Jeff Zelaya

Getting the Most Out of Networking Events and Conferences

Networking at an eventWhen you’re an entrepreneur, you spend a lot of time at networking events, conferences and conventions. When you’re a successful entrepreneur, you even get asked to speak at them from time to time. One thing I’ve noticed during all of my time at conferences is that there are some people who really get how they work and some who really don’t. The ones who don’t are the ones who are easy to spot. They’re the ones hanging back, alone–the ones who never really seem to connect with anybody, preferring to slump in the back during the talks, who prefer staring at their phones, avoiding eye contact. They’re the ones who insist that these events are lame and a waste of time.

I always feel bad for these people when I see them. Of course they think the events are lame and/or a waste of time! The point of networking events, conferences and conventions is to make connections–personal ones, professional ones. If you hang back and don’t engage, you aren’t going to get much out of the event…and you probably won’t go very far as an entrepreneur either.

If you’re tired of forking over the cash for events and always feel like you spent a week stuck in the most boring class in school, here are some tips that you can use to make your next event a lot more fun and maybe even more profitable for you (in the long run, anyway).

Bring a Buddy

Big social events like these can be difficult if you are an introvert. You’ll have a much easier time bringing someone with you. Bring a friend or a colleague with whom you feel very comfortable. This way, at the very least, you’ll have someone to talk to and a companion for walking the showroom floor. If you can find someone who has an extroverted personality, all the better. That person can strike up conversations with others and then bring you into them. If nothing else, having a buddy with you will keep you from spending the entire event checking Twitter and missing all of the good stuff.

Use the App

Most event organizers and convention runners have made the shift from printed programs to event apps. This–if the event venue has decent wifi–is a godsend for the wayward event attendee. There is so much great stuff in these apps (which is, ostensibly, why event organizers use them). They allow attendees to leave feedback about speakers and vendors. The mobile event app from DoubleDutch even works as on site social network, allowing you to network with other attendees. This is particularly helpful if you’re more comfortable with digital communication than face-to-face conversations.

Get Educated

If you really aren’t in the mood for socializing (we all have days like that), focus on the educational track of your event. Most networking events have at least one speaker. Conferences and conventions usually have a bunch of different panels and talks you can focus on. What’s important though, is that you not just pay attention during these talks and panels but that you turn them into something constructive. Make a point of taking notes during each session. Then, when you get home do two things:

Write up an event recap or review and publish it somewhere online (make sure to tag the speakers and the event in that post).

Send an email to one of the panelists or speakers and ask them at least two follow up questions.

This way you’ll still be networking, you’ll just be networking from within your comfort zone. Plus, you could wind up striking up a friendship and viola! You have a buddy for the next event!

Remember: a lot of the attendees there are just as nervous as you are. If nothing else, try to find someone who is doing what you usually do–hanging back, pretending to read their phone, etc.–and say “I’m really uncomfortable at these things. How about you?” You’ll be surprised at how far that can take you!


Thank You To My Friends at Lion Fuse Digital Media

Lion Fuse LogoA big, HUGE THANK YOU to my friends at Lion Fuse for designing my new Vocus business card.

They did a great job with the design and layout. Many people have complimented me on my business cards and they seem to really like the rounded and pointed edges. This business card stands out from the rest because of the color, the shape and the clean layout.

If you are looking for someone to design your business cards, look no further than the team over at Lion Fuse for help. You can contact the team at – they do great graphic design, web design among other things.
Vocus Business Card - Jeff Zelaya Sales


Are business cards dead or

are they still a valuable networking tool?

Although social media and mobile phones have made networking much easier and seamless, I believe that business cards are still an essential for any professional. I don’t expect people to hold on to the business card forever or put them in a Rolodex but I do expect them to take the card to their computer, type my name in Google and then send me an invite to connect with me on LinkedIn and my other social networks.

If you truly are interested in networking with someone that you’ve met in person then getting connected on social media is the logical next step in this day and age. Once you’re connected with someone online, then the business card goes right into the trash.

Do you hold on to business cards?

For how long?

Do you think business cards will ever go away?


3 Ways To Make a Killer First Impression

 According to studies first impressions are formed within 7 to 17 seconds of meeting someone.

You will never get a second chance at a first impression and once you make an impression on somebody it is a very difficult thing to change it. Don’t leave a first impression to chance instead check out these three ways that you can leave a memorable first impression…in a good way of course.

