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8 tips for more efficient business networking offline

Business networking offline is more nuanced than on the web, and many waste a considerable amount of effort at networking events – here’s how to make good use of your time and make better connections.

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Becoming more efficient at business networking

Most of us go to networking events with an end goal in mind, which is to expand our network and look for referrals for our businesses. As my businesses grow, I’ve found unique challenges that commonly arise at networking events and here are some helpful tips so that you can learn to be more efficient and effective with networking and referrals.

1. Have a business card on you at all times.

You never know when a business opportunity may arise. There was a time where I was attending a conference called SIGGRAPH in San Diego, CA and I found myself sitting next to the President of a World Wide Organization on a Charter bus. Opportunities happen all the time, not just at networking conferences. Make sure you have a business card on you.

We aren’t at the digital age yet where exchanging contact info through our phones is common place, so make sure to bring some way to capture their contact information quickly as well as a way for you to give a potential contact your info or else you may never see that contact again.

2. Develop a plan of what you want to accomplish the day before an event.

Develop a short mission statement for yourself containing details about what you want to accomplish at your networking event. Also figure out why do you want to accomplish this and what you can do to accomplish this goal. Then write down three things you want to accomplish at your event that will make it a successful event for you.

When you go to an event, focus on completing one objective at a time starting out with the highest priority networking goal. For example, if you are looking for funding, when you arrive, you will need find out where Venture Captialists are networking and stay in that area until you’ve met all of them that you can. After that, you can move to your other objectives for the evening.

3. Research all aspects of the event you’re attending beforehand.

Research where the networking event is if you haven’t been there before. Knowing where the venue is can help you arrive on time and plan for traffic and parking ahead of time. Often times, there are public RSVP lists to these events where you can see who is attending and what their backgrounds are.

Make sure to seek out these lists if they are available and make a list of people you must talk to before attending the event. Researching the networking event’s history can also make you appear knowledgeable and it can even make you the ‘go to’ person or experienced networker in certain situations.

4. Bring your marketing and presentation materials with you.

Always bring at very least, a pen, a permanent marker, and something to write on. One thing that happens to me quite often when I’m networking is I will hand someone my glossy double-sided business card, I will say something meaningful to my new networking contact, and they are unable to write a note to themselves on my business card. If you bring extra pens and the right kind of pens, your new contact will be impressed by your thoughtfulness and will be able to write down valuable information immediately about you.

If you have a manufacturing based business, bring a prototype. If your prototype is too large, then keep an image with you on your smart phone. Remember to keep your phone charged and bring backup batteries if needed. Put videos of your product or service on your phone so you can show people what you do quickly. All of your presentation materials assist people to understand what you do and what you need from them quickly. Remember that not everyone learns primarily by hearing what you have to say, you have people that learn by visual or tactile queues or a combination. So it’s best to prepare a quick pitch about what you do, tell them about it, show them what it is, then leave them with something tactile behind so that you’re catering to all of their senses.

5. Dress for the people you want to attract.

Austin, for example, can be pretty laid back so sometimes it’s usual to wear a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops when you’re at a business networking event. Just remember that if your goal is to network with and hang around people in suits all evening, you should be wearing similar clothing as those people you want to attract. Doing this will make them feel more comfortable around you.

6. Know how to speed network like a pro.

When networking, I usually come into a group of people, say hi, and let the group finish their discussion before I start leading the conversation to ‘So what do you do? Why are you here?’ After I’ve spoken with the person for some time to discover how I can help them or add value to their business, I ask them based on what they know about me so far, how they feel they could add value to my business. It’s a tricky art, because although it is reasonable to offer solutions to their problems, it cannot feel contrived – legitimately find ways to connect them with others or solve their pain points, and explore whether or not they have a value to offer in return (they may or may not).

If I figure out that there is no synergy, I will excuse myself from the conversation and leave the group. You should learn to politely excuse yourself from conversations quickly so that you can maximize the limited time you have to network.

I usually have a sorting system at any networking event that gives me an ability to quickly file contacts according to how relevant they are to my business. If I get a great and useful contact, I put my new networking contact’s business card in my front left pocket. If I have no immediately apparent use for a new contact’s business card, their card goes in my back pocket. When I get home, I have all my high priority contacts already sorted.

If you find someone that you have synergy with, get their contact info and schedule a future based physical meet up with them. Setting a date in the future to meet up shows to your new contact that they are important to you. In-person meetings usually have a higher sales closing rate and can create a greater sense of connection between yourself and your new contact than just connecting over LinkedIn or email after an event.

