Networking Top Tips from Reading East Athena, March 2014

March 10, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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Where better than to find top tips about networking than from a room full of business women who have already grown their businesses through networking?

We met with the members and visitors of the Reading East group in early March and asked them to offer their Top Tips for Successful Networking and this is the output.  Do feel free to add your own!

Reading East Top Tips for Successful Networking:

  • Be clear. Set an objective for your networking generally and for each meeting you attend.  Being clear about who you are and who you want to connect means you’re more likely to make it happen!
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up. Look for opportunities to connect or to help someone else and then follow it up as soon as you can.  This shows that you listen and are thinking about others. If someone offers you a connection, always follow it up or the potential referrer will think you don’t care!  And once you have received a referral, do keep the referrer informed so that they know you are looking after their contact.
  • Be proactive. Take the initiative and seek out opportunities.  By really listening to what people say, you’ll be proactive not pushy!
  • Be a good listener. Finding out about others and their businesses creates a connection and build relationships.  Relationships are the foundation of a strong, powerful network. Follow up one to one meetings are a great way to do this.
  • Be friendly. If you are feeling nervous or unsure, the chances are others are too.  Go and introduce yourself to break the ice and then invite others in to your conversation.
  • Be bold. If you loved a speaker’s presentation and have always wanted to connect with them, make a point of introducing yourself as soon as they have finished.  They’ll be on an adrenaline high and will be receptive to your positive approach.
  • Be the presenter. Look for opportunities to take on a role within your network.  Presenting or joining the committee elevates you and your business and provides more points of interest for you to discuss with you people in your network.
  • Be prepared. Find out who is going to a meeting and who is speaking.  Do some research on them before you go.  It feels wonderful when someone has already looked at your website or twitter page!
  • Give, give, give If you are a “giver”, you are much more likely to receive referrals as it demonstrates attentiveness, professionalism and generosity.
  • And if that lists sounds exhausting, just remember this and everything else will be OK:  Be yourself!

Polish Up Your Networking Strategy for FREE!

March 2, 2014 at 6:58 am | Posted in Athena Events | Leave a comment
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TrainingDo you want to make sure that the time, energy and money that you are investing in your networking is going to get you the results you want?

Whether you are new to networking or have been networking for years, taking some time to review your strategy and freshen up your Monthly Minute will help you get more from your networking.  And, as an Athena Member, this training is all included in your membership!

On March 18th, Athena Reading will be holding the next session of Networking Strategy Training.  And it’s FREE for all our members! From 9.30am to 12.30pm at Bills Restaurant, we’ll be running through the key elements of your networking strategy and, if it works for you, you’d are welcome to stay on for lunch.

During the morning we’ll work through:

  • What IS networking?
  • What is our impact when we network?
  • Networking etiquette
  • How to enter and leave conversations

and the very popular

  • Knock out Monthly Minutes!

As you would expect from Athena Reading, this is going to be you “doing” it rather than someone else “telling” so come prepared to give it a go in a relaxed and friendly environment.

To book your place, enquire about visiting a meeting or to find out about joining Athena Reading, email Jill athenareading@jmva.co.uk today!

The Secret of How Much Time We “Should” Spend Networking

February 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Networking Tips | 2 Comments
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TimeHow much time should I spend networking?

This is a question we are regularly asked when we meet people and talk about their businesses.  In fact, it was a question I asked myself when I started up my own business in 2010.  I was so busy thinking about all the “work” I had to do, networking was another item on to the already burgeoning “to do” list that we each have as busy business women.

I knew I “should” be doing it so I started going along to various networking events.  As I walked away from each event, with a handful of business cards, I mentally crossed off “networking” on my “to do” list and moved on to do something else.

Those of you who know me will be aware of my views on the word “should”.  If ever I feel I “should” do something, loud alarm bells start ringing in my ears!  “Should” is a word of obligation rather than motivation and, as such, is one of the most energy-draining words I know.

It was, therefore, not much of a surprise that I neither enjoyed networking nor found it useful for my business.  And yet I was spending lots of time on it!  Does this sound familiar?

Get rid of the “should” in your networking

To change the way I was thinking about networking, I asked myself what I wanted from networking.  Think about all the things you are looking for from meeting people.  (Let’s presume that everyone wants to grow their business, so take that as a given.)

