9 Tough Networking Questions

This past week I had the privilege of hosting a training session for David M. Schwarz Architects in Washington DC. After the presentation I offered to answer any and every question about networking that they could throw at me over the following weeks. Needless to say they asked some great questions that I am certain you can relate to:

Q:
When I first moved to DC (almost five years ago now) I was meeting a lot of really great people at all the events that I went to (I had more “spare time” in those days). I lost touch with many of those people as the years have passed, but for many of them, I remember their stories and still have their business cards. Is there a tactful way in which I could contact them now, or is it better to let it be?

A:
There are two foundation stones for a relationship 1) knowing that someone else exists (name recognition) and 2) understanding how they fit into the world around you (develop understanding). If your goal is to expand your relationships then the best place to start is always with people that already know (or have known) you. The goal isn’t to necessarily have lunch with everyone you meet five years ago, but rather to keep these two foundational stones in place. That is one of the goals of this blog, but I also send articles out every once in awhile to people I have met previously. By doing this I am keeping a foundation for our relationship in place, and it is rewarding when I see someone after 5 years and we can “pick up where we left off” because these foundation stones for our relationship are still in place.

Q:
If I walk into an event not knowing anyone, and all people there are already chatting, can I walk up to a small group of people who are already having a conversation and just say hello without coming across as being disruptive/rude? [This is a follow-up to the “I Don’t Know Anyone Survival Basics”]

A.
Look for an excuse to break into the conversation. Do you know the company someone works for? Is anyone wearing a pin on their jacket indicating an Alumni or other affiliation? To “break in” engage one individual in the group with a simple question. Once you are accepted into the group (a split will develop as people open their shoulders to accept you) engage the rest of the group preferably by making a comment on the topic they were previously discussing before you entered.

Q:
If I slip into a conversation like the one mentioned above, and find the subject matter to be from somewhere outside my plane of existence, how long should I just listen without  having anything to add to the conversation? For instance, I often find myself amid conversations about television shows, pop culture icons, or sports. These are all things which I know very little about (and generally also don’t have a whole lot of interest in knowing about).

A:
Never “slip away.” If you want to get out of a conversation have an excuse ready. I often carry around a drink only 25% full, and then if needed one more sip and I need to get a refill “excuse me as I get a refill.” Better yet, is someone else just as bored with the conversation? Invite them to join you or simply split the conversation by asking them a direct question.

Q:
I usually try to plan ahead to avoid this, but I often find myself in an outfit that has no pockets. I generally feel like it would be better not to carry a stack of business cards around in my hand. Would you agree?

A:
It is official, I have been stumped. I can’t remember the last pair of dress pants I bought that didn’t have pockets. Given that you are carrying a purse (or “man bag” for any guys that have found pants without pockets) I would recommend purchasing a business card holder in your purse. Perhaps someone more qualified on this topic can make a better recommendation in the comments section.

Q:
As a young woman, I am fairly attune to who is safe to give my contact information out to, and to whom it is questionable. If I have been giving cards out at an event and then encounter someone to which I would rather not give my business card to, do you have any advice on the best way to decline?

A:
Great question! The key is to bring a relatively limited supply of cards and only hand them out to people you really want to connect with. If you are uncomfortable with someone when they hand you a card simply tell them that “I didn’t bring a lot of cards tonight but I can follow-up with you, thanks.” Another note here is that if this happens often make certain that your cards don’t contain personal information such as your cell phone number. Main business phone numbers are acceptable and expected on business cards.

Q:
My name is unusual. I know this can be good or bad. Will it be insulting for me to write a phonetic spelling on my card when I give it to someone? I feel as though, similar to the days of sending out my resume, people are less likely to call someone if they know they are going to “butcher” the pronunciation of their name.

A:
I am a firm believer in making nametags and business cards easy for others to read, but giving someone the phonetic spelling is probably going too far. Instead of Timothy M. Klabunde, MBA on my cards they simply say Tim Klabunde. You have several options with a unique name, of which my favorite is using a “short” for your professional relationships. For example, if your name is Rhiannon you could use Ann on your cards and nametag. As an added benefit you’ll always know where you stand when someone calls you as your friends will still call you your preferred name.

Q:
Similarly, if I get a business card from someone else, can I write a phonetic spelling or notes on it, or is that considered rude as well? I know in Japanese culture defacing a business card is somewhat likened to a direct personal insult.

A:
Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to use the back of the business card to add notes or other information. Unless you have told them you will follow-up on something however it is not acceptable to do so while you are still talking to them.

