Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Networking Makes People Smarter; Smarter People Go Networking

I heard a piece from Dr. Brian McDonough on the radio this morning that caught my ear: To Get Smart, Study Suggests Building a Social Network

They did a study at the University of Michigan where they looked at 76
college students and they basically had them do one of three things: watch
'Seinfeld,' do intellectual exercises, or participate in social discussions.

Those who participated in the social discussions actually scored better on
memory and mental process tests.

I couldn't find the study in the Personality and Social Pschychology [sic] Bulletin, so I wasn't sure if the study showed that networking made you smarter or that smarter people choose to network. Either way, it's smart to network.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

This Week in Philadelphia (TWIP) for 10/28

Here's a list of some of the networking events taking place in the Philadelphia area this week, pulled from my new calendar of events for Philadelphia networking. If you look there on the calendar, you'll see what's coming up next week in Philadelphia. You can find the details on these events (locations, how to sign up, etc.) at the calendar of events for Philadelphia networking, too.
Thanks and a tip of the Hatlo hat to Alex Hillman, of Independents Hall, who first started doing a weekly "This Week in Philly" post on his blog. He tagged them as TWIP, one of the snappier meaningless acronyms I've heard. I thought it was a good idea, so I'm stealing the idea shamelessly (with Alex's blessing).

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Alex's own IndyHall meet-up, an open social event at 7 pm on Saturday, November 10. Not technically this week in Philadelphia, but it helps to plan ahead.

MakePhilly -- Open Source Geospatial Software
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Robert Cheetham, founder and president of Avencia Incorporated, a software design and development firm based in Philadelphia, will present an introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a history of the field as well as overview of the major open source GIS software projects.
$5 donation suggested

Center City Proprietors Association -- Internet Marketing - What Are My Options?
12:00 PM to 1:30 PM

Rick Simmons, Principal, Dinkum Interactive, leads a workshop that will explore many options available to increase traffic to your website so you can increase your company's profits. We'll explain the role of (technology and dynamics behind): search engines; free and paid online advertising; AdWords; search engine optimization (SEO); pay-per-click (PPC); marketing via online social networks, video, and blogs, and other ways of expanding the reach of your site.
CCPA members free, non-members $10

CFA Society of Philadelphia -- Fixed Income Outlook
12 noon to 1:30 pm

Jack Malvey, Chief Global Fixed Income Strategist, Lehman Brothers, asks: What will be the impact of this summer's credit crunch, rising commodity prices and the Fed's recent rate cuts? Join us at this critical time for fixed income markets and the economy to hear from one of the leaders in fixed income research.
Free to members

LeTip of Center City Philadelphia -- Weekly Meeting
11:30 AM to 1:00 PM

LeTip of Center City Philadelphia meets Tuesdays from 11:31 am to 1:01 pm at Dave and Buster's at 325 North Columbus Boulevard in Philadelphia
Free for guests

PPRA -- Don’t Get Spooked by a Crisis!
12:00 noon to 1:30 pm (11:30 am registration)

Join PPRA on Halloween to hear how our area’s leading experts in crisis communications and issues management plan for and respond to the “unexpected.” Panelists Steve Highsmith (Moderator), Director of Community Relations for WPHL and Host of WCAU NBC 10’s Live at Issue; Steven Restivo, Northeast Communications Director, Wal-Mart Stores; Janet Smith, Public Affairs Specialist, DuPont; Doug Oliver, Director of Corporate Communications, Philadelphia Gas Works, will give tips on how to effectively communicate with the media and build a positive relationship with reporters in tense and scary times.
$45 for members; $55 for non-members; $25 for students; Additional $5 for Walk-ins

Center City Proprietors Association -- Lunch with the CITY's LEADERS

Joseph Coradino, President, PREIT Services, LLC and PREIT-RUBIN, Inc.
CCPA members $40, non-members $50

Philly SHRM -- Talent Acquisition
8:30 am to 11:30 am (7:30 am registration and breakfast)

A series of panels and breakout sessions on finding and recruiting talent
Members $75; Non-members $95

American Society for Training and Development -- Creating Alliances & Affiliations To Grow Your Business
9:00 am - 12:00 noon

The greatest challenge of being a sole practitioner is being able to constantly maintain the "opportunity pipeline." Learn how alliances and affiliations can increase your revenue by generating a steady flow of business at little or no cost. Speaker: Steven M. Horner of Horner & Associates, LLC
A donation of $15 is requested to cover refreshments, duplication and website development costs.

