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Joseph Buff from Joseph Buff Insurance at the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Jan. 5.
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Kyle Mims and Chris Fielding at the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Jan. 5.
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Amanda Meacham, Eric Chambers and Bryan Morrow at the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Jan. 5.
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Carol Bruser and Kendall Williams at the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Jan. 5.
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Kelli Holmes and Alison Howell at the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Jan. 5.
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South Shelby Chamber of Commerce Chairman Casey Morris speaks at the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Jan. 5.
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Guest speaker Joe Thomas at the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Jan. 5.
For individuals hoping to kick off the new year with more networking, Joe Thomas had a few tips.
Thomas, immediate past president for the Hoover Chamber of Commerce, offered up his keys to impactful networking to the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 5.
At the first chamber luncheon of the year, South Shelby Chamber Executive Director April Stone said she hopes members will take the tips to fulfill any 2017 resolutions of more or better networking.
When it comes to networking, Thomas said some important points are knowing the best places to be, the right people to talk to and the correct things to say. He broke his discussion into 11 key points.
“When you go to networking, you can do it in such a fashion, that you can leave an impact that’s lasting on the people you
“That’s my goal today, to give you 11 types of things where you can go, ‘If I do half of these when I go networking, I’m going to have a much better time, and people that I come in contact with are going to remember me in a better way,’” Thomas said.
He started with emphasizing the important to attend the right events.
“You can’t just go to any networking events and expect it to be fruitful for you,” he said.
Sometimes good networking means attending an occupation or industry specific group, visiting hiring events or going to chambers of commerce. It all depends on the type of individual you are looking to connect with, Thomas said.
He also encouraged planning in advance, bringing the correct marketing material for the event and researching the organization.
“Say it with me, ‘Cyber stalking is OK,’” Thomas said, adding that it is helpful to know the leadership of an organization as well as other important members. “The reason you want to do cyber stalking is you want to know what’s going to be appropriate at that place. You don’t want to show up with all of your marketing materials and everyone looks at you like you’re crazy.”
That point led into knowing the culture, meaning knowing the proper attire for the event, and being prepared with business cards, the appropriate marketing materials and a nametag. As an added step, Thomas said it is a good idea to join a chamber’s ambassador program so that you can get a permanent nametag — rather than a “Hello my name is” sticker. Chamber nametags also mean new members will likely approach you first, and by introducing them to others, it helps foster a strong relationship with the new member.
Business cards are a vital part of any networking event, Thomas said, and he encouraged everyone to take time to inspect cards they are given. Taking an extra moment to look for contact information then prompts the question, “How would you like me to follow up with you?” he said.
“It’s going to take them by surprise,” Thomas said. “And they’re going to go, ‘OK, um, how about email? That’d be best.’ And of course, if it’s not on the card, you can go, ‘Would you mind giving me your email address?’”
Creating a system for marking business cards can also help with follow-up, Thomas said. He notes down where and when he meets a person, as well as any notes that would be helpful in later conversations.
Knowing what to say and to whom you are speaking are two conversation tips Thomas discussed. At networking events, it is important to have a quick few sentences to answer the questions “TMAY” — tell me about yourself. Having a condensed version of your bio that gets people’s attention can be vital in kicking off a conversation.
Reiterating that it is OK to “cyber stalk” or research individuals before networking events, Thomas encouraged people to gather information about potential valuable contacts. By gathering information, conversations will be easier and oftentimes more productive at the event, he said.
“What’s the open ended question you want to get them talking about so that you can twist the conversation to something where you can help them?” Thomas said. “It sounds very sterile, I know, but as you do this more and more, it’s going to become second nature. It’s going to get a lot easier.”
No matter the networking, though, he said to make sure to get a business card.
“Once you get their business card, they’ve given you the opportunity to follow up,” Thomas said.
One of the most important parts of networking, Thomas said, is remembering to follow up. Within 24 hours of an event, he suggested making a plan of how and when to get in touch with new contacts. Then reach out via email, a phone call or a handwritten note. While all of those forms of contact are acceptable, Thomas said handwritten notes are the ones that stand out.
“If you want to separate yourself, it’s all about the follow-up,” Thomas said.
Thomas is the author of Everybody Knows Joe, a book on his 11 keys to impactful networking.