 1. Have an Elevator Pitch

If you’re like most business people and community leaders, you often devote long hours to prepare for important speeches and presentations. In contrast, we often don’t put that same energy and attention into the “speech” we deliver most often– our self-introduction or better know as the Elevator Pitch.

Elevator PitchTo capture the right attention and provoke interest in you, remember that no one (except mom) really cares about you as a person. People that you meet at a networking event mostly have the “What’s in it for me” or the WIIFM mentality. So be sure to appeal to this mentality. Ask questions get to know about the person first and then flip it on them.

Think first about what problems your expertise could specifically solve for the person you’re meeting, or how you might make that individual or company’s life more profitable, secure, fun, less stressful, or otherwise better in specific ways. Appeal to the person’s interest as best as you can. The more specific you are to them the better the results you will have.

Protip: Make the Elevator Pitch as interesting and as succinct as possible. People have short attentions spans and a “short to the point” elevator pitch is far more memorable. You can also make your elevator pitch more interesting by instead of saying. 

“I’m Jeff Zelaya and I’m a Social Selling expert and I help sales professionals close more deals by leveraging sales 2.0 strategies, tactics and technology.”


“I’m Jeff Zelaya and I help businesses get more customers from Google”

The second version of the elevator pitch will usually intrigue the person that you are talking enough that they typically ask the follow up question : “How do you do that?” This is an invitation for you to be able to continue with your elevator pitch and provide more specific details on how you may be able to help them. 

 2.  Dress The Part

You can tell a lot about a person based on what they wear. First impressions are very visual so be ready with your look. According to Business Insider first impressions are formed within 7 to 17 seconds of meeting someone;  55% of a person’s opinion is determined by physical appearance.

If you are a physician and you show up to a networker in shorts and flip flops you will have a hard time getting people to believe that you are an actual MD.  Dress according to the event setting and also based on your career. Being in professional attire will only go to help you make  a favorable impression.

Nice SuitDressing the part is not only about the clothes that you choose but also on your grooming. Clip your fingernails, shave, take a shower…etc. Looking like you just rolled out of bed will leave people with a bad impression no matter what. Take the time to dress and groom yourself well before a networking event and you’ll be transformed into the person that everyone wants to talk to and get to know.

Protip: If you want to learn more check out: How to Dress for Success 


3. Follow up

When a networking event is over the networking doesn’t stop, in fact it is only the beginning of the relationship. That’s why the follow up is critical. If you don’t follow up within 24 hours chances are that you might be forgotten and a potential opportunity can be missed.  This will also help you stand out because so few people actually have perfected the follow up.

Hopefully, you have collected business cards so you can follow up with the people you met. The card should of course have the person’s contact information but also any notes that you took down on them while speaking with them. These notes should help you remember who they are and action steps of what you promised them you were going to do.

Please do not spam people that trust you with their business card unless, they specifically asked to be part of your list or receive certain information that you promised. Remember that they might have only said yes to be polite so confirm with them again before doing so anyways.

Protip: Google the person that you are reaching out. Depending on the conversation I like to add people to my LinkedIn network so that I can reach out to them in the future and stay in touch with them periodically. You might want to do them same…but at least if you Google them you can do research on the person and be familiar with who they are and what they do. This research will help you in carrying a conversation and in building a relationship and rapport with the individual.

How To Break The Ice

Hello Friends! I found this in one of my LinkedIn discussion forms and thought it would be great to pass this wisdom along to you. Special thanks to Bryan Daly for writing this great piece.

How To Break The Ice

by Bryan Daly

Here are some simple and easy ways to feel comfortable meeting new people.

Many times we are not sure how to open a conversation so we avoid one.
Have you ever felt awkward in social situations, networking events?

This is a great way to warm up to others. This is a simple method that I have used for years and I have made many new friends this way.

Start with a warm, firm, friendly greeting and a smile. Firm but never squeeze a handshake too hard. Make it about them not you. Treat them like a you would if they were a guest in your home.
We want to NETWORK not sell.
The difference is selling serves a relationship and networking builds a relationship. Involvement is where bonding begins.

Learn about others so you can help THEM -“Givers ALWAYS Gain”.

This works well in many social functions -(parties, weddings, family events) as well.
Think of the acronym FORM “Always in good F.O.R.M.”

Message (what is important to them)

Ice Breakers
Do you live nearby? Do you have family in the area?
Are you originally from _____? How long have you lived here?
What do you like the most about ____?