7. Follow up.

So by the end of the night, I usually come home with more business cards than I can count. From my experience, you have about 48 hours to reach out to these contacts you just met or else they may forget that they ever met you. So make sure to sort through all of your most important connections and leads for your business and contact those first. I recommend connecting with all of your new connections on LinkedIn.

If you don’t have the time to follow up with all of these people yourself, outsource it to your assistant, family members, intern, or anyone else you feel you trust with this task.

8. File your contacts properly.

A lot of people I know don’t keep an archive of all of their contacts. You never know the day that one of your previously less useful contacts may become exactly what you need in the future. I usually assign a keyword or phrase to all my “useless” contacts and put all of that data into one master spreadsheet (or you can do so in your CRM). That way in the future, I can search for resources if I ever need something in the future. Having this system ensures you will almost never have a crisis when you are looking for resources on demand.

Matthew Winters is the owner of Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio , a Full-Service 2D & 3D animation studio, advertising agency, and video production studio. As one of Austin's movers and shakers, he also founded Speed Friending Events which produces networking mixers and social events in over 14 cities nationally. Matthew is dedicated to providing solutions to social and technology related issues in the industry.

Business News

Fake news? Well, what about fake reviews?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon is swamped with fake reviews, making it harder than ever to trust whether or not a product is legit. How can you spot them and avoid falling victim to this shady practice?

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Person shopping online with credit card, but are they reading fake reviews?

These days, most of us have turned to online shopping in lieu of brick-and-mortar establishments to get our favorite items shipped directly to our front door. With many retailers still closed, and many more of us understandably wary of exposing ourselves to the risk of COVID-19, it’s easier to just click “buy” and then spend the next two days with our noses pressed to our windows in anticipation of the arrival of our new toy or garment. But are we at risk of being tricked by fake reviews?

If you’re like most people, you probably depend on product reviews to make a purchasing decision. Honestly, it’s perfectly reasonable to see what others thought of the item before you buy it. These online reviews are almost like your neighbor, who whipped out his lawnmower and bragged how it goes from 0 to 4 mph in less than thirty seconds. Obviously — obviously — you had to run out to your nearest garden center to pick up one of your own after his glowing review of it, right?

That’s kinda like online reviews, too. You can’t just knock on the purchaser’s door and ask them what they thought of it, which is why you carefully peruse those reviews and weigh those pros and cons. Okay, this shirt fits loose. Fine, these kitchen shears broke after three uses. Whoa, this brand of potato chips puts hair on your chest…? Sweet! And you also probably looked at those 3-star reviews, too, to see what was merely “meh” about the product. With this assortment of mixed reviews, you can be confident that you’re making a rock-solid choice.

Uh, sadly, nope.

Unfortunately, Amazon (as well as other major retailers, such as Walmart) are often fraught with a glut of fake reviews. In fact, there are numerous Facebook pages dedicated to the purchase of these reviews, and many of the reviewers are compensated with a monetary reward (usually the cost of the item, plus a few extra dollars for their work) for posting the glowing 5-star rave.

So what can you do to help protect yourself for falling for these seemingly harmless lies?

Well, first and foremost — a fake review isn’t necessarily harmless. If a defective or dangerous product is boosted by a false review, it can seriously harm you. Sure, there’s a good chance the fake reviews are benign, and the worst you’ll be in for it is losing a few bucks on a crap item. But if something is using counterfeit or unsafe ingredients (such as minoxidil in potato chips because, real talk, chips aren’t supposed to put hair on your chest), then yes, you need to be informed of it so you can make an educated decision about whether or not that item is coming home with you.

So, the question remains: How can you, intrepid shopper extraordinaire, avoid purchasing a lemon? (Unless, of course, your goal was to buy an actual lemon in the first place. Margaritas, anyone?) The good news is that there are a couple things you can do. For starters, common sense goes a long way. Do the reviews offer any context, or is it just line after line of, “Loved it!” without any actual feedback on the item? That’s why those 3-star reviews are so priceless. Usually the reviewer actually used the item and had a valid reason for their tepid review, allowing you to make an educated decision about it.

Finally, there are a couple of websites you can use to help you out. First, there’s Fakespot. This web extension will cull out all the fake reviews, allowing you to see at-a-glance the remaining genuine reviews. It then reviews the item for its credibility, letting you know if the seller was trying to pull a fast one on you. Then there’s ReviewMeta. Unlike Fakespot, this website goes through the views and instead of grading the seller, it actually grades the item based on the average score of the remaining real reviews. And by using both of these websites together to check those reviews? You’ve now got yourself a pretty decent idea if the product is actually worth your hard-earned dollars.

