I’ve become a good networker because I’ve been doing it most of my life. My favorite form of Networking is a face-to-face meeting; the “Analog Version of Social Media.” I like to see the face of someone sharing something and know if there is more to the story than what they are telling me. I love to be able to tell if the conversation needs to change by reading their body language, and then ending our discussions with a hand shake or hug. *A manly “Bro-hug” is very common in my world but check out the link at the bottom of hugs that did NOT go well.
In the old days, Networking was called “Meeting People” and our Network were our Friends. We’d meet people at our churches, clubs, neighborhood, and civic events. With the dawn of the digital era, people have moved from Face to Face relationships and over to the digital world where we feel connected when we comment or “like” a post on LinkedIn. We consider having 1600 friends on Facebook and 4,000 connections on LinkedIn as having a great “Network.” That is until we actually need help with something and the silence of your network is deafening.
I do believe there is a great value in connecting with others (networking) to find people who can help your business grow, find your next great employee, help advance your career and find valuable resources. Unfortunately, most people stick to the digital side or wait to start networking until they need to replace an employee or find a new job. When I get a confirmation of a request to connect on LinkedIn that I sent someone two years ago, I realize that this person just lost their job, blew the dust off of their LinkedIn page, and finally replied to my request. I’ll probably see them start to show up at the next networking event after a two year absence.
Whether it’s one-on-one, in the digital space, or in a group you should always be Networking (making friends) and here are some ways you can actually enjoy doing it.
Face to Face Networking
Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. It’s easy to get comfortable in sending LinkedIn requests and the occasional “Like” but you need to make effort to meet with people to create the human connection. To some, meeting people is as exciting as watching the Third Presidential Debate, but it’s part of the process of building your personal brand image and should not be ignored. Remember, it’s not just about what you get out of the meeting, it’s about pouring into the lives of others you meet, and seeing how you can help them FIRST. And unless you’re Bill Gates, you still need to intentionally work to meet new people all the time.
I recently met with another business owner in DFW because he read my blog and “liked” it. Rather than just saying thank you, I suggested we meet for coffee. When we met, I quickly found out that we share a passion for excellence and helping small businesses reach their goals. We talked about our families, our faith in GOD, and our efforts to grow our business. Through this meeting, I felt a level of trust and confidence in him that I would not have otherwise received. Face to Face is always best.
Social Media Networking
It’s great to have a LinkedIn account, but are you using it the right way? If not, it’s like buying the iPhone and using it as a paper weight. Have you “optimized” your page – or at least added a photo! Seriously, how ugly are these people who will not put a photo on their LinkedIn page? Come on, Sears Portrait Studio will do one for you for $7.99, and you get a free key chain!
Make it easy to connect with you; alphabetized your skills, put key words in your work history, list your email and phone number at the top of your page so people can connect with you – which is one of the main reason to have a LinkedIn page in the first place. Right?
Take time to update your profile and your work history. You can get referrals, add links to documents and videos with valuable information to engage the business world you live in. Terry Sullivan is an LinkedIn genius and he created a LinkedIn Branding and Optimization Guide that you can download it by clicking on his photo here. (Looking good Terry!)
Here is my LinkedIn profile, and although I’m sure it can always be better, mine has Tyler Beck’s beat hands-down! http://www.linkedin.com/in/robertjhunt2010
I take part in lots of Networking events, and I always know my goal and target audience before I get there. Just showing up to drink a beer with random people will drain you and make you hate the adventure. Find out where your prospects and colleagues go, or a place where you can sharpen your skills and get the support we all need to do our best. Try to find out who will be there and set a goal of finding a new prospective client, potential job opportunity, potential business partner, or what the heck – even make a new friend.
There are lots of great local groups like the 1st Tuesday, Authentic Leadership Dallas, Success North Dallas, and the Dallas Regional Chamber to name a few. Another great organization is the DFW American Marketing Association. I will be a guest speaker for the June Executive Luncheon so come join me and I’ll introduce you to my friends in the Marketing Community. Click on the photo above to sign up.
Lastly, when you DO meet with someone, don’t forget the plan and goal you set for being there. Go easy on the booze and stay focused so you represent yourself in the best light. Don’t shy away from asking for help or a referral if that is what you need. Here is a good article on how to Get More Referrals.
The real value of these Networking events is that it keeps you connected to your local community. You need to find ways to give back to others, find about new ideas, and to find new resources that can help your business or your career move ahead. Done on a regular basis with a specific plan and focus, Networking adds to the bottom-line of your company and your life, so make plans to step up your networking efforts today.
If you need practice, let’s set a time to meet in person at our office in Dallas or at your next networking event. Now go connect with someone!
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ABOUT ROBERT HUNT
I am a Forum Leader and Business Partner for Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas. My role is to find the best members for our CEO Peer Groups, and lead each meeting so that our members become Raving Fans. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. You can also email me at info@REFDallas.com or call me at (469) 269 – 5148.