How did you get started in the ____ business?
What do you like most about your profession?
What is the strangest or funniest thing you have seen?
What is a good referral for you?
Do you have a business card?

Recreation- Golf etc.
What do you like to do? Any hobbies Spare time projects

Message- Say positive things about the group and brag about OTHERS

Ask Good Questions

1. How did you get started in the ____ business?

2. What do you enjoy most about what you do?

3. What separates your company from the competition?

4. What advice would you give someone just starting out in the ___ business?

5. What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?

6. What significant changes have you seen in your business over the years?

7. What do you seen as the coming trends in the _____ business?

8. What was the funniest experience you have had in your business?

9. What ways have you found to be the most productive to promoting your business?

10. What one sentence would you like people to use in describing your business

Always a Great question

What is a good referral for you?

Careful not to fire too many questions at once, they may feel they are being interrogated.
Then…have a prepared 30 second commercial ready for when they ask-…”so what do you do?”

27 Power Networking Tips

Our Favorite Networking Tips:

  1. 27 Power Networking TipsPrepare your Elevator Story. This is the answer to the question: “And what do you do?” Be prepared to give an answer that sticks with people so they can tell about you to their network.
  2. Give and Receive. Look for what you can do for other people first. Think what you can offer without expecting in return (for example tips like the ones you are reading now). Be a graceful receiver as well.
  3. When talking with someone: give your undivided attention. If you are easily distracted by people walking in and out a room, position yourself with your back towards the door.
  4. Listen more than talking yourself.
  5. Look for things you have in common. This makes the rest of the conversation (and every future conversation with this person) much easier.
  6. Look for ways to help people.
  7. Mind your body language: smile, make eye contact, be relaxed…
  8. Don’t stay with the same person or group of people the whole time. Networking events are organized to meet other people as well. And think about this: maybe you don’t want to meet other people, but the other person does. Don’t monopolize their time.
  9. Introduce people to each other.
  10. Remember details about people you have met. Help yourself by writing them down on the back of their business card or on a piece of paper. Then transfer them to an electronic contact system like your e-mail contact folder, a spreadsheet or database.
  11. Follow up. And do it in a timely and respectful way.
  12. Avoid gravitating to people you know. You should initially thank the host and then immediately find someone new to introduce yourself to. This will help keep you in the right frame of mind as to why you came.
  13. When receiving a card from someone, take a moment to write yourself a note on it such as where you met. If you do this while you’re still talking to the person, it will help convey your sense of personal connection.
  14. During the course of a conversation, use the other person’s first name two or three times. People always like to hear their own name and it will help you to remember it when the discussion is over.

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  1. Rather than telling a new contact all about yourself, spend your time asking them questions. It’s amazing how much you’ll learn!
  2. After you meet someone for the first time, use the back of their business card to jot a note about something you learned from the conversation and the date and place you met them. Recording the information will give you something to talk to them about the next time you see them.
  3. Connect with the person you’re talking to by tilting your head as you listen to them. It is an effective body language technique which communicates that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying.
  4. When a person is talking to you, be sure to look directly at them. Giving a person full attention with your eyes will encourage them to share more.


  1. When giving someone eye contact, remember it’s not a “stare-down” contest. Give the person 3-5 seconds of eye contact and then look away briefly before returning your focus to them again.
  2. The best location to network is by a high-traffic area such as a main door, the bar, or near the food.
  3. Never approach someone if they are walking towards the restroom or if they have a phone in their hand. Wait until they have returned to the networking area or put their phone away.
  4. After the person has shared something with you, ask them another question about what they just said. This shows that you’re paying attention and that you care about what they’re telling you.
  5. Always keep one hand free to allow yourself to shake hands with people. This means that you shouldn’t eat and drink at the same time. Remember, you’re there to network, not eat a full-course meal.
  6. Never try to barge into a group of 4 or more people. Come along side of the group, but do not attempt to enter into the discussion until you’ve made eye contact with everyone and a minimum of two other people in the group have said something.
  7. Initiate conversation with someone who is standing by themselves. They’ll be happy to have someone to talk to them and, as a result, will many times open up with valuable information.
  8. When you meet someone for the first time, you have 48 hours to follow up with them before they will completely forget about meeting you.
  9. A networking event is not a time to see how many business cards you can acquire. Rather, it is a time to develop a few relationships that have potential.