Schmoozing 101

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    What is it? What does it mean? How do you do it?

    It used to be that “Here’s my card” was enough. Today, with e-mail, Blackberrys and MySpace, you are going to need a telepathic personal assistant if you don’t have plans to get out there and fight to be noticed.

    Walter Chrysler once said, “The reason so many people never get anywhere in life is because when opportunity knocks, they are out in the backyard looking for four-leaf clovers.” So that means you have to do this on your own. You have to make this happen. It used to be about who you know. Today, it’s about who knows you.

    How does one network in Cincinnati? How do you get out there and make it so that people wonder how they ever lived without you? These five tips should help you get started.

    1. Network with a Purpose
    Go to an event knowing that networking is what you are there to do. There are several organizations in town that have pure networking events. Consider it extreme home networking. It happens strong, and it happens fast. You go in, sell yourself, give out your card, receive cards from others and leave. There is the occasional Ally-McBeal-after-work-hang-out-to-meet-someone, but knowing you are at a definite networking spot helps tremendously since you are all there to do the same thing. Seek out those opportunities, prepare your 30-second verbal commercial and arm yourself with a stack of business cards. Here are some great local networking groups to look into:

    2. The Follow up
    When someone gives you their card, write a little something on it such as where you met, if that person is called by a nickname or something else that will help you remember them. This will also help give that personal touch to your follow up. And, please, follow up! It may seem quaint, but a written thank you/nice to have met you note is an incredible way to get noticed. “Who sends hand written notes anymore?” you may ask. The answer is “You do!” A thank you note sits on a desk and gets noticed. An e-mail gets lower down the list as numerous e-mails come each day. Do the math.
    3. Presentation
    Now, this isn’t about the look of your business card. This, my friend, is about you. First off, know your audience and dress appropriately. A fundraiser benefit is different from a soiree or from a networking event. No matter what it is though, dress conservatively. Club clothes are club clothes. Yes, we are women in a male dominated business world, but don’t go showing off what makes us women. You will be remembered that way, that’s for sure; but you won’t get that follow-up call. However, while we’re at it, don’t go to the opposite extreme either. Just because we work with men, doesn’t mean we have to dress like them. Add a little sparkle to your black suit. Be the nicely dressed woman in the black dress and feminine pink scarf.

    Just a general “duh” here, but behave. A cocktail reception with an open bar doesn’t mean that people will “understand” why you’re a little tipsy. Watch your language, and avoid gossip of any kind. This town is too small. You are going to find someone who knows someone who knows someone. (And doesn’t it all just lead to Kevin Bacon anyway?)

    4. Branch out
    Volunteer. Take a class. (Shameless plug: Watch for my article on taking local classes in the upcoming Nov. 5 issue of Cincy Chic.) Expand your repertoire. Open your mind to the possibility that you may find what you need in a person at the doctor’s office, the zoo or in that person you thought wasn’t cool at all. Are you a member of your Alma Mater’s local alumni group? Check them out. I bet those school bullies that picked on nerdy Bill Gates are kicking themselves now.

    5. Sell Yourself
    Know who you are, what you do and your strengths, and be able to communicate it quickly and concisely. No life stories. We are all busy people, so be like Zorro: Get in, make your mark and get out. And keep in mind that a few good contacts are better than just a collection of cards.

    So, there you go. No more backyard four-leaf-clover-pickers. Walk right through opportunity’s door. Shake a hand, make a contact and be proud of who you are and what you bring to the table. Go get ‘em girls!!