedback. You don’t have to use their suggestions or their input, but do listen to it and take it seriously because it can help you improve your game.
I suggest you commit to trying different ways to introduce yourself to start with. There are other things you can test in the group, but I recommend you start with mixing it up with how you introduce yourself. It’s the easiest place to start, and it’s easy to adjust and make experiments around that. Just switch things around. Use odd phrases, Create strange descriptions. Don’t be afraid to go a little wacky. Sometimes a basic introduction is made up of who you are, what you do and who you do it for, right. So play with that basic format and and change those elements around. Go ahead and play and give yourself permission to get creative
While you’re doing this write down what works. If you see a reaction in the room and you will see a reaction when you get a really good one, write it down. Keep track of those so that you can use them again. Those go into your regular repertoire. You will be able to pull those out anytime you need them. But if you don’t remember what you said and that it was a good reaction than that becomes really difficult. You’ll be able to use them in your group first off, but outside of your group is well when you’re dealing with other people.
Also practice sharing because you want to refine them so that they don’t sound too self serving. But they get the message across about whatever it is you’re sharing. If you’re sharing a customer story about what happened with a customer and why they really got a lot out of it, then you wanna get that message across because that shows your value to your customers. But you don’t want it sound like you’re bragging too much. It’s kind of, Ah, it’s It’s a little tricky. There’s a balance to be struck there, and it takes some practice in your group can help you figure out what that balance is. It’s a very powerful tool, and it’s very much worth it now.
There are lots of benefits for using this technique in your group. Here are a few in your group. It keeps your group interested not only in the meeting, which is sometimes really, really helpful, but it helps keep them interested in you and involved in what you are doing and what’s going on because they’re participating and learning about you and consciously helping you to improve yourself, and that keeps you top of mind in their world.
You now are not just somebody who drops in and delivers an elevator speech and is off on their way, and they don’t give it a second thought the rest of the week to weeks months. However long it is, this is a way to engage more fully, and it will give you the opportunity to create deeper relationships with the people that you connect with in that group, and it is really, really satisfying on top of being really productive. It also gives you another opportunity to interact with these people because you can do your feedback sessions in one on one meetings, so it gives you the opportunity to discuss things more fully during a one on one, because you can talk about what are they thinking about The things that you are sharing in the meetings helps you get to know them and them get to know you threw that feedback process.
It’s fantastic. You also get to find out what’s working and what’s not working about how you describe what you’re doing, so your networking messaging becomes much better, much more refined, much more effective, it up levels, everything. It’s fantastic, by the way. Whatever you learned during that process can also be applied toe all of your general marketing messaging. So your group members have customers, and if they’re good referral custom, good referral sources for you, they’re gonna probably be working with very similar customers. So they are perfect to help you figure out what messaging might be interesting to your potential customers. It can really help you improve your messaging and trigger more leads and more referrals as well, which leads to increased sales, which is very, very critical. It’s the reason you’re doing the whole thing in the first place right now. This may help you get more referrals within the group is well, because you are spending more time helping them understand what you do, how you do it, how you work with clients more fully.
That’s really helpful, because then they leave the interaction really having a much better and much deeper understanding of why you are a good fit for people that they may run into. Or people that they are in a relationship with her are connected to you, can encourage them to try this process as well, and that helps strengthen the whole group, and that becomes really critical. And actually, I recommend if you’d like suggest to your group that you listen to this episode. Maybe together, maybe everybody listen to it before the meeting and then, in a meeting, discuss this concept and how you might leverage it and how it might be helpful in your group. Make it a group effort. That could be another thing that brings the group together and helps you work more as a team.
As always make sure that you subscribe to the show so that you get announcements when they come out, wherever fine podcasts they’re sold. Leave a comment answered this question. If you want. In the comments on the adventures and networking dot net website about this:
What’s the perfect size for a referral or lead share group? What’s the perfect size for a referral group?
I’m really curious what people think. Big, Small, I don’t know. Let me know what you think I look forward to hearing from you. And until then, remember, life is an adventure. So keep exploring!



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