Do you enjoy listening to people? Does being with people give you energy? Do you get better ideas when you talk them through with someone? Do you like helping others? Do you work well as part of a team? Do you like being accountable to someone? Do you benefit from taking time away from your office?  Do you want to make new friends? Do you want to connect with businesses that compliment yours? Do you want to meet people in the same industry or profession as you? Do you want to learn new skills to help you run your business?

Once you are clear about WHAT you want from networking, you can look at how important those things are to you and your business.  This supports the prioritisation of the networking activities.

Finding the time

In The Athena Network, the networking is centred around creating relationships.  These relationships allow us to collaborate, inspire and learn.  It is through those relationships that we and our businesses grow.

But how much time does it take to create a strong relationship?

The truth is “it depends”.  Typically relationships develop with time and intensity.  Athena Meetings are designed to provide both time and intensity – working on personal and business development together.  So, by just attending a monthly meeting, your relationship with each person will grow but at a fairly slow rate.

But really great networking is SO much more than attending a meeting.  Here are some of the characteristics of our most successful networkers:

  • They are great listeners
  • They think about how they can help you BEFORE thinking about how you can help them
  • They are punctual and respectful of your time and commitments as well as their own
  • They are passionate about their businesses
  • They keep in touch when they’re NOT promoting something (as well as when they are)
  • They have a “go to” list of connections that they readily recommend to anyone
  • They have their eyes and ears open for opportunities for others, even when they are not “working”
  • They are seeking and are open to feedback about themselves and their businesses
  • They set bold goals for themselves and their businesses
  • They know there is always more to learn from others (irrespective of how long they’ve been doing it)
  • They are willing to share their expertise without expecting something in return
  • They are genuinely interested in other people and their businesses
  • They do what they say they’re going to do

This is what great networking looks like.

Here’s the SECRET

You “shouldn’t” spend ANY time networking.  Be yourself,  Love what you do, Respect others, Be interested, Listen.  The way you are with people says volumes about you and the way you do business even before you get to a meeting.

If effective networking is creating relationships and creating relationships is about who we are and how we treat others, perhaps the questions we can all ask ourselves is

“When I am not networking, what on earth am I doing?”

I’d love to hear your  views.

Stephanie

www.stephaniesmithcoaching.co.uk

What Successful Athena Members Have in Common, in 12 Words

December 3, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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success keyI read a great article on Forbes yesterday about how Paul B Brown, a prolific writer of books on Entrepreneurship is planning to deal with conversations about his work during the festive season:

“One of our guests is going to turn to me and say, “so, Paul, what books are you working on?””

“I’ll run through the entrepreneurship books as quickly as I can;  the person I am talking to will listen politely, and then they’ll say something like this.”

““You have been writing about entrepreneurs for a long time. Is there a commonality among the best ones?””

The article is short, well written and made me smile so do read it.  But if you don’t get a chance, his answer (in 12 words) is:

“Entrepreneurs have a passion for discovering opportunities. Once they do, they act.”

It started me thinking what our most successful members of The Athena Network have in common.

The single most important thing about being great at networking (and, I may say, at business generally) is being yourself.  We are not perfect so let’s not kid ourselves.  We are human and each of us bring something different to what we do, to the people we meet, to the world.  Individuality is a huge strength in life and in your network.  Clones we aint! So if we’re all individuals, perhaps their isn’t a common trait in the successful Athena Members.

However, when I think about the people who have gained the most business or connected with the most people or grown their business the most, some themes do emerge:

  1. They love what they do
  2. They are experts
  3. They stand out (clear about what makes them different)
  4. They are fully themselves, all the time, with anyone, in any situation
  5. They are open-minded
  6. They give time, referrals, connections readily and freely
  7. They have confidence in their work (even if they are not confident at speaking/meeting people)
  8. They ask for help
  9. They seek out collaboration
  10. They value and nurture their network

These members have seen real, measurable growth of their businesses as a result of their networking.  And it is not just the well-established business owners who can lay claim to this either.  Some of our members with relatively new businesses have reaped significant success by doing (and being) all the above.