Q:
In your talk you mentioned the importance of being able to recommend others. This is easy once you know a few people worth recommending, but what if you are just starting out? If someone keeps sending contacts my way and I don’t know anyone that I can recommend to help them with what they do, they might quickly decide that I’m not useful enough to be on their “hot list”.

A:
It is easy to recommend people on your hotlist because they typically start as people you have worked with previously and they are people you enjoy and respect. If you don’t feel that you can recommend anyone, and thus don’t yet have a hotlist, start by working on developing friends in your industry. Get involved on a committee at a local association, invite someone out for coffee, but generally speaking actively seek out new relationships.

Q:
Last year our firm celebrated its 30th anniversary. There were a lot of people a our celebration, but I chose not to talk to very many people for fear that I would say something to the effect of, “So how do you know our firm?” and the answer would be, “I’m David’s brother” or other special honored guest or relative. I don’t mean to be ignorant, but there is some information in my office that just doesn’t reach everyone’s experience. Although I know that I can not avoid being in a situation where I might be expected to know more than I do, my question to you is: was I right or wrong in this particular instance to save my company the embarrassment of me asking questions that clients might expect me to know the answer to?

A:
Nametags. As of today Scott Ginsberg has worn a nametag for the past 3,376 days (not kidding check him out here http://www.hellomynameisscott.com). Scott is a well known author and speaker on approachability, the one thing that has stuck with me after reading many of his articles is that name tags are not intended to help the person wearing them; their entire purpose is to help the other people you meet. (aka: you already know your name) You and many others at the same venue were experiencing a relationship barrier that could have been easily fixed with some simple Avery nametags. Next time have some fun and be the first person to put on a nametag, I guarantee you’d be one of the most popular people at the event because I’m certain you were not the only person that felt that way.

Twitter’s Fundamental Flaw

twitter_birdsThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the Design and Construction Report, a publication for members of the Design and Construction Network.

A recent Sprint Nextel commercial included a brief glimpse into the world of Twitter. It depicted hundreds of little blue “Twitter birds” with small cell phone shaped text boxes above their heads. Looking at the group you could see that each bird was speaking a message towards their fellow blue friends. As the birds chirped they were creating a flurry of messages, yet each message was the same: “Me!”

This funny and quick snippet speaks volumes about the fundamental issue most people face when trying to leverage Twitter for business. That is the Twitter culture to focus on sharing about oneself.

How businesses fail with Twitter

To properly see the Twitter flaw we must first start with the basics of Web 2.0. At first the internet was primarily about online shopping sites and providing information. Even today you can see this in many corporate websites that are set-up as online brochures. Within a couple of years, however, things began to change. People began to realize that the fastest way to succeed online was to provide value, drawing a crowd from people that were looking for information and resources. This new interactive online environment became known as Web 2.0 and included web forms, blogs, social networking communities, and information resources. 

In the midst of these changes Twitter was started as a platform for individuals to share short updates of 140 characters or less to anyone that was interested in reading them. As Twitter became successful in strengthening relationships companies began to look for ways to leverage the growing platform to expand their businesses.

Unfortunately, many of the companies and individuals that have set out to leverage Twitter have failed. Most have missed the fundamental requirement of the new web, that in order to succeed you must provide value. Today many individuals and companies that try to use Twitter for business are “Me!” users rather than focusing on others. Those that have failed to embrace helping others in the community are ignored and filtered from Twitter updates by users.

How to succeed with Twitter

With the knowledge that providing value is the key to success on the web, it is easy to begin to see how you can become successful at turning Twitter into a true business tool. Instead of thinking about what you can gain from Twitter you must first start by thinking about how you can help people that follow you. Take these two questions: 

  1. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they informed you when they were stuck in traffic, what they had for dinner, and what they were doing this weekend?
  2. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they regularly contained leads for new work, great articles regarding your industry, links to requests for proposals, and information on local networking events they were attending?

The interesting thing about the second person is that not only would most people follow an individual that was providing those resources; they would also probably try to meet them at an upcoming event. Notably, they would be interested in building a relationship outside of the online environment. This new relationship development then becomes the basis for success through Twitter.

Building success online

Remember that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging, and other Web 2.0 sites are only tools that can help build a foundation for mutually beneficial relationships. You must personally evaluate what tools are best to help you reach your personal objectives, noting that some of these tools take much more time than others. Personally, I have chosen not to focus on Twitter but rather on providing value to others through blogging (cofebuz.com), LinkedIn, and the Design and Construction Network (mydcn.com).

