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DANiEL WiLLiS, blog


All my business is done inside a three-foot circle.

I sell to businesses so I have to get in front of businesses to sell them. Not only can they hear my message when we meet, but they also get a sense of who I am as a person. That is why I am fanatical about networking – that is where my business comes from.

In my region, in any given month, I can regularly be found at 6 or 7 networking events. I enjoy visiting various venues, the business contacts I make and the refreshments that are served. I make new contacts and help people out by introducing them to contacts I have already made.

There is one particular networking group that has been especially fruitful to my business growth. I think it is because its members are newer, smaller, keener business people that the BizConX - Niagara networking group consistently helps fill my sales funnel with great leads.

Recently, BizConX – Niagara underwent a name change. Formally known as Social Fusion Niagara, BizConX - Niagara is run by Adam Shields, Co-founder and President of the Business Link Media Group.

The Social Fusion brand was the brainchild of Burlington’s James Burchell who built numerous Social Fusion franchises in Southern Ontario. Over the past two years, Burchell attracted thousands of members using the platform and is, in his own right an online marketing guru.

Recently, and to develop his own business model, Burchell decided expand his audience base. Where once he would only share ideas with the Presidents of the various chapters, he has cut loose those leaders to be free to share ideas with any business - on or off line. For a content provider like Burchell, the move makes a great deal of sense.

For leaders of the local groups like BizConX - Niagara, they would be free to succeed or fail on the strength of their own business model.

Under a less skilled leader, I would have grave reservations about the outlook for the newly named, BizConX networking group. Changing a brand’s name should never be undertaken without due diligence and this name change came up rather quickly.

It is a good thing for the membership that the fit between Shields’ company and the business networking group is so tight. Business Link Media Group provides businesses with advertising/marketing opportunities to grow their businesses through newspapers, magazines, specialty supplements, print solutions, online and social media platforms. Much like my own company, Shields benefits from regularly meeting local businesses at these free monthly events to network and share information with.

Since Shields took over the group last year, membership has risen from about 350 to 450. When we meet at Roberto’s Pizza Passion on the last Wednesday of each month, we can count on 40 – 60 individual businesses to be in attendance. BizConX Niagara has been meeting at this intimate space, known for its great food and welcoming atmosphere for about 4 months and will continue to do so every month for the rest of the year.

At the event you can expect door prizes, a 50/50 draw, complimentary finger foods and more. Shields maintains contact with members all through the month by awarding prizes every week to lucky attendees. Keeping contact with the members is an important part of brand building and this small weekly effort keeps members engaged and mindful of upcoming events and of the sponsors of the event and door prizes.

Some of the more valuable door prizes include free advertising space and business profiles in the Magazines and Newspapers that Shields helms. A business lucky enough to win benefits from added exposure in these great publications and Shields makes the impression he needs to, for courting new business.

Not all networking events are created equal. It is important to find the ones that fit your needs. For example, I find that it is a more established businessperson attending the Chamber’s networking event, but my client base tends toward start-ups and new product managers - who can be few and far between at the Business After Five (Ba5). The Chamber is important to me for other reasons, but I am less eager about new business when networking with my cronies there.

The Niagara College Networking Café provides a fertile hunting ground, as does the Bee Network, held monthly at Joe Feta’s Greek Village. Dinner with Gary (love the name) is an informal gathering, for dinner, where we (20 or so) business owners speak for a minute or two about our businesses. I am always thankful for the audience there. It allows me opportunity to work on that pesky elevator speech of mine.

In addition, my membership in the Bee Network gains me accesses to the Niagara Falls’ Chamber Ba5 and occasionally I’ll get a chance to pitch at other “pay-to-play” networking groups trying to recruit me into their ranks.

For me, I prefer the free/low cost events mentioned above. Membership not only allows me to attend the monthly meet-ups but the annual events on top of that are places to see old friends and maybe meet some new ones.

I tell my clients, entrepreneurs all, that they would be wise to remember, that at some given point in any transaction, you must be face to face to do business.