So, how to summarise what successful Athena Network Members have in common, in just 12 words?  How about this:

“Athena Members trust themselves, love their work and value others”  

Ok, that’s 11 words – but, like I said, I’m not perfect either!  What would your 12 words be?

www.stephaniesmithcoaching.co.uk

January is Visitors’ Month

November 12, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Posted in News | Leave a comment
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2014No doubt, if you are an entrepreneur or involved in any kind of business development, networking will be high on your list of things to include in your 2014 strategy.

So, to support you, we are delighted to announce that January is Visitors’ Month across Athena Reading.

Join us to experience:

  • A sumptuous lunch, hot and cold beverages
  • A chance to present your Monthly Minute – everyone is invited to present themself and their business and ask for any support they may need
  • Two training sessions –  Networking Strategy Training (to enhance your networking skills and focus your networking activity for the coming months) and Business Support Training (a fifteen minute presentation given by an expert in a pertinent business topic – see below)
  • Let’s Talk Business – This is quite possibly the most invaluable component of an Athena meeting; an opportunity for all the guests to talk to the group about any business referrals they might have for one another.

There will be a particularly warm welcome for all our visitors and you will be guided step-by-step through the meeting to ensure you have the best possible experience.

All you need to do right now is to decide when you would like to visit and click on the relevant date below to check your profession is not already represented in the group and then book:

Wednesday January 8th – Sonning Golf Club (RG4 6GJ)
Grainne Ridge, Business Advisor from Business Fit Club will be taking us on a whistlestop tour of the levers we can pull in our businesses to achieve the results we want – with practical actions to take away and implement immediately.

Thursday January 9th – Bill’s Café (RG1 2HX)
Lynne Copp,  Organisational Development Consultant from The Worklife Company will be sharing her tips for creating a successful business, and inspiring all attendees at this meeting to grow.

Thursday January 23rd – The Hilton (RG2 0GQ)
June Dean, Marketing Consultant from The Elevation Factor will be telling us how we can  optimise social media to gain valuable new connections and clients.  She will explain how being strategic about our social networking will help us.

All our meetings begin at 12noon and conclude at 2pm (with informal networking over coffee until 2.30pm).

October’s Networking Tip – Starting a conversation

October 1, 2013 at 6:00 am | Posted in Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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PeopleTalkingIt’s a situation we’ve all faced.  We arrive at a networking event and it’s full of people we don’t know who are already busily engaged in conversation.  People look animated and interested.  We can hear people laughing. Suddenly it can feel like all our confidence has evaporated and we wonder what would happen if we just turned around and went home.

The truth is, you don’t have to be loud or funny or gregarious to network effectively.  You just have take a deep breath and be yourself.  And if you want a bit of a helping hand to join a conversation, here are some tips and conversation starters that we’ve found useful.

  1. Take your time. Spend a moment while you get a drink looking at the room and noticing people that you might like to meet.  You may notice other individuals who are on their own too.  Try “Hello, I don’t think I know anyone here, do you?”
  2. Join a group.  Pick a group that looks interesting, go over and stand next to one of them. Good networkers will turn towards you and open the conversation to bring you in.  If that doesn’t happen, don’t lose hope!  Either move on and find a different group for now or turn to the person nearest you in the group and say “Excuse me, may I join your conversation?”
  3. Smile! People will generally move around the room looking for more people to meet and groups to join.  As people pass you, make eye contact and smile.  This will encourage people to come and introduce themselves to you.  The same goes if you move around the room and want to know who to talk to next.
  4. Relax.  Sometimes networking can be tiring.  Give yourself a break every now and then by going to get some water or a coffee or stepping outside for a minute.  Gather your thoughts, breathe and then go back in feeling refreshed.

Once you’ve swapped names, here are some useful questions to get the conversation flowing. Remember, people will remember how you made them feel more than what you said or did!

  • Have you had to travel far today?
  • Who are you hoping to meet?
  • What’s your ideal client?
  • What would be your dream introduction?  And what would you do if you got it?
  • What could I do to help you?
  • What do you enjoy most about what you do?

And if you’ve got some favourite questions that you’ve asked or been asked, do add them!

Stephanie

http://www.stephaniesmithcoaching.co.uk

Would You Feel Better Letting Go Of Guilt?

August 30, 2013 at 11:56 am | Posted in Articles | Leave a comment
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The sounds of the summer are starting to fade.  Looking back at the great expanse of time some of us see as “the low season” (ie August!), it may just be that you, like me, didn’t get anywhere near as much “done” as you had hoped.