Baiada Center's Entrepreneurial Breakfast Series -- "Developing a Business Concept - Concept Testing
10:00 am to ?

How to methodically study a business idea to make sure that we can define a market that will actually want to buy the product or service. We will also discuss how that kind of analysis feeds into the Baiada Center's concept paper requirements. Finally, we will take a look at some business plan tables of contents from real businesses who have been attempting to raise financing in the last year or so.

MakePhilly -- Microcontrollers for Artwork
9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Have you ever wanted to build something that moves, or introduce some interactivity into your artwork? Or maybe you just want to impress your friends at the next MakePhilly meeting? Now you can. A new course will teach you the basics of prototyping and programming microcontrollers using the popular Arduino system ( No prior knowledge of electronics or is required.
SOLD OUT. Waiting list only.

Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs (PICPA) -- Greater Philadelphia Chapter Food Sorter's Day
9:00 am - 12:00 noon (Registration at 9:00 am )

Assist Philabundance in sorting and packing food donations for distribution to the needy. Bring your family, kids, and friends.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Calendar of Events for Philadelphia Networking

People seem to like the directory of Philadelphia networking groups I've put together, but I always felt that it was missing something -- a calendar. I'm pleased to say that my calendar of events for Philadelphia networking has gone "live." Please use it, enjoy it, and let me know how it can be improved.

The calendar items are pulled from the web sites of the groups listed in the directory of Philadelphia networking groups. I have tried to limit the list to those events that are meant for a general audience, where guests were welcome to attend.

I was fascinated by the range of opportunities that I found. The Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs has a whole range of events, seminars, and continuing education classes on taxes, HR, and even forensic accounting. The Baiada Center at Drexel has whole series of workshop breakfasts over the next few months that detail every aspect of creating a business plan.

The winter holiday season is also approaching, so there are a whole range of bowling parties, charity auctions, casino nights, and holiday get-togethers.

Doing the search for the calendar items was a labor of love. I was always going to the web sites of the groups in the directory of Philadelphia networking events, only to find that I had missed out on a great event that had happened only the day before. So, I just buckled down and spent an evening or two going through the groups to come up with a usable list of events. I thought if I put it up on the web that others might find it useful, too.

Like the directory of Philadelphia networking groups, I view the calendar of events for Philadelphia networking as a work in progress. I welcome your feedback and advice. Please let your friends know about it, too.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Create Your Own Personal Business Card

If you are networking (and you know you should be), I recommend you create your own personal business card, different from the card you have for your work. And you should carry them with you at all times.

I know it seems strange, but I'm noticing more and more people have two business cards, one for their day job and one for their after-hours networking. Depending on where and how you meet them, that's the card you will get.

The advantage of having your own business card is that you control the message. You have no control over your company's business card (unless it is your own company), but your personal business card can reflect your own personal style.

Your card says a lot about you. Here's an easy example: if you are talking to someone about a career change you want to make, and you hand them a card that is tied back to your soon-to-be old-career with your soon-to-be-old job title, have you helped or hurt your positioning in the mind of this new contact? What does this card say about your commitment to the career change?

How often has someone started to hand you a business card, only to say, "Wait, let me give you a different e-mail address" and scribbled an address that is nearly illegible? I had another person give me a card and tell me, "Nothing on the card is right except for the name and the e-mail address."

Your business cards should be crisp, professional, and tailored to present exactly the right message about you. By professional, I don't mean boring, but they should convey that you are good at what you do. A modern dancer is going to have a different card than a banker.

My own personal business cards are fairly simple: my name, my home address, my home office phone number, my e-mail address, and (a recent addition) the URL to I carry them with me ALL the time now (which I never used to do), and it is amazing the number times they come in handy. Even for entirely personal conversations, it is good to have a card that has my correct contact information on it. No more writing phone numbers on napkins. I get lots of compliments on the design, but it's really just a Microsoft Publisher template (it came bundled with a printer we bought).

