Sunday, January 31, 2010

Old Photographs

I've been going through my collection of digital photos lately (about 8 years worth or so).  I've been running some facial recognition software on them and taking time to look over the results.

It's amazing to me how many people I've lost touch with.

Guess what, though?  I now have the perfect reason to contact them again.

"Hi, Bob!  This is Greg Peters.  We were in Leadership Ann Arbor together back in 2006.  I was just going through some pictures from then and saw your face and realized that we hadn't talked in quite a while.  So what's been up with you?"

You can use this same technique with old emails or actual paper letters.  Heck maybe even some paraphernalia from some particular time that reminds you of a particular person.  Whatever it takes, you can use it as an excuse to renew your contact.

Unless maybe you already have enough people in your network?

So, do you have any old photos lying around?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Schedule It!

Let me know if this sounds at all familiar:  You go to a networking event.  You have a great time.  You meet a number of interesting and potentially beneficial people.  You promise to call or email in order to set up a meeting with them.

And you never see them again.

And the reason for that is that you never remembered to contact them, or you lost their card, or they never responded to you -- maybe your email ended up in their spam folder?

How much better would it have been if, at the height of your conversation, when you are both feeling excited about continuing your potential relationship, you simply pulled out your calendars and scheduled a meeting for the future.

One the rules of effective networking is always to be ready with your networking tools.  Missing out on extending your network is like throwing your money away.

So get a scheduling mechanism, whether it's your day planner, your PDA, smart phone, or the wall calendar your insurance agent sent you.  Figure out how to use it, if necessary, and always carry it with you.

So, what system do you use to schedule you networking?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Leftovers, Part 2

Last night I wrote about "leftover lovin'" networking.  The example I chose happened to deal with a business owner and his attempt to find work.  Believe it or not, the same holds true with just about any endeavor in networking.  Lack of specificity will destroy any benefit you might hope to gain.

Let's look at someone looking for a job and the types of statements they might make.  Would your mental responses be very different?
  • "I'm between jobs right now" -- Huh, that's too bad. I wonder what's on the buffet today?
  • "I'm looking for employment." -- So are a lot of other people.  Good luck!
  • "I'm looking for employment as an industrial engineer." -- Wow!  Sounds pretty technical.  I wonder where someone like that would work?
  • "I'm looking for employment as an industrial engineer at the ABC Lugnut Company" -- Really?  I wonder if I know someone there?
  • "I'm looking for a position as an industrial engineer at the ABC Lugnut Company.  I would really like to meet Jack Trainer, their head of development." -- Hey, I know Jack! or I wonder who I know who knows Jack?
Now, I'm not saying that being this specific with one person will lead our erstwhile job seeker to gainful employment.  Still, the last statement has a lot better chance of getting the desired outcome, right?

Really, it just comes down to being as specific as possible to put yourself at the top of someone elses mind.  Anything else and you are just asking for leftovers.

So, how specific are you?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leftovers

Except around Thanksgiving, very few people truly enjoy leftovers.  Most things just aren't as good heated up the next day.

So why do you suppose people network as if they love leftovers?

OK, let me explain what I mean by that.

I was chatting with a friend the other day.  He owns a small construction company, we'll call it ABC Builders.  As with many in the industry, they are facing some harsh times right now.  Hoping to help, I asked in what kind of building did they specialize?

"Oh, we can do anything.  We aren't limited at all."

That, my friends, is a "leftover lovin'" response.  The reason is, he will be the last on my mind when I do hear of specific jobs.  I'll pass along leads for big jobs to my friends at Spence Brothers.  Custom home remodels will go to Washtenaw Woodwrights.  Handyman type stuff?  That will go to my good friend Paul Bauer.

Whatever's left?  That's what my friend at ABC will see.

It's not because I don't think he would do a good job.  It's just that all of those other folks have decided what they are good at and that is what will stick in the front of my mind.

So, what do you specialize in?  Does everyone know?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trick Question

What follows is a story problem.  It will count for 10% of your grade.

You find yourself at the Chamber of Commerce networking lunch.  As you walk in, you see a number of people you know and several more who look to be new to this event.  What do you do?

A. Go up and chat with the new people, or
B. Catch up with your old acquaintances

OK, times up.  Pencils down.  The answer, of course, is C -- it depends.  Either activity can benefit your networking.  The trick is, before you even walked in the door you should have had a plan for your attendance at the event.

Now, in general, you'll want to meet the new people.  They are the way to expand your network.  Still, there will be times when chatting with old friends is more than just a pleasant pastime.

Whichever way you choose, you should always have a goal and a reason for reaching for it.

So, which do you tend to do when you go to a networking event?  Is it part of your plan?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Ought to be in Pictures

These days almost everyone has a camera available to them.  Most of the cell phone cameras have actually exceeded the first digital camera that I had and the newest slim digitals can easily fit into a purse or pocket.

So what does that have to do with networking?

The next time you are at an event, pull out your camera and snap a few shots around the room.  Maybe catch a few people deep in conversation or get a few pics of the speaker in action.

Then find out who they are and what they do.

Later, when you get back to the office, download the photos to your computer (or send them directly from your camera, if you're able).  Send them to those pictured with a quick note saying how you caught them in action and to feel free to use the photo any way they'd like.

It's a slightly different way of coming to their attention (or furthering an existing relationship) and it let's them be the focus of attention for a while.  If they are particularly savvy, they could even pop the picture up on their favorite social media site to show off what they've been up to.

So, have you ever used a camera for networking?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Out With the Old?

The new year is as good a time as any to do a quick check of your networking activities.  Here are a few things that you should take a look at to make 2010 a better year for making great connections.
  1. What is your target market?  What specific group of people are you trying to help?  Which ones give you the most satisfaction?  Which are the most profitable?  You should give careful consideration before you decide to switch your target, but sometimes it just becomes apparent when you've discovered a new niche.
  2. What groups are you in?  Make a list of the different networking groups you attend on a regular basis.  For each, record why you wanted to be a part of it in the first place.  Does that reason still hold?  Will they help you connect with your target market?  Be sure, though, that you aren't walking away from a group just because it hasn't paid off yet.  Depending on your line of work, it can take months to years before a networking group will achieve the results you want.
  3. How do your materials look?  Do you need to order more business cards?  Is the information on them still correct?  Is your brochure/website/Facebook page starting to look a little dated?  Is it time for a new design?
  4. What events will you be attending this year?  Most groups will have a calendar with at least their regularly scheduled events planned in advance.  You should have those marked out on your personal calendar.  Are there any blank spots you need to fill?
  5. How well has your level of networking met your goals?  This is one reason that tracking your behavior is so vital.  Now you can decide whether you need to ramp up or even slow things down a little.
  6. Are there any new skills you would like to achieve?  Maybe you've heard about this Twitter thing and would like to see if it can help augment your existing networking behavior.  Are there any classes in your area or online?
  7. What other networking behaviors should you add to your repertoire?  Have you done any speaking lately?  Presented any seminars?  Written articles? Started a blog or newsletter?  Have you created a board of advisors?
This is only a partial list of the various aspects of networking you can examine.  Remember, keeping track of what you are doing only helps you if you use that information to make improvements.

So, what behaviors will you be changing in the upcoming year?