November 2005 Archives

Relationship Bonds

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We frequently think of networking meetings and mixers as just a place to meet new people, but that's not always the case. Frequently, networking events are also a great place to nurture existing relationships.

At a recent networking event I visited with someone who I had referred to a client, so I was able to catch up on how that project was going. Then, I saw a friend who sells to one of our clients. Both of these people are familiar with our new venture and during the evening introduced me to community leaders who can benefit from our new business. Later, I visited with a friend about her new business.

Earlier, I had attended the marketing committee meeting at a local non-profit organization. After that meeting several people huddled to arrange a round of golf.

It's very common to attend a meeting and visit with people who share several of your interests and activities. danah boyd mentioned that "People who have relationships with each other often have shared interests, values and tastes." In addition, "...there is a higher probability that your friends share the same interests as you than a random sampling of people."

Attending the same meetings and participating in the same activities as others provides opportunities to increase the number of common bonds with these people.

dana's post dealt primarily with online communities where it's common to never meet face-to-face because of the distance. I've been online since there was a line to be on, so I've exchanged information with many people who I have never met face-to-face. Online networking is very efficient for establishing connections with lots of people very quickly.

But, it's just as important to find ways to meet these contacts face-to-face. This leads to discovering other shared interests and participating in other activities — which strengthens our relationships with those people.

Top 50 things to improve relationships

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The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on ways to improve the quality and value of the relationships that we establish through networking.

John Strande posted Top 50 things to improve relationships that go from little things we can do (e.g., smile more) to great philosophical thoughts (e.g., Relationships are journeys that unfold in magnificent ways).

With 50 tips on the list, you can focus on one each week in 2005 and still have two weeks to reflect on the following year.

As you might expect, Jim Berkowitz included the list on his blog about Customer Relationship Management (CRM)!

Quiet, We're Networking

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Have you heard of face-to-face networking events where nobody speaks?

In San Francisco and a few other cities they've held events where people "talk" by writing notes to each other. It sure beats trying to make a new contact with loud music making it hard to hear the person you're talking to.

Unintentional Network

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One part of our individual network is what might be called our "unintentional network" — the network of people who know us and talk to others about their experiences without us even knowing about it.

For entrepreneurs looking for investors, it's sometimes surprising how much emphasis venture capitalists place on the quality of a venture's management team versus the potential revenue of the product.

How do these investors learn about a venture's management team?

Most venture capitalists have an extensive and active network that allows them to quickly identify top-quality management. Fred Wilson, commenting on the vetting of candidates for high-level positions, said, "We have networks that usually provide a bunch of great reference opportunities."

The same informal networking occurs in close-knit industries, within community organizations, and, of course, in purely social networking.

Our network isn't just a hub-and-spoke set of contacts with us at the center of our own network. Many times the people who have dealt with us — as a client or customer, supplier, employer, or employee — form an informal network that affects our future more than we suspect.

If you've ever been surprised to receive an invitation to join an organization, committee, or board of directors, your unintentional network probably helped make it happen.

So, how do you make sure this unintentional network has good things to say about you?

First, do your best to make sure that the people you interact with have a positive experience, or at least feel that you treated them fairly under the circumstances. Also, stay in contact with people in your network and make sure they know they can call on you when they need help, information, or a referral to one of your contacts.

You never know when you'll be called upon to be part of someone's unintentional network to help create an opportunity for someone in your network.

Parzek Offers Networking Tips

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Eileen Parzek offers several good networking tips in her article Networking without the Work — and answers the burning question, "How many people do I need to meet at a networking event?"

  • Think about the types of relationships you would like to build for your business network.
  • Network with people you want to be like or you respect.
  • Ask sincere questions of the people you meet, and learn about them.
  • Research before the networking event how you could help people in that group.
  • Follow up with the people you met.
  • Have a good relationship management process in place.
Great tips for everyone who attends networking events.

Holiday Networking

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Holiday parties present a unique time to network. In addition to having fun with people you already know, there are all the new contacts you can network with.

Andrea Coombes recently interviewed Hank Blank of Blank & Associates who offered several good tips about how to handling networking opportunities at holiday parties.

A few of the tips are:

  • Don't forget your business cards.
  • Don't just socialize with friends.
  • Don't just collect contacts: Follow-up.

Her article is Holiday time is networking time, but avoid these mistakes.

First time at a networking event

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I attended a networking event the other evening where the event organizers were using a different format than they had for the past several years. Instead of several hours of free-form networking they had promoted having an industry expert present to the audience , with open networking before and after the presentation.

The good news is that new people attended who were genuinely interested in the topic.

I spoke with someone who was clearly attending for the first time and helped her understand the purpose of the organization and the format of the evening's event.

It occurred to me how valuable it is for event organizers to spot newcomers as they register, then help them feel welcome and understand what's going on so they have a good experience and will attend future events.

Face-to-Face Networking vs. Online Networking

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Before the Internet came along the business and social term "networking" meant getting together with people at an event, party, or other activity where you could meet people you didn't already know.

Today, the term "social networking" has become popular with the buzzword creators to include online relationships with people we never meet face-to-face.

Every day each of us has a limited amount of time to grow our network. So, it's important to decide how to balance our time between online networking and face-to-face networking opportunities.

Ever since discussion groups became popular, individuals have been forming online relationships and sharing information about experiences. Throughout the '90s I was involved in many online discussion groups, especially those dealing with marketing.

Today, the discussion mailing lists and Web forums have been joined by blogs, project collaboration Web sites, and the social networking connection Web sites.

I've met a tremendous number of people online over the past 15 years. What has surprised me is that it's the people I have also meet face-to-face who have become part of my network of long-term relationships.

Why is it that e-mail and other online communications cannot replace face-to-face interaction for creating strong, long-term relationships?

It seems that as beneficial as online relationships are, sharing information about experiences is not the same as actually sharing the experience face-to-face with another person.

Why we network

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People gather in groups on a variety of reasons.There are several reasons why people attend events and network with the other people who attend. there are three primary time of events people attend these days:

  • Social networking events to meet like-minded people for fun and enjoyment
  • Business networking events to meet contacts we might partner with, sell to, or buy from
  • Civic events where we volunteer our time or money to help the organization accomplish its goals and to meet interesting people

Starting This Blog

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For many years networking has been valuable in my business and personal life. I enjoy meeting new people and looking for opportunities to work together.

Building relationships -- now called social networking -- is something we all do. So, we need to make the most of each networking opportunity.

That's the goal of this blog. And, that's why we created the SureToMeet local event calendar Web site.

I'll be posting networking tips and techniques that I've seen work, as well as links to my articles on the SureToMeet site.

And, since we all hold meetings and activities, as well as help organizations promote events, I'll be sharing tips to help you use SureToMeet to make both your public events and your private meetings and activities successful.

Remember that this is a two-way relationship. Your comments will add to our shared exploration of business and social networking.

Together, we can explore the tips, techniques, and tools each of us uses in our business, civic, and social networking.

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