Networking Game Plan

by guest author, Peggy Parks, The Parks Image Group

I had never networked until I started my business and was absolutely petrified. What should I do? What should I say? How do I start a conversation? How do I end a conversation? What do I talk about? How do I approach people? What do I wear? It was all so overwhelming. Therefore I’ve decided to assemble this “cheat sheet” for those of you who may feel uncomfortable mingling in a room full of strangers. Read this before you leave the house!
Before the Event: Have a Plan

  • Where are you going?
  • Why are you going?
  • Who will be there?
  • What is your goal?

Make sure you have plenty of business cards (neatly organized in a card holder) and a pen and notepad. Clear out your wallet and handbag to avoid any embarrassing spills.

Have your “elevator pitch” ready. An “elevator pitch” is essentially a spiel you give in the time it takes to ride an elevator (anywhere from 30-60 seconds). Hit the major bullet points - who you are, what you do, what you’re looking to accomplish - and be prepared to recite this throughout the event.

When You First Arrive 

  1. Survey the room. As you approach the door, take a moment to check your posture, adopt a relaxed and confident facial expression, and determine whether or not anyone you know is inside. Take a deep breath - it’ll help you calm those nerves. 
  2. Make conversation. Approach someone who is standing alone - most likely they’ll be grateful for the effort. Do not interrupt people who are deep in conversation, and do not invade others’ personal space. If you’re still at a loss, introduce yourself to the host or check-in person; oftentimes they are happy to make introductions to get the party going.

What to Say
We all know to stay away from politics and religion, but you should also make sure that you leave your personal life behind. Don’t talk about health issues. Do not criticize the venue or the food. Do not gossip.
Check the headlines and be aware of what’s going on in the news. This will give you a conversation starter. “What do you think of….?” This way you can gauge the person’s opinion and respond accordingly. There’s less chance of offending someone.
The easiest thing to do is ask others to talk about themselves. We all love to do this. Even if the person you are talking to is boring, be mindful; do not make them feel uncomfortable. Listen to them, nod, agree, be in a forward position, and look at them, not at who is coming through the door!

Should the person not know how to stop talking, you need to make a graceful exit. Do not make them feel bad. Smile; tell them you enjoyed the conversation and that you need to mingle with others.

Business Cards
I attended an event earlier this year. The event had already started and I noticed a woman who came in late. Before she sat at a table, she made sure she distributed her business card to everyone in the room. She was trying to be “discreet” but was very disruptive and rude. The woman next to me said, “Peggy, she needs to take your etiquette class.” What was she thinking? (She wasn’t.) Do not hand out your business card unless someone asks for it. All they will do is throw it away. Do not assume you can add someone to your distribution list simply because you have their contact info. Networking is about forming relationships, not selling yourself. People won’t buy from you unless they know you, like you, and trust you. It all takes time. Research shows that it takes seven “touches” for people to remember you. Exercise a little patience and take the time to forge a connection.
What to Wear
If you want to “work the room,” I recommend that you wear friendly and approachable colors such as a medium brown, a medium blue, or earth tones (if they are flattering to your skin tone). Wearing black may be a bit intimidating.

Wear a jacket which has two pockets. It will help when giving out your business card. Put your business cards in your right pocket, and put the business cards you receive in your left pocket (or vice versa). This will prevent the embarrassment of giving out someone else’s business card!
Following Up
This is the most important part of networking. Don’t let a great connection slip through your fingers because you were too lazy to follow up!

  1. Enter your contacts into your database. Include a few notes so that you can recall what you discussed.
  2. Pay it forward by making connections and introductions. Not every person you meet will present a business opportunity for you - yet. But by connecting someone with another contact who may be in the same field you can impress two friends, who will more than likely return the favor down the road.
  3. Send a thank you note or email if you are short on time.
  4. Check back a month later.
  5. Connect on social media. LinkedIn and Facebook - provided your profile is professional, not personal - can be a great way to keep in touch.

Peggy M. Parks is an international image consultant and founder of The Parks Image Group, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia. Custom corporate workshops on professional business attire and etiquette, private one-on-one consulting that features a personal and individually crafted image plan and wardrobe planning and selection form the core services Peggy’s company provides.

Fear or Just Ignorance?

An Atlanta executive who ought to know better (psst, not the guy to the left!) is now informing his business community that social media is worthless. He believes no results are likely to be had, and he smugly insists that the social web and all that it implies is a passing fad guaranteed to fade into the night.


Not only does this executive do disservice to himself, what about his clients? These are the business leaders who rely on his vast knowledge, experience and future vision. Not just because they trust him, but because they pay him. That’s his job. Provide time crunched business owners with the resources, counsel and tools they need to succeed with their business – today and tomorrow.

That’s the rub really…people who dismiss what they don’t understand. These folks are part of the “it didn’t work for me, so it can’t work for anybody” club. That’s a real shame.

Here’s the deal…social media provides leverage that all businesses can capitalize on. With the right strategy as the underpinning, the time you invest in putting your social media plan into action will more than give you the return on investment you want.

Learn to Sell or Go Out of Business!

I don’t know what it is about the word “selling” that causes people to freeze up like a deer caught in the headlights. It seems that people will go to almost any length to avoid talking about the importance of selling. Yet the bottom line is that selling is a way of life!

We sell ourselves to get accepted into college. We sell our kids on doing chores around the house. We sell our bosses on why “we” deserve the promotion versus someone else. We sell our significant other on that piece of jewelry we are dying to own. We sell our friends on what movie to go see. We sell our colleagues on supporting our projects. We sell others on our charity causes. In short - we sell every minute of every single day of our lives.

Soooo…what is the problem with selling the products or services that we have to offer? Maybe something in the collective psyche that says “selling is bad”? All I know is that if you want people to buy your products or your services then you must master the art of selling what you have to offer. Granted, some of us - yes, that’s me! - enjoy it more than others. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to love it also.

What it comes down to is this…if you believe that what you offer has value to someone one else or to a particular company then it should be pretty easy to sell. If you love what you do and remember that sales is simply about helping to solve problems for others then it’s pretty easy. Except…most people end up focused on what “they want” not what is good for their potential customer. I’ll talk more about that later.

Here’s the deal. Right now, people are constantly focusing on what they perceive to be the negatives  out there. That’s not helpful. Yes, I realize that the financial problems being played out on the national stage are a problem. Yes, I realize that people are out of work. But that doesn’t have to be your world. Focusing on the negative or using the economy as an excuse is NOT the way to attract new clients and close business each day.

In subsequent posts, I’m going to talk about the Top 10 Sales Blunders People Make and HOW YOU can avoid them. I love to help people sell more, more often so read on!

Get Clients Now!

Doesn’t everyone want new clients now? I know I certainly do, because I love working with people to improve revenue and the overall sales performance of individuals, leaders and teams.

In May, I had the good fortune to participate in an amazing workshop! Based on the book by C.J. Hayden, the Get Clients Now! workshop facilitated by Joan Curtis of taught a simple, yet powerful process to Get Clients Now!

We have been to workshops that were heavy on theory on light on action. That’s one thing really different about this program. In just 3.5 hours, you leave with a 28-day marketing action plan that - if you work it - help you to achieve your goals.

So, here I am at the end of August, and I’m still working with Joan. In my first 28-days, I achieved a record $22,000 in new business revenue! That’s some serious mojo. Attending the workshop was one thing, but signing up for Joan’s subsequent group coaching is what I know made the difference. Accountability is a wonderful thing and the coaching helped me stay on point. I’ve seen remarkable results…you will too! Visit Joan at