Thursday, August 30, 2007

How to Introduce Yourself: Conversation On Networking, part 2

Innovation Philadelphia held a Networking 101 event a few weeks ago that featured Steve Smolinsky and Kay Keenan in a one-hour version of their popular Conversation On Networking seminar. It was a lively talk, with Kay and Steve lobbing volleys at one another, often taking opposing points of view on a topic.

Much of the conversation was on the simple things: when to arrive at meetings, how to place your name tag, how to shake hands, or how to introduce yourself. I say "simple things," but it was clear that the simple things could make a big difference in how effective your are at networking. An example:

How to Introduce Yourself. The conversation was an interactive one, and Steve and Kay forced those giving an answer to stand up, introduce themselves, and then give their answer. As you might imagine, people's introductions quickly became a part of the conversation, both as good and as bad examples. Here are some of the bad examples:

  • No name (it was amazing how many people forgot to say their name in their introduction)
  • Only first name (try looking up "Sarah" in the phone book some time!)
  • No company (in a professional setting, you want your company name to be featured as prominently as your own)
  • No elevator statement (the most effective introductions had a pithy statement that explained their company's "value proposition")
  • No goal statement (why did you come to this meeting, what do you hope to accomplish, and how can people help you?)
  • No repetition (the best introductions were from those who answered several questions and got a chance to repeat their introduction each time – I can still remember some of those people vividly, and you bet that I can recall their introductions)
  • Never got up to speak to the group (alas, I was one of those wallflowers, though I did meet a lot of people individually during the evening)
Networking 101, indeed. It pays to pay attention to the basics.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Social Networking Goes Professional

On beyond Facebook. On beyond LinkedIn. Jessica Vascellero's story in today's Wall Street Journal, Social Networking Goes Professional, highlights the growth of social networking sites targeting professionals.

Unlike relatively simple message boards that are open to all, these new sites -- including for doctors and for the wireless industry [and for those interested in advertising] -- have features such as profile pages showing professional credentials; personal blogs that function like a kind of online diary; links to "friends" online; electronic invitations to real or online events; and instant-messaging.
These sites offer more than just the general networking found on LinkedIn or the broader socializing seen on Facebook. They are focused on a particular group of professionals and hope to offer a compelling business benefit that attracts and holds a community of users. The story points out that social networking has been slow to catch on among professionals. Most executives lack the time to invest in online networks and are willing to do so only if they can envision a clear business benefit from participating.

"Professionals are fairly protective about their social networks which they
spend their whole lives to build," says Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, assistant
professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. He adds that
the appeal of social networking is limited largely to industries where workers
are fairly isolated from their colleagues on a day-to-day basis, like medicine,
construction and sales.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Relationship Networking is a $1 billion Industry

I had a brief conversation with Dr. Janice Presser at a networking event the other day. She was speaking with someone I had met a few weeks earlier, and so we were introduced. When I mentioned that I wrote a blog on networking and that I was putting together a directory of Philadelphia networking groups, Dr. Janice's eyes lit up and she told me that I had to meet Adam Kovitz. True to her word, she sent us both an e-mail the next day introducing us.

Adam publishes a fast-growing newsletter on networking and has recently become the executive director of the Relationship Networking Industry Association (RNIA).

Those of you looking to build up your own professional networks will love The National Networker. It has a global network of "regional bureaus" who cover events and topics of interest to their particular geographic region, regular departments ranging from Art to Sales & Marketing to Legal, and columns by prominent people in the world of professional networking. The National Networker is free and has grown to a readership of tens of thousands in just 3 years.

The RNIA is interesting as it sees the exploding interest in networking as the emergence of a $1 billion industry, one that includes both face-to-face networking groups and online social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Founding members of the RNIA include BNI, Sossoon, and Lillian Bjorseth.

An industry requires an industry association, one that can set standards for excellence, speak for its members common good, and push for interoperability between networking-related technology platforms. A worthy goal.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

SEO on LinkedIn

Today's tip on more effective use of LinkedIn comes from Michael Klusek, Philadelphia's top-ranked blog consultant and something of a go-to guy in SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

LinkedIn has a Additional Information section in your LinkedIn profile where you can enter your websites. In fact, it has two pre-defined fields for My Website and My Blog. Michael's advice is to avoid those pre-defined fields and use the "Other" field to feature your websites. The key here is search engines. Using "My Website" and "My Blog" will mean that the website references in your LinkedIn profile will not appear in a search on Google. Other allows you to label your website with a term or phrase that, if you do it right, will increase the chances that someone looking for, say, "Philadelphia network directory" will find you as the expert on that topic. (Like I said, you have to do it right.)

The same idea holds true for the rest of your LinkedIn profile: the more unique and relevant key words you can work into your profile, the better visibility you will have in searches, both within LinkedIn and in outside search engines.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Conversation on Networking

I had lunch the other day with Steven Smolinsky, a business strategy consultant and one of the two principals of Conversation On Networking. Steve had found me through my PHL Networking directory project, a community-driven directory of Philadelphia networking groups and events. Steve convinced me that the directory should have a "resources" section and that it should list his book. I convinced Steve that the directory was a community-driven and fully editable wiki and that he should feel welcome to add a resource directory listing himself.

Steve and Kay Keenan have built a substantial little side business for themselves, leading seminars on professional networking for groups all around the country. I like how the business evolved out of sheer serendipity: someone asked Kay to chair a panel on networking, and Steve volunteered to be on the panel. All the other panelists cancelled, so Kay and Steve ended up having a conversation on networking. The conversation was a hit, and the rest, as they say, was history.

Serendipity indeed. Steve and I agreed that you never know where your networking will take you or what doors in will open for you. Steve is leading a mini-seminar next week on Networking 101, which I plan to attend. It is hosted by Innovation Philadelphia and being held at the Lucky Strikes bowling alley in Center City.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Help Others Network, and Watch Your Influence Grow

I recently went to my second Purple Cow Brainstorming Circle, and I discovered something interesting: my networking circles are starting to interconnect, and that is making it easier to network.

Clearly, the more you network, the easier it becomes.

Of course, I recognized faces from my first Purple Cow meeting, but it went far beyond that. Some of people from my last meeting had followed up on the recommendations I had made, and they thanked me for helping them make the connections.

I also recognized people I had seen at other recent events (blogPhiladelphia in this case), so it was easy to start up conversations with them.

Several others were people I had coaxed to attend the meeting, and this is the thing I found most remarkable. They became my strongest advocates, introducing me to people at the event that they felt I should meet. Even more importantly, they had told the person all about me and why they thought it was important for them to meet me. It is quite a thrill when someone comes up to you and says "Someone told me I had to talk to you. I'm trying to…"

So, keep networking, and help others network. Helping others make connections will grow your own influence and will pay off in ways that you cannot predict.