I print the cards at home on my InkJet printer with Avery 8869 Clean Edge business cards. They feed through the printer and then break apart cleanly when you fold them just right. Here's the reason I love this method: I can print as few as 8 business cards at a time. And if something changes, I can fix it on the card and print up new ones without worrying about wasting hundreds of business cards. No more scribbled e-mail addresses on
my cards.

There are a lot of options for getting business cards printed. Vistaprint offers free business cards, or you can get 250 premium business cards for $19.95. They print "Business Cards are FREE at" on the back, which is great for them but not so good for you, but, hey, it's free. There are dozens of other on-line sources for business cards.

If you are looking for local printing to create your own personal business cards, Kinko's does business cards, and they can also do matching stationery if you are looking for a consistent look in all your business documents.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Birds of a Feather: Find the Networking Group That's Right For You

I attended a GPSEG meeting a few weeks ago. That's pronounced Jee-Pee-Seg, and it stands for Greater Philadelphia Senior Executives Group.

I had heard a lot about GPSEG, both for and against, so I didn't know what to expect. By for and against, I mean that I was hearing from those who absolutely loved the group and found it the most useful thing they had ever done and from those who hated it and found it not worth the time and effort. There didn't seem to be any middle ground.

It's not unusual to have a networking group provoke such a love-it-or-hate-it response. Another group that gets a similarly polarized response is BNI, which is really a leads network, such that each local chapter only admits one member of each profession and all the members refer business to each other. That sort of networking is either very useful to you, or it isn't useful at all.

GPSEG is very narrowly targeted. It is meant for senior executives, and the membership requirements are stringent. If you fit that narrow target, you will love it. If not, the group is not likely for you.

Some groups are strict about who can be a member, others are open to just about anybody. All of them are targeted at a particular set of people -- young, old, black, green, purple, whatever -- and often meant to achieve a particular purpose. To make your networking as effective as possible, you should ensure the group is alignment with your own needs and goals. Visit the group's web site. Talk to your friends about it. Call up the main contact for the group and talk to them (they'll be happy to help). When someone tells you that a group was great or was a waste of time, you need to remember that they are talking about their own point of view, not yours. Your mileage may vary.

So, don't be surprised if you run into a love-it or hate-it situation in your own experiences with networking groups. You will want to find one that attracts the sort of people you want to meet AND have similar goals to yours. You're likely to hate anything short of that.

Did I find GPSEG worth attending? Yes, most definitely. I was surprised at the number of people at the event that I already knew, and they introduced me to some people who were great connections for me. The group seems a good fit for me, as it speaks directly to both my networking needs and my ability to connect others into my own network of contacts. A quick search of LinkedIn shows that a large number of my Philadelphia connections are already members of GPSEG.

Interestingly, GPSEG has adopted the Celtic Wheel of Being as its insignia -- five interlocking circles. I had used the exact same symbol as an image in one of my earlier posts on how my networking connections were beginning to intersect.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Models for Networking, Growing into a Role

I was catching up with my news reader, looking through all the RSS feeds I've subscribed to (if someone can point me to a news reader that allows you to organize your feeds into folders and subfolders, I would love it) and came across a post by Lisa Haneberg on the Six Essentials for Networking, reprinted from an article by Christine Comaford-Lynch.

I was particularly struck by Christine's advice on how to work a networking event:

  • timebox your networking

  • set your goal

  • let your intuition guide you

  • connect

  • offer help and follow-through

The "connect" advice was the best, to connect with people by asking them questions, such as:

How did you get started in your field? What’s your ideal customer? We all
love to talk about ourselves, and these questions will not only help you form a
connection with this person, but will also tell you how to help them.

I have to admit that Christine's suggestion that I choose a plant as my daily teacher took me aback. But then I remember that wonderful tree I met once on the Appalachian Trail (no, this isn't a picture of it, but it gives you the idea). The trail at that point came across a boulder-strewn ridge, and the ridge ended in a ten-foot drop. This old and well-worn tree had grown next to the end of the ridge, and it provided a handy ladder for climbing around this drop. In essence, the Appalachian Trail went up and down this tree, and every person who hiked the trail had climbed this tree. Its branches had grown in such a way that they made a sort of staircase.

