This is the time of the year when small business owners start to revisit live networking events so I want to share some advice I've followed for the best part of 20 years spent attending thousands of such meetings.
The Power of a Pencil (or pen)
In a time where we are flooded with digital devices and screen-laden interactions, the simple act of wielding a pencil and journal in a business networking setting may seem archaic. However, it is exactly this 'antiquated' approach that can lend gravitas to your persona and shift people's perceptions of you from just another face in the room to someone worth listening to. Here's how.
Elevating Your Persona
In the corporate theatrics of a business meeting, props are not just physical objects but symbols of your approach and philosophy. A pencil and journal immediately set you apart, creating a distinction that is both subtle and palpable. Whereas taking notes on a phone or tablet can be misconstrued as disengagement or distraction, a journal suggests a seriousness of purpose. It communicates that you are there not just in body but in mind and spirit.
The Power of Attentive Listening
In the ‘noise’ of modern business discussions—often laden with buzzwords and jargon—real listening becomes a lost art. Writing with a pencil creates a meditative space that encourages you to absorb information, facilitating a deeper level of listening. This intent, almost ritualistic, form of note-taking is not just for you. It visibly signals to others that you are fully engaged in what is going on. How people can sit through a business networking meeting (online or offline) and not take notes is beyond me. Trust me, your memory and recall are not that good.
The Dynamics of Eye Contact
Engaging in eye contact is not just a polite habit but a powerful non-verbal cue. As someone who’s spent decades in leadership roles, I've seen firsthand how maintaining eye contact can establish a connection that a thousand words cannot. When you make eye contact with the speaker, you're transmitting a message: "I value what you’re saying." That level of interest is usually reciprocated, enhancing your own influence and engagement when it’s your turn to speak.
The Silent Symphony of a Muted Phone
If a ringing phone can disrupt a symphony, imagine what it can do to the intricate dynamics of a business meeting. Turning your phone to silent mode is not just courteous; it’s a display of professional discipline. It says you respect not just your time but others as well. Better still, move it out of sight, so you are not distracted.
1. Lean in But Don’t Interrupt: Leaning slightly forward indicates eagerness and engagement, but refrain from interrupting the speaker. It's a fine balance between showing interest and showing respect.
2. Contextual Note-Taking: Don’t just jot down what’s being said; note your own responses and thoughts. This will serve you well in follow-up conversations.
3. Ask Meaningful Questions: Elevate the discourse by asking questions that bring depth. This shows you’ve been listening and adds a layer of complexity to the conversation.
4. The Follow-Up: Utilise the notes you took to send a thoughtful follow-up email. This not only shows your professionalism but also that you were genuinely engaged in the meeting.
To be clear, these are not mere tricks or tactics but reflections of a thoughtful and deeply human approach to business interactions. As someone who has trained over 1,000 entrepreneurs, I have seen how seemingly small shifts in behavior can result in seismic changes in outcomes. From generating over £20 million in business to fostering lifelong relationships, the devil is truly in the details.
The pencil and journal are more than just writing tools; they are instruments of transformation, helping you navigate the world of business networking with intelligence, empathy, and, most importantly, authenticity.