It’s far too easy to get scammed these days. However, by staying alert and remaining mindful about your online purchases (and avoiding the temptation to give into those stress-motivated impulse buys), you can avoid being bilked, too. And hey, instead of looking at online reviews, maybe you should go back to the old-fashioned way of doing it: By asking your neighbor for their opinions of items. Just, y’know, do it from at least six feet away, while wearing a face mask.

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Business News

Manufacturing is bouncing back, but supply of materials is struggling

(BUSINESS NEWS) As manufacturing demands surge, so do material costs. The pandemic has shifted where we’re putting our money, but supply is struggling to keep up.

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Manufacturing worker sealing a large pipe together.

As the United States’ manufacturing process comes back up to speed, a surge in demand is creating a shortage of the one thing manufacturers need in order to do their jobs: Supply.

Fox Business reports that, due to a much quicker return to normalcy for manufacturing than some expected, a price hike for materials is affecting everyone from the bottom up: “Prices for steel, aluminum, lumber and other materials are rising in response to higher order volumes. Commodity supply chains are now clogged with orders, causing some producers to add weekend hours and overtime for employees.”

The fast manufacturing rebound seems to be a harbinger of better days ahead, but this supply bottleneck could dampen producers’ resolve.

It should be noted that the spike in demand for goods which use the materials in question isn’t an entire surprise. As Fox notes, much less of consumer money has been going toward travel and dining out. This has resulted in more money flowing into things like appliances, vehicles, and entertainment commodities.

But the toll is hitting producers coming and going as things like depressed oil and the paper used in packaging undergo substantial price hikes, leading some companies to stockpile resources in hopes of having an edge in the future.

Others find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between lower profit margins or higher prices on manufactured productsa choice that is sure to impact consumers, if not the rate of consumption.

Indeed, some companies, such as Northwest Hardwoods, have an upper limit on the price they can charge on a finished product regardless of rising material costs.

It’s not all bad, of course. Global prices for materials like aluminum and scrap steel have gone up, which means people like Brad Serlinthe president of United Scrap Metalcan make a killing. “We can sell everything we have,” says Serlin, referencing “big orders” from recently busy steel mills.

As the pandemic wears on, though, one thing is crystal clear: The high demand for domestic goods coupled with rising global prices for materials is going to make for some severe price hikes in the coming months.

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Business News

Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon CEO, moves into space travel

(BUSINESS NEWS) Jeff Bezos is stepping down as Amazon’s CEO in order to focus on other passions, such as his space company, Blue Origin.

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Jeff Bezos standing in front of very large Blue Moon spacecraft.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will no longer be Amazon’s CEO starting in the third quarter of 2021. On Tuesday, Bezos announced he is resigning and will hand the job over to Andy Jassy, Amazon Web Services’ CEO. Bezos will transition to the role of Executive Chair on Amazon’s board.

“I’m excited about this transition. Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming,” said Bezos to employees in an email. “When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else,” he said.

By stepping down, Bezos says he will have more “time and energy” to focus on “other passions” like Blue Origin, his space company. In 2000, the billionaire started the rocket company to make space travel affordable and easily accessible by using reusable launch vehicles.

Since the company was founded, it has yet to reach orbit and is lagging behind Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX). SpaceX, which began two-years after Blue Origin, has already achieved some huge milestones.

In September 2008, Falcon 1 became the first privately developed liquid-fuel rocket to reach Earth orbit. In May 2020, SpaceX launched two NASA astronauts to space.

Blue Origin has a lot of catching up to do, but, with more free time, Bezos might make sure the company moves full-speed ahead.

I mean, look at what he did with Amazon. In 1994, Bezos founded the multinational technology company. Since then, the e-commerce giant has grown into a trillion-dollar company. It has more than 1 million employees and millions of customers.

“This journey began some 27 years ago. Amazon was only an idea, and it had no name,” Bezos said. “Today, we employ 1.3 million talented, dedicated people, serve hundreds of millions of customers and businesses, and are widely recognized as one of the most successful companies in the world.”

There is no word about how much more involved Bezos will be with Blue Origin, but the company already has things to look forward to.

Last December, NASA selected Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket to “launch planetary, Earth observation, exploration, and scientific satellites for the agency.” This contract will allow the company to “compete for missions through Launch Service Task Orders issued by NASA.”

Last month, it conducted a successful flight test of its New Shepard capsule, and many more tests are, without a doubt, in the company’s future.

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