I had the distinct impression that at some level the tree knew the role it played in the trail, and that it had grown into the role. (Not only that, but it was offering help and following through with everyone it met, with no expectation of any return favor!) I suppose you can learn something from a plant.

I recommend reading Lisa Haneberg's Management Craft blog, and I think I'll start watching out for Christine as well. There's lots of other good advice there.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Meeting Epiphany

I was in a brainstorming meeting with a client last week, going over sales and marketing strategies. I was there as a marketing consultant. Todd Cohen -- who I had met a few months ago at a networking seminar while we were doing our "meet and greet" exercises -- was there as the sales consultant. The client and I had met at BlogPhiladelphia while grabbing a drink during an afternoon break. Todd and the client had met at a Purple Cow meeting.

The word "epiphany" was used at least three times during the meeting.

It didn't register on me then, but the meeting was a living testament to the power of networking. I had my own epiphany: none of us had known one another just a few months earlier.

You never know where things will lead when you meet someone new, but step one is putting yourself in a place and a frame of mind to be open to what develops. I've said it before and I'll say it again: breakthroughs are a social act.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Work on Something Larger than Yourself

I had an early dinner meeting recently with Ruth Gatling, the new Mid-Atlantic Bureau Chief for The National Networker. Ruth owns a company which provides administrative work flow consulting and general back office services for small businesses and independent professionals. Not surprisingly, she has used networking to build her business, primarily through BNI and the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners.

As part of her new "beat" as a reporter, Ruth is interested in learning much more about the professional networking communities in Philadelphia, and she had found my directory of Philadelphia networking groups to be a great tool for her own networking. I love to hear that. I started the directory because I needed it, and I thought other people would need it, too.

I told Ruth -- and I tell you now also -- that giving back to the community is a great way to network. Sure, there are lots of altruistic benefits to volunteer work, but this is a blog about networking, so here's why volunteering is great for networking:

  • It gets you out of yourself. Most of us spend our time worrying about ourselves and our own needs. Guess what? The best networking is not about you. It is about others, how you can help others, and how you can build a long-term and trusting relationship with them. Stop thinking about yourself.

  • It gets you involved in something that's larger than yourself. Here we get back to what I call Networking with Ideas. Ideas can change the world. Yes, it takes people to change the world, but it is ideas that drive the people, by giving them focus. Champion an Idea and see where it takes you.

  • You meet people with similar interests. And not only do they have similar interests, but they are motivated people, involved in something larger than themselves, and committed to an Idea. They understand the impact their actions can have on others, including you.

  • You move from talking to action. Somehow, someone got the idea that networking involves standing around a bar shoving business cards at each other. Blah, blah, blah. Get out there and do something! Don't tell people how good you are. Show them by doing something important!

  • It builds your skills. Working on this directory has led me to learn about wikis, blogging, and community building. It is likely to lead me into learning Joomla, MySQL, microformats, and even more entrepreneurial ventures. If you want to make a career switch, volunteering to take on a challenging new project is a great way to build up your experience.

  • You transform yourself. Just to use my example, I've gone from Oliver Picher, average every-day job seeker, to Oliver Picher, entrepreneur and networking expert. You would be amazed at how an Idea That Is Larger Than Yourself will open doors that you could never open yourself.

So, anyway, Ruth and I had a great conversation, even touching briefly on our favorite places in Guatemala. (Both our life paths found us living in Guatemala, though she spent considerably longer there than I did. I realize now that if I hadn't lived in Guatemala and gotten interested in anthropology, I wouldn't have moved to Philadelphia. Strange how things work.) Ruth, by the way, is active on the board of her local BNI chapter, which is her own way of being involved in something Larger Than Herself. It has, for example, led to her becoming the Mid-Atlantic Bureau Chief for The National Networker.

I encourage everyone running a networking group in the Philadelphia area to invite Ruth to attend one of your meetings. She's a great conversationalist, and she's looking to learn more about your organization.