E-commerce algorithms and big data aside, you are only going to do business when you have been close enough to shake hands.

There is a couple I know - he is an etymologist and she is and entomologist. She can name all the bugs of the world, their species and genus and he can name all the latin origins of the words. And they have no friends.

In a social setting, while its is fairly boorish to correct a friend's word usage and pronunciation, it seems like it is fair game on social media to correct someone's grammar. In business, poor grammar in business writing is unacceptable yet inside a presentation the rules are somewhat flexible.

The litmus test for correcting one's own usage comes down to the "jarring" effect. Poor punctuation and grammar, misused words and convoluted structures not only stop a reader while they briefly work out intended meanings but worse, your reader is making judgments about your overall competency while reading your words. When engaging with a written document the reader is able to review your words and in a non-linear sense take in your meaning at their own rate of consumption. Here it is very important to be letter perfect and there are tasks that must be accomplished to ensure that your meaning is clear and your delivery is fluid.

Taking the time to ensure that your paragraphs are linked, that your meanings develop from start to finish, that you continue to pique the readers interest throughout the document is a function of a structural edit. Some writers seem to have a natural talent for this and can structure a document as they write. For others it is necessary to enlist another set of eyes to ensure that the intent of your message is not buried in the text but is revealed through a consistent layering of meanings to form an overall understanding of the topic.

The order of words inside sentences ought to be carefully chosen and parsed for strength of meaning and to get to the point as quickly as possible. Rereading your document to simplify and get rid of unnecessary words will help and through practice you will become adept at recognizing the excess. A good editor can also help with your sentence lengths too. Sentences of varying lengths will keep a reader interested - a regular rhythm will only put them to sleep.

Spell-check. Then read your document backwards, word for word - because your spellchecker will not distinguish between "your" and "you're".

When presenting, the rules are much simpler when it comes to language use. If your meaning is not interfered with when you make a grammatical error, move on. If it is, go back and correct.

There's always one guy at every comedy club that sits there, stone-faced in the third row while everyone else is laughing.

It's one thing to have been dragged there by the girlfriend or not finding the comedian funny, but if it is a chronic condition - then it likely means that the guy isn’t being honest with himself - is practicing self deception*.

If that guy is your boss you might not want to be telling jokes around the office. As a matter of fact you might want to switch your career to another office altogether.

If you decide to stay, remember that with humour, it’s best if you don’t jump the org chart. Being funny can be seen as a lack of seriousness by individuals who hold power over your future, so if you are not in the same snack bracket, I’d recommend you let the boss be the funny one.


Business is serious for the most part, but when you are reaching out to make a connection through your advertising, your newsletters and such, sometimes it is reasonable to do so with humour. Speaking to the person behind the job title can be an indication that you are speaking from an informed (INFORMAL) position, that you have insight into their world. A well placed wink and a nod are effective ways to show that you know your audience.

Starting a presentation with a joke is pretty standard stuff and it is for good reason that a little self deprecation will break the ice. When you are in front of a group, even before you start speaking you are by default in a position of power and knocking yourself down a peg for the assembly puts people at ease and speaks to your humanity. It is inclusive.

Working with humour takes practice and to strike the right balance between the absurdities of life and the seriousness of business means walking a fine line. There are places where you can practice in a safe environment. Personal emails, introductory posts on your various profiles, places in your Blogs are all relatively risk free ways of seeing if you are actually funny or are the fool at the party with the lampshade over your head.

When producing serialized messages, such as tweets or social posts, even in a business context, try having every fifth one being off topic and just for fun. It will make you be seen as a real person, not just a narrow job title or shill. When considering your tag lines and elevator speeches consider the irreverent and poetic and fun before you settle for parsimony. Nothing wrong with dialing it back, but if you don’t try and be funny at least once in a while your absolute grip on reality may come into question.


Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.


*According to newly published research, self-deception inhibits laughter. “Humor deals with the absurdities of life,” Rutger s University anthropologists Robert Lynch and Robert Trivers write in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences. “The less you are in tune with reality, the less likely you are to see the absurdities.”

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