The do’s and don’ts of networking – Consultant talks to KH business group about getting new business

(Left) Small Business Development Center Consultant Christian Evangelista sets up his presentation with Clay Chamber Vice President Katherine Wills and President Jon Cantrell. Photo: Dan Hildebran, Telegraph Staff Writer.


Telegraph Staff Writer

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS— A consultant with the University of North Florida’s Small Business Development Center spoke to a Lake Region business group about the benefits and pitfalls of networking.

Christian Evangelista appeared at the municipality’s beach pavilion before the Clay Chamber’s Lake Region Prosperity Council on Thursday, July 27.

Evangelista said networking is not just about connecting people.

“It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities,” he said.

The consultant handed out a sheet with 15 tips for better networking, which included: picking a suitable event based on your needs, arriving early and leaving late, following up on the contacts you make, and bringing your tools of the trade like business cards, a name tag and giveaways.

Evangelista said 95% of professionals agree that face-to-face connections are essential for successful, long-term business relationships. He added that 79% of Americans agree that networking plays a vital role in career progression, 68% of individuals prefer networking in person to virtually, and 41% of professionals would like to attend networking events more often.

“Despite the importance of networking,” he said, “only 48% of people report staying connected within their network.”

The event’s meal sponsor, Harold Gilstrap (left), offers the speaker some promotional giveaways. Photo: Dan Hildebran, Telegraph Staff Writer.

The wallflower, clinger and pusher

Evangelista described five types of networkers and asked audience members which type best fit them.

“The wallflower is the quiet and shy person who shows up, stays in one place the entire time, and doesn’t interact with anyone new,” he said.

Evangelista added that wallflowers can help themselves by taking an extrovert to networking events and having the friend introduce them to new people.

“The clinger is friendly,” he said, describing the next type, “but they tend to stay in the same circle, playing catch up with their friends.”

The consultant recommended that clingers set a small goal of meeting two to three new people at each event and ask their friends to make introductions.

Next was the pusher: the networker who pushes his product and makes sales pitches at every opportunity.

“Stop,” Evangelista said of the repellant behavior. “Instead, relax, make friends, and build relationships.”

At the other end of the spectrum is the listener.  They don’t talk about themselves but excel at listening to others.

“It’s nice to listen to others,” the speaker said, “but relationships require give and take. Prepare to participate in the conversation.”

Last is the jester: the life of the party.

“This person warms up a room and always has a crowd around them,” Evangelista said, adding that jesters can be more effective networkers if they also engage in smaller, intimate conversations to make a lasting impression.

Evangelista emphasized that body language and voice tone are just as critical as the words spoken when meeting new people.

“What is your hidden language saying?” he asked audience members. “Your hidden language definitely can say a lot about you, and you might not even know if you’re doing it. You may just be thinking: ‘Oh, this is just how I am; this is just how I happen to be.’ But body language is a big thing.”

Host Michael Heeder, pictured with Patricia Evans, welcomed the crowd to the event. Photo: Dan Hildebran, Telegraph Staff Writer.

Elevator pitch

The consultant also discussed creating an elevator pitch: a brief business description that can be told within the time of an elevator ride.

He said the pitch should contain an introduction, a business summary, and a call to action.

“Hi, my name’s Christian Evangelista. It’s nice to meet you,” he told the audience. “I’m a business consultant at UNF’s Small Business Development Center. The SBDC provides small business owners with no-cost information, guidance, and consulting. I’d love an opportunity to conduct a consulting session to show you how we can benefit you and your small business. Would you mind if I set up a quick meeting to talk about opportunities you may have?”

“Now, it doesn’t always have to be like that,” the consultant added. “But your elevator pitch should be memorable.”

Evangelista said he has a friend who works for Loan Depot and tells new acquaintances not to confuse his company with Home Depot.

 “But we do have the tools to help you get your residential loan done,” he said, quoting his friend. “Everybody remembers it.”

He also described the elevator pitch of a job coach who tells new acquaintances: “I’m a fireman. I prevent people from getting fired.”

Capital City Bank’s (left) Ginger Lee and Patricia Evans give away door prizes to attendees of the Lake Region Prosperity Council’s July meeting. Photo; Dan Hildebran, Telegraph Staff Writer.

“So, he says that,” Evangelista added, “and people laugh, and they remember him, and then they end up wanting to work with him.”