I talk a lot about Personal Branding, especially in relation to networking online... But so much of my business comes from meeting people face-to-face OFFLINE that I thought it would be useful to think about this some more.
A personal brand is what people remember about you. It's what people say about you when you are not around.
It's your personal, professional and social stock value.
At a typical (British) networking event you are likely to be in a room with anywhere from 15-40+ people from all types of businesses.
You'll have plenty of opportunities to meet new people, so it makes sense to consider how people will perceive you and ultimately remember you.
Below are 3 simple ideas that can help you to stand out from the crowd and make your networking more effective:
1. Be YOU
This can be anything from how you speak. The clothes you wear. The subjects you speak about.
Show a part of your personality and be warm, open and friendly. Networking really is about getting to know people, it gets over-complicated at times, but at its core, you are just talking to people regularly and trying to find ways to assist each other.
People are very often guarded and formal which can come across as being cold or even having something to hide. I know this is probably very rarely the case, but people make instinctive gut reactions, so smiling and being interested in other people is the foundation of building strong relationships.
Don't overlook this one.
2. Put your photo on your business card
In the US, this is a common tactic used by Estate Agents... Over in the UK, you very rarely see it done.
I think of it this way, if I go to a networking event, I can realistically come home with a pocket-full of cards (usually 5-10)... When I finally get round to filing these and following up with people, it's almost impossible to match the card to the conversation we had when we met.
Having your face on your card is a simple way of anchoring who you are with what you do... This is a core idea of personal branding and is one that very few people are using.
Another benefit of this is that as humans, we are far less likely to throw aways something with an image of a human face on there... It's just how we're wired.
A business card that is not thrown in the bin is always better than one that is.
3. Use novelty to stand out
Think about it... You're in a room with a load of other people. Most of you don't know each other. How many people are you realistically going to remember? Four or five maybe?
Then you need to ask why did you remember these people? Maybe it was a conversation you had, something you heard them say... Or maybe it was something else?
There are a load of opportunities to differentiate yourself and stand out.
Typically there's a part of the meeting where you can stand up and introduce yourself for a minute or so... I think this is a great time to use novelty.
People are sat (probably nervously) waiting for their turn to speak... Running over their lines and trying to look relaxed... You really need to work to capture their attention.
Asking questions is a great way... Ask for a show of hands... Ask what a certain concept means to them... This makes you appear far more confident and makes your opportunity to speak feel like an interactive conversation... This is a great way to stand out.
Another thing you can do is to end your talk with an unanswered question... You can measure how many people were engaged by the number of conversations this generates afterwards.
Give other people an 'in' into the conversation and you'll be surprised how often they take it.
These are three quick ideas on how you can make the most of your personal brand when networking... But remember, every day, every moment, every encounter is an opportunity to add value to people's lives.
It's a chance to be friendly and helpful. It's an opportunity to give somebody a reason to talk about you.
Always have business cards, and always look to give value.
What goes around, comes around.