“I feel so guilty” are words I often hear from colleagues (and in my own head too) because of time apparently “wasted” and tasks left undone.  There is often self-reproach for spending too much time on social media, not replying fast enough to emails, not following-up networking contacts…the list goes on.   In my clients too, there is often guilt as they look back at their behaviour and its impact on their relationships.

The trouble with guilt and regret is that both are debilitating and of no use.  iStock_000005994502XSmall

To stop them, we first need to look at their cause.

Guilt is generally the product of a clash between a belief and an action.  To relieve the guilt, one of the two needs to change.

Obviously we can’t change the action if it’s in the past.  So, as there’s no point agonizing over the unchangeable, it’s therefore useful to consider what beliefs are creating the guilt, and check them out.

Let’s take an example of something I heard recently.

“I feel so guilty because I spent too much time mucking about over the summer and not getting the important stuff done”.

Whatever she did or didn’t do can’t be changed, so what beliefs are there, creating the guilt?

The most obvious ones are

  • what she did was “mucking about”
  • she didn’t get the important stuff done

First of all I asked her on both counts whether the statements were totally true.   Was she really mucking about, or was she relaxing and taking time out? Did she really get NO important stuff done?

Then we looked at what was implicit in the beliefs.  Is mucking about so bad?  Was what she was doing so unimportant? 

Turns out she had been spending time with her children.

See where I’m going……………?

It’s really helpful to become aware of our beliefs and thoughts, challenge them, check them out.  Often they are either not 100% true or we are choosing to focus on the negative rather than an equally plausible positive.

We can choose where we focus our attention, but often guilt is such a habitual response, we forget that we have a choice about where to focus.

When mistakes have been made and we’re really sure that what we have done was not for the best, the place to focus is the future and how we can do things differently.   For the most part, I feel grateful for the mistakes I’ve made in the past because, by learning from them, they’ve made me who I am today.

When I think about it differently I can see that most of my summer “mucking about” allowed me to relax, rejuvenate and reflect.  This means I am going into the new autumn season with renewed enthusiasm, creativity and energy.  I didn’t get as much “done” as I would like, but the time was certainly not wasted.

Focussing on an unchangeable past with remorse is not going to change it.  But focussing on what we can learn from it is more likely to result in renewed positivity (rather than guilt) and consequently is more likely to mean an even better future.

Juliette Smith

Relationship Coach

http://www.juliettesmith.co.uk

August’s Networking Tip – Building Trust = Building Your Business

July 24, 2013 at 11:08 am | Posted in Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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trust handsIt probably won’t surprise you to know that M&S and John Lewis are the two most trusted brands in the UK according to a poll by Lansons and Opinium Research.

So what?

Trust means consistency, reliability, professionalism, quality, value and reputation.  All words that we would like to be associated with our own businesses.  With trust comes that “money-can’t-buy” competitive edge that is REFERRAL.

When someone is prepared to put their reputation on the line by recommending your business to one of their valuable connections in a referral, they are demonstrating high levels of trust in you as a person and in your business.

It is unrealistic to be able to use the services or buy products from everyone in our networks and vice versa. So, how can you support others to develop trust in your business when you network?

Consider the Know, Like, Trust Factor:

Know:

Get to know your connections.  Not just their businesses, products or services but the individuals, their motivations, what sets them apart from others.  The more you get to know them, the more they will get to know you.

This is where 1-2-1’s, follow-ups and a bit of research on Linked In goes a long way.

Like:

This is not necessarily about being friends, although it can be!  As you get to know more about your connections, you are likely to find areas of common interest, either professionally or personally. This could be because your businesses work with similar markets, or represent the same values or even because you both play netball.  When you find that common element, you will deepen your business relationship.

This means that you will be  in each others thoughts more often, you may share ideas or answer calls to action by connecting them with others.

Trust:

This is the point where someone can, with full confidence, refer you to one of their connections, even if they have not used your services or bought one of your products.  They know enough about who you are and how you operate to TRUST you with their hard-earned, well-nurtured network.

This happens when someone sees that everything you do and say is consistent.  That your values (the way you are and the way you do business) closely match their own.  This is when people will go and actively seek opportunities on your behalf, taking a call to action and making it bigger and better than you could have imagined.