Your turn

As you look at your goals for your online presence, evaluate what tools will work best for you. It will most probably be any number of online tools of which one might be Twitter. Regardless of the tools you choose, remember that success is found online when you provide value to others.

Set your Facebook username now!

logo_facebookIt’s official, Facebook just enabled users to set a permanent username. Until now URSs (Uniform Resource Locators) were just a series of random numbers and letters. Now users can have a custom URL. Here is the information from Facebook:

Starting at 12:01 a.m. (EDT) on Saturday, June 13, 2009, you will be able to select a username. You can personalize your Facebook URL (web address) by selecting a unique username. It will appear in the location bar of your browser after “http://www.facebook.com/” when you view your profile.

Do it now!

Here is the link to set yours now: http://www.facebook.com/username/. If you have a common name yours may already be taken, so seriously, do it now! (It takes all of 15 seconds)

A couple of Hints:

If you use Twitter to automatically update your to Facebook status consider using the same username.

Think long-term as the username is permanent. A joke today might not be as funny tomorrow.

Reality

Let’s face it, we have no idea where social networking is going, but clearly LinkedIn (professional) and Facebook (personal) are two of the leading platforms at least for the next couple of years. So taking a moment to make certain you can be easy to find in the future (if you decide you want to be) never hurts.

The Network goes National

This past week I received multiple calls and e-mails from people across the United States that wanted to take the Washington DC Design and Construction Network concept to their region. Through these conversations it has become clear that the concept is larger than just the Washington DC market, and that it possibly provides the opportunity for a fresh wave of networking in our industry. On the heels of these discussions I am excited to announce that we are changing the Network to enable others in the industry to leverage a nation wide network. As of today the network has a new name; the Design and Construction Network!

The goal in building the network as a national network is to provide others with the opportunity to bridge the gap between online networking and building business. It is our hope that those I have spoken with, as well as others, will leverage the national network to bring people together not just in an online environment, but also at the local level. With that said, here are the three things you need to know about the Design and Construction Network:

  1. Happy Hours for Everyone – The primary purpose of the network is, and always has been, to bridge the gap between online networking and true relationship development. To that end, the goal for the national launch is still to facilitate in-person meetings. To accomplish this, we are looking to team with individuals in local markets that are looking to make in-person networking events a reality. If you are interested in facilitating an event in your neck of the woods, start by joining the network. Then send me a note to let me know of your interest so we can work together to make it happen.
  2. Washington DC -The Washington DC network will remain the flagship of the Network as we work to try new concepts that can be leveraged in other regions as well. The main change will be that the bi-weekly e-mail will be turned into a national newsletter. The Local website will remain at dcdcn.com and we will maintain plans to expand it to bolster benefits of being a part of the Network at the local level here in Washington DC.
  3. You – Now it is your turn to be apart of the Network… after reading posts about the Network for weeks it is your turn to jump in! All I ask is that you are serious about building relationships and not just collecting “Links.” If you are in the Design and Construction Industry please click here to become a member. I also want to recognize that over half of Cofebuz’s readers are not in the Design and Construction industry. To that end, I look forward to sharing with you the lessons learned here on Cofebuz in addition to my weekly posts on Marketing and Building Business though Social Networking.

As always, thank you for being apart of Cofebuz!

Tim Klabunde

Taking over with Web 2.0

dcdcn

I am beyond excited that tomorrow we will be announcing the launch of the Washington DC Design and Construction Network website! As many of you know we have been working to bridge the gap between online and in person networking since the establishment of the Washington DC Design and Construction Network in November 2008. The rollout of this website sets the stage for the second step in bridging this gap. Keep reading if you want to find out what makes this website so different and why it is so important to the Network.

Taking Over

Tomorrow I will also be announcing that we have arranged to take over an entire restaurant in Arlington Virginia for our second Happy Hour! That is right; the restaurant will be closed to the general public and open to the members of the Washington DC Design and Construction Network. As you may recall from my post Online Networking meets Real Networking, we beyond exceeded the room capacity for our first Happy Hour. It is great to see how this event has so rapidly grown to the next level, clearly showing the power of combining social (online) networking and in person networking!

The link between a Happy Hour and a website: Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is about creating value and information while web 1.0 was (and is) all about setting up a site that reads like a brochure. What makes the Washington DC Design and Construction Network website so different isn’t the HTML, it is in the information we are providing through the site! Take a look and you will find links to all of the local procurement websites, feeds from the Washington Business Journal updated every 5 minutes, places to network with other members of the group, and an official Network MBE Directory.

