Author Tim Ferriss once said, “in person is the least crowded channel.”
Getting off the couch, attending an event and meeting new people remains one of the best ways to expand your network. Unlike social network websites, going to a live event requires more effort. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a painful experience.
Enter Bobby Umar and Ryan Coelho, authors of “How to Network Anytime, Anywhere, with Anyone.”
Since exiting the corporate world, Bobby Umar has built a thriving business combining public speaking engagements, teaching and digital publishing. What’s responsible for his success? It all comes down to networking. Bobby’s passion for helping lost leaders infuses every aspect of his work.
“99% of my business comes from networking”
Bobby’s commitment to networking can be seen in the online world. He currently has over 227,000 Twitter followers. He also leads a weekly Twitter chat called The Power of Connection and contributes to the Huffington Post. By any measure, Bobby is accomplished in the world of social networks.
Beyond the Internet, Bobby is also active in organizing live events – his 2014 “Discover Your Personal Brand” event in Toronto attracted 300 attendees. In addition to his own events, Bobby has spoken at several TEDx conferences. Through this experience, Bobby has learned a great deal about networking.
“Networking is important because every opportunity you get in life comes from people. The job you want, the next client you’re pursuing, the cause of the charity you volunteer for – all of them come from the relationships you have with other people. So the bigger your network is, the more opportunities you open up for yourself.” – How To Network Anytime, Anywhere, with Anyone
Preparing Yourself For Networking Success
Why exactly are you going to a networking event or conference? Events, in of themselves, cannot transfer your business or your life. Instead, you have to set specific goals.
For example, decide to meet at least three people at the event and ask them at least three questions. That type of goal will give you a focus. Instead of simply treating the event like a party, you will have a specific goal in mind. It also makes sense to think about the other people going to the event – ask yourself what they are planning to achieve.
Use Context To Start Conversations
Inexperienced networkers often struggle on how to start a networking conversation. Simply start by using the context of the event. For example, if you are attending an event about entrepreneurship, you can ask your fellow attendees about their entrepreneurial ventures. In contrast, if you are attending an event organized by your university alumni association, it makes sense to ask about student experiences.
Learning Through Networking For Entrepreneurs
Bobby significantly expanded his business knowledge through a networking event he attended. “In 2014, I attended ‘The Arch Angel Academy’ event. I was able to gain new skills in knowledge in business development, event management and Facebook marketing tactics from the passionate entrepreneurs I met there.”
Tip: Come prepared with questions and know what you want to learn when you attend events. You never know when you could meet a helpful expert. That person can’t help you unless you are clear about what you need.
Classic Networking Mistakes: Are You Taking Too Much?
In some circles, networking has a bad name. You’ve all seen the type – the aggressive person who distributes business cards and promotes their agenda to the exclusion of any other concern.
“The most common mistake I see networkers make is focusing too much energy on taking and selling. I spent 10 minutes with one person who always kept bringing the conversation back to the course he was selling next month. It was clear he wanted me to take his course and he didn’t ask me any questions about myself,” Bobby shared in an interview.
Networking can lead to sales, but that should not be your exclusive focus. Instead, take a long term view of the relationships you build through networking. The person you meet today might become a customer six months from now. They might introduce you to someone else or recommend a book to help you overcome a challenge.
Successful networking interactions are interactive. Imagine an effective conversation as a tennis match – there is a natural give and take.
Your Network As A Source of Knowledge and Advice
Many articles on networking emphasize that networks can increase sales and lead to new job opportunities. That’s only part of the story.
Bobby leaned on his network for information when he started his business. “When I first started, I used networking to get feedback on structure, pricing and content from about 50 people in my network,” Bobby commented. Bobby’s comments show that you can make great progress with limited networks – you don’t need to know thousands of people to get started.
Corporate employees can reap similar benefits from networking. Are you struggling to learn a technical skill in Excel or Access? There’s probably somebody in your network who can provide suggestions. Are you considering a job offer at a new company? You can ask people in your network additional questions so you can make an informed decision.
Use Tools And Systems To Manage Growing Networks
Once you become successful at building new relationships, you face a new challenge.
How do you stay in touch with hundreds of people? There are several possibilities. You can set recurring reminders in your calendar application (e.g. Google Calendar). You can also set up recurring tasks in a task management application (e.g. I use Remember The Milk).
Bobby has used software tools such as Rapportive to help him manage his network. Other options include Contactually and Highrise. In fact, there is a whole category of software – customer relationship management (CRM) – dedicated to helping people managing their relationships.
Managing contacts and relationships does take some work, there’s no way around that. By keeping up with your network, you will set yourself apart from the majority.
What have you done this week to grow your network?
What have you done to help somebody in your network this month?
Bio. Bruce Harpham writes about leadership and development for Generation Y project managers at ProjectManagementHacks.com. Bruce lives in Toronto, Canada.