These days I get to speak at a LOT of business shows and networking events up and down the country. Recently I spoke at a major national event, The Business Networking Show and, it’s fair to say, I made a bit of an entrance.
Specifically, as I came on stage I had “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead as my entrance music (and it was LOUD). Plus we had organised a smoke machine, flashing lights, the whole nine yards.
Once I was up on stage I delivered 20 minutes of exceptional content on business networking, stuff which the audience could take action on and use straight away. The comments which I have received since suggest that the audience appreciated what I had to say as much as I enjoyed delivering it.
So why the big entrance? An ego trip? Partly, I’m a frustrated rock star, the musical talent in my family certainly skipped a generation when it came to me so I enjoyed the buzz of a big entrance like that.
But more than that, I was aware I was in a very crowded market and the first thing I needed to do was to get people to pay attention. No matter how good what I had to say was (or I thought it was), no matter how much value I thought I could deliver in 20 minutes, I needed people to be there to listen.
The Business Networking Show, and other shows I speak at are crowded markets because the organisers make sure the attendees have plenty of, almost unlimited choice in how they spend their time whilst they are there. Specifically, there was another speaker on another stage at exactly the same time as me, there was a networking lunch going on and there were many exhibitors with spectacular offers for the attendees to go and talk to.
At a networking event, and on social media, if you want people to listen to you, you have to get their attention. No matter how good your content is, no matter how good your product or service is, if you’re talking to an empty room, your message is lost.
Engage with people on social media – don’t just broadcast. Be a regular at networking events – don’t just turn up when you’ve got something to sell. Plan your 40 second introduction – don’t just wing it. Assemble your crowd first, before you need them to be there for you.
The Ace of Spades was the culmination of a load of other stuff which had gone on in the background. I had spent weeks engaging with people I knew were attending the show. On the morning I had been walking up and down talking to anyone and inviting them to come and see me.
What I could see from the stage as the music was playing and we were making a lot of noise was that other people, who hadn’t planned to come and see me were wondering what all the fuss was about and coming in at the back of the hall. They stayed.
On the internet, it’s a crowded market and people have almost unlimited choice. At networking events people are thinking about their own stuff, and enjoying their breakfast. At business shows people have got huge numbers of exhibitors to visit and talk to.
In a crowded market, the stallholder who shouts the loudest gets the biggest crowd and, as a result, sells more stuff. The options you have to shout loud about your business are huge, go and take advantage of them.
Once you’ve got people’s attention, well that’s a whole separate blog.
Stefan Thomas is the author of Business Networking for Dummies and Instant Networking. He is regularly in demand as a speaker at conferences and events and works with individuals and teams to increase their ROI from business networking.