We always hear that we have to “network” to build our practice. “Join the Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, the PTA, and Toast Masters,” business teachers say. I myself have said that you should go to every fundraiser, party, speech, seminar, Chamber of Commerce class, PTA meeting, church dinner, book-signing, or other event where there will be people to meet and greet. So, okay, you might say to me, what if I do go? How do I “work” such events to actually become better known in the community and turn that into patients and referrals?
Here are my best ideas to get the most out of every event you attend.
1. Be the first in and last out. As a rule, the best networking opportunities happen in the 20 minutes prior to the start of the event and the 20 minutes after the function ends. If you main objective is to make as many contacts as possible, the always arrive as early as possible. You can even think of yourself as one of the hosts and greet and speak to as many people as possible and then say goodbye and “gee, wasn’t it interesting when the speaker said…” at the end. Mostly, people won’t care that you aren’t really the host, but will be thankful that someone was kind enough to greet them and make them feel more comfortable and welcome in a new environment.
2. What’s in a name (tag)? Okay so this one is a little hokey, but it works. Create your own name tag and put your name and then a quote or message underneath, either something inspiring enough to start a conversation or relevant to what you do and interesting enough that people will ask about it.
Or, if they will have their own nametags, open yours up and write your message on it. You can try something inspiring like, “The average human heart beats 100,000 times per day; make those beats count.” or “Choose a positive thought; the human brain can only hold one thought at a time!” or something humorous like “Needle little pick me up?” or “Got health?” This will start a number of conversations; I guarantee it.
3. Be a brilliant conversationalist. You can control any conversation by asking all the questions and then just sit and listen attentively. Don’t interrupt or talk much about yourself. People will believe you carry on the best conversation they ever had. Toward the end of the conversation or when it’s time to go, offer them your card with a simple comment such as, “It was great to talk with you; appreciate you sharing about yourself. Here’s my business card; I don’t know that you’ll ever need my services, but if you do, here’s how to find me.” Then offer your hand and a smile and move on.
4. Be a door prize. Offering your product or service as one of the door-prizes at any event that has such things, or as part of a silent auction for any and every community fundraiser, is always a good way to get publicity for being a real participant. If you can arrange it, try to trade the door prize for a copy of the attendee mailing list. Do this regularly for any clubs and associations of which you are a member and watch your mailing list grow.
5. Creative Introductions. You can make a memorable impact on everyone you meet by developing a more creative verbal introduction. So, instead of saying: “I’m an acupuncturist.” you might say:
“I relieve the full range of human suffering using very small sharp metal implements.”
“I help people run faster, jump higher, and recover faster from any and all physical activity and exertion.”
“I help husbands love their wives more every week of the month.”
“I make it possible for more people to get a better night’s sleep.”
You get the idea. As these examples illustrate, the way you introduce yourself can be dead serious and dead boring, or a little more fun and a lot more interesting. Your message should be a conversation starter, memorable, and help you market yourself and your services in a lighthearted way. Remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Hope these ideas help you make the best use of any and all your networking opportunities. My next networking events are a class on my favorite acupuncture treatments at KAMWO Chinese Herbs in NYC, Wed. May 29th at 7 PM and a talk on marketing at PCOM NY on Thursday May 30th at Noon. Maybe I’ll see you there!