Why

To Build Relationships! Success in life comes from relationships, both personally and professionally. As all of you in the Cofebuz network already know, the best way to build relationships by selflessly helping others. So why not expand on this idea? What would happen if each of us didn’t just help a handful of people but instead tried to help thousands?!  Whatever the outcome, it will be a fun case-study. I look forward to sharing the results of our little experiment with you here at Cofebuz!


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Anyone can network

social-networking1I believe that anyone can succeed at Networking. I often find it interesting, however, that many people think they don’t have the correct personality to network effectively. After reading a multitude of marketing and networking books I think I know why: most writers denote networking as a sales process.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of sales I think of someone I want to avoid (I’m allowed to say this since I am in marketing and business development, two euphemism for sales). Because of this incorrect association between sales and networking we have created the primary issue that keeps people from networking today. The good news is that networking is not a part of the sales process. Let me explain why anyone can succeed at networking:

 Social Networking Theory/Thesis:

  1. Relationships are the foundation of Networking. Most everyone agrees that relationships are the foundation of networking. What is exciting is that this is the basic reality that serves as the foundation for why anyone can succeed at building a strong network.
  2. Everyone has a God-given instinct to develop relationships. Did you know that everyone on this planet has both a desire and a need to build relationships? My oldest son could be easily classified as an introvert, yet I distinctly remember when he was in preschool how he wanted so badly to make friends with others in his class. This same instinct applies to everyone, even you.
  3. Most people find networking to be difficult. How is it that if networking is all about relationships and everyone has a God-given instinct to develop relationships, that most people have only experienced failure when networking?
  4. The SYSTEM most people think of when they think of “Networking” is flawed. Networking is actually much easier than most people think. It is about building relationships the way we designed to build relationships, simply by focusing on helping one another.
  5. If you simply understand the correct SYSTEM for networking it is easy. Networking is not sales, it is simply a focus on building mutually beneficial relationships. Here in lies the true key to succeeding at networking: when you focus on helping others you will gain the rewards of a network that wants to help you in return.

Networking is about building relationships, something that, as I noted above, we all have a desire and need to do anyway. When most people think about networking at an event they think about “working the room.” When I attend a networking event I instead focus on helping every person that I meet. I make introductions, I give information, and I laugh with friends. Simply put, I focus on building relationships instead of focusing on myself.

The Result

What I have always found amazing it that this type of networking is far more successful than showing up to “work the room.” The people that I would have targeted previously are now introduced to me by friends that I have helped previously. The result is a warm contact that I can follow-up with over time and build a relationship with.

How about you, are your networking relationships about helping other people, or helping yourself? If you are ready to build a network that in truly interested in seeing you succeed, you can start today by helping others to succeed.

Online Networking is not Real Networking

networkI am a big fan of LinkedIn, yet I recognize that most people do not understand how to use online networking sites to build and maintain their networks. In part, this is due to a misunderstanding because online networking sites in-and-of themselves are not really networking at all, they are just one of many tools you can use to network. Real networking comes down to relationships, not “links.”

Online Case Study

Eight weeks ago I started the LinkedIn group the “Washington DC Design and Construction Network.” Within the first two weeks word-of-mouth marketing had grown the group to over 50 members and today we should cross the 200 member mark. The group has two things that many groups never get: 1) active discussions and 2) opportunity to meet others in the network in person. That’s right, in early 2009 we are going to be having our first Happy Hour to give people an opportunity to meet in person. The goal is to bridge the gap between online networks and in-person networking.

Real networking

Real networking requires multiple points of connection. In the same way that simply “linking” to others is not real networking it is also true that going to networking functions is not real networking. Networking is building relationships. This relationship development should be done at the intersection of multiple communication points, including online networking sites, networking functions, follow-up e-mails, letters, association events, phone calls, lunches, coffee, and meetings. This lack of follow-up and connection is the main reason that many people that attend networking events feel that they haven’t had any success.

Your Network

Each person should evaluate all of their available communication points to identify the ones that they can best use to build their network. I personally have found that LinkedIn can be a great and professional way to maintain those connections. There is no requirement that in order to succeed at networking you must use online networking sites, but there is a requirement that you use multiple communication channels that will help you to foster and build relationships. What are the best channels for communication for you? Look for opportunities for developing mutually beneficial relationships and remember that online networking is only one of many networking tools that you should be using every day.

If you line in the DC area and you are interested in joining the Washington DC Design and Construction Network please use this link and click “join group” to join.