And guess what? You can’t force this bit!

So, when you are out networking, consider these questions: “What am I doing to help others trust me?”

What am I doing to…….

  • Get to know people and their businesses?
  • Find out things that we have in common?
  • Understand calls to action?
  • Respond to calls to action?
  • Demonstrate my consistency, reliability, professionalism, quality, value and reputation?

And if you’re not sure, try something new and see what a difference it makes!

By Stephanie Smith, Stephanie Smith Coaching

 

Phenomenal Business Through Athena But That’s Not All…

June 28, 2013 at 11:54 am | Posted in Member Stories | Leave a comment
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When I first started out on the networking circuit, I expected immediate results; new clients signing up on the spot, referrals and recommendations to all their contacts, big corporate opportunities landing at my feet etc. etc.

When that didn’t happen in the first month, I told myself that networking didn’t work and I took myself off and sulked behind my laptop for a few months.  Funnily enough, that didn’t help!

LaurenneIf only I’d met Laurenne Dorgan from PBS Services, she’d have set me straight instantly!  Laurenne is a prolific networker.  She is a member of several groups and, at virtually every meeting, new clients sign her up, provide referrals and/or give her glowing testimonials for her work.  And she does the same for others.

Here she tells us how she makes her Athena membership work for her and her business year after year.

Q: What made you join The Athena Network originally & what makes you renew every year?

I’ve been an Athena member for 6 years and I belong to two groups, I also belong to BNI and have done for 11 years (since I started my own business).  I find it is important to build relationships and that is not done by just joining a group for a year.  You need to be in it for the long term and build long term relationships and support your group.

I joined Athena because I wanted to join a women-only networking group that was serious about business – Athena has a structure which I like too and I find that women like to do business with other women.  Very powerful things can happen and great connections can be made.

Q: How do you use networking to grow your business?

I have a monthly structure for my networking and I always attend every meeting, I put all the dates in the diary at the beginning of the year so I never miss a meeting, I always try and bring visitors to the group and I always try and connect and give referrals

Q: How would you quantify the business you’ve gained through Athena?

The business I have had through Athena has been phenomenal, but it is not just about the business, it is about the whole support structure, the training and the long term friends that I have made which makes it so important to me.

Q: What advice would you give someone thinking about joining Athena?

JOIN! But you must take it seriously, do your 1-2-1′s, always attend every meeting, stick at it and don’t just join for a year, bring visitors and enjoy every meeting.

This Month We Welcome…

May 2, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Member Stories | Leave a comment
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Each Month, we will be profiling some of our new members and their businesses.  This time, Athena Reading South welcomes two new members – Isabel Roy of Cherry Services and Raquel Waxler of legal firm, RX Consulting.

Isabel Roy, Cherry Services

cherrygirls

The Cherry Girls!

Describe your business in 10 words or less.
We are a VA service (PA without the desk costs). Cherry Services aim is to reach out with a service to assist you with your busy lives and businesses and ‘picking up where you left off’.

Which three words describe you best?
First class, perfection and professional

How long have you been in your business/company?
Our business is 1 year old but we have been PA’s for over 15 years

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Organising – we love making someone else feel organised!

What first attracted you to visit the Athena Network?
For their
professionalism and positive known reputation.

What are your objectives/your hopes for your Athena membership?
To build long lasting business relationships

What would be the ideal referral for you & your business?
Individual or small business that need help with a “bit of everything” diary management, hairdresser appointments, data entry, chasing invoices – we love having a mixture of things to do! We enjoy getting to know our clients and being their right hand person!

Raquel Waxler, RX Consulting

Raquel Waxler, RX Consulting

Raquel Waxler, RX Consulting

Describe your business in 10 words or less
Tailored, quality, practical legal and business risk advice and solutions

Which three words describe you best?
Determined, passionate and incisive

How long have you been in your business/company?
A little over three years

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Providing businesses with practical solutions

What first attracted you to visit the Athena Network?
An opportunity to meet like-minded women passionate about their businesses

What are your objectives/your hopes for your Athena membership?
To build business contacts to ensure the networking “circle” works.

What would be the ideal referral for you & your business?
A medium-sized business that has no in-house lawyer and wants tailored advice on a retainer-basis

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