Four Tips for Better Networking
After attending a few business functions in the past couple of months, I see that few people are taking the opportunity to grow their contact base and network. I’ve even attended networking mixers where people did not bring their business cards or didn’t reciprocate when I handed them mine. Awkward! So with these experiences and the start to 2014, I thought I would share my four tips for better networking.
To expand on the points I mentioned in the video…
1. Always have a business card on you!
You never know who you will meet and where you might meet them. Tuck business cards into your purse, briefcase, wallet, car, gym bag and other things you carry so that if you happen to meet the one person who can help you get ahead in this world, you are not scribbling your information on a napkin. Or worse, you don’t exchange information at all.
STUDENTS: Set yourself and your personal brand apart by having contact cards made. Include your name, field of interest, and one or two ways to get in contact with you, including a social network, like Twitter. If you are a student-athlete, mention the sport you play or use graphics on the card to express this point. Vista Print is an affordable option. I like the designs available at MOO.com.
2. Be approachable and responsive at events.
If you are attending a business function or networking mixer, even a cocktail party, it’s time to be open to meeting new people. If you stand in the corner with your nose to your phone or speak only with your friends, you are missing out on the opportunity to expand and grow your network. What’s the point of attending a function in the first place? On that note, if someone is brave enough to walk up to you and introduce themselves, by all means, be friendly and welcoming, engage in conversation and exchange business cards. If you are the host of what you call a “networking mixer” it is your job to introduce guests to each other and help people work the room.
3. Listen up!
Your secret ingredient to being a top-notch networker is your listening skills. Develop the ability to listen to the person you’ve met and figure out what or who you have in common. Do you know someone who works at their company? Do you share the same love of the outdoors and hiking? Maybe they have a family and their kids go to the same school as yours. Maybe you are both UCSB Gauchos! Learning about your new contact will help you develop a better relationship with them and connect them to others in your network. The art of networking rests within the ability to make connections. If you approach people with the idea that you want to see what you can get out of them, you are not networking. If you recognize that your role is to connect people you know, you will be a very successful networker. The more you connect other people to each other, the more they will connect others to you. What you give, you will receive.
4. Connect online and follow up.
Once you’ve collected those cards, go home and jot down some notes. This will help you keep your memory in tact! What event did you meet at? What do you have in common? Was there a funny story you enjoyed? If you know who you want to connect them to, write their name down too. Figure out what social channel your new contact is on and connect. Follow up by introducing them to another person in your network and scheduling that coffee meeting you spoke about. Periodically going through your business cards will jog your memory of the people you know and set you up for success when you are out and about or at business-specific functions. Those notes you wrote on the cards will help you follow-up and nurture your relations.
STUDENTS: Your contact base may not be as large as a seasoned professional, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot play by these rules. At the next young executives gathering or a networking function, challenge yourself to meet five new people or ten new people, whatever you find reasonable for the event. Apply these tips and watch how fast your network grows.
And that’s four! Pretty easy to adopt and very effective tips for better networking. Remember, networking is not about you. It’s about helping connect the people you already know. This lands you a reputation as a good networker and that person who “knows everyone.” To grow in your career or expand your business, networking is an essential skill.
Now it’s time to challenge you. Take these four tips with you to your next business or networking function and let me know in the comments below how well it worked for you. Have a tip of your own? Leave a comment below and share with us! Besides, you never know who you might meet in the comment section. Think of it as digital networking.
Thanks for watching the video. If you want your weekly serving of positivity and purpose, as well as helpful tips for strategic communication, branding and social media, please make sure you subscribe to Beaming Bohemian news. It lands in your inbox every Friday!
SB 1349 Protects Privacy for Student-Athletes
You’ve all read by now that California Governor, Jerry Brown, signed the SB 1349 bill, which prohibits public and private universities from requiring students or prospective students to disclose their user names or passwords to social-media sites. The governor’s office says the law “is designed to stop a growing trend of colleges and universities snooping into student social-media accounts, particularly those of student-athletes.”
This is terrific news. What a wonderful way to urge athletic departments to take a pro-active approach to social media. It changes the department strategy from monitoring what student-athletes say to educating student-athletes how to use social media in a positive and purposeful way. It takes the program from crisis prevention mode to leadership academy.
Athletic programs which provide student-athletes with social media education, are working to improve their players’ communication skills. This type of education can help athletes understand how to build their professional profile, act with self-respect and encourages them to cross-promote other sports, and be positive examples, leaders in social media. It is very much like media training and preparing them for print and television interviews. But social media has a much more immediate and expansive impact than traditional media. Social media permeates every aspect of a student-athlete’s life.
Empowering student-athletes, as well as coaches and staff, to serve as brand ambassadors will have a far more positive impact on loyalty to the department, willingness to achieve specific goals and will produce a much higher ROI. Educating the entire department can effect not only what staff, coaches and athletes say, but when implemented with strategy, can impact ticket sales, community outreach, donor cultivation and improve recruitment efforts. No matter what goal a department may have, communication strategies, which integrate social media, can work to achieve those goals. Monitoring social media does not drive revenue. Enabling staff, coaches and athletes to embrace social media and actively use these networks, uplifting them as brand ambassadors will drive revenue where needed.
It was former student-athlete and Michigan quarterback, Kirk Cousins, who said at the NCAA Convention in January 2012, that the more support they were provided as student-athletes, the more they wanted to give back to the program. And that’s key. Many athletic programs forget that their student-athletes really want to serve as good representatives of the university and are searching for ways they can respond to that demand. When you choose to monitor your athlete communication, your are essentially telling them that you do not trust them and they are not capable of handling the responsibility of representing the university. That’s not a message well-received by students. And fortunately, it’s not a message they will have to hear any longer.
I’m thankful that California stepped up as a leader on this topic and passed the SB 1349 bill. There is no benefit to operating in a reactive mode and positioning your department as big brother over student-athletes. These “kids” are young adults who are attending an academic institution and are keen to learn how to improve their lives. Athletic programs can serve to enhance the academic experience student-athletes enjoy by providing social media education. These are life and leadership skills that effectively make them a better, more well-rounded player and more able to contribute significantly to the athletic program.
Beaming Bohemian consults with university athletic departments to establish social media guidelines, educate staff, coaches and student-athletes, and implement smart communication strategies which work to achieve specific goals. Every athletic department is looking to drive revenue. Beaming Bohemian can help you take advantage of social communication tools to do just that. Contact us at 619.244.2400.
Business Lessons Learned from the NFL Referee Scandal
We can learn a lot about business from the football field. The NFL employing replacement referees came with lots of lessons. The idea that there would be a seamless transition and that, perhaps, no one would even notice, fell flat on its face. The use of replacement referees is considered by most to be a complete fiasco. But what lessons can we learn and apply to our own businesses?
1. Value your team
Everyone in you organization contributes to your success in a specific manner. Each employee is an integral part of the operation. Recognize the role that each team member plays and imagine trying to operate without that person. Appreciate that they are working hard and also want to see the company succeed. Take time to show your employees how much you do value them.
When employees raise issues, you have got to listen. It doesn’t matter if they want to talk salary, job function, a change in roles or product flaws. If an employee approaches you with an issue, it is because they care. The same goes with customers. The ones who care the most about your brand are the ones who complain. Employees and customers who raise an issue need to be heard out. It’s your opportunity to improve the business.
Proper training cannot be touted enough. It doesn’t appear that the replacement referees where given extensive training prior to taking the field. That is the responsibility of the company. Those employees represent you, your company, your product or service and your brand. Throwing your team into the fire without proper training is recipe for failure. In addition to the specifics of their job, they need to understand what your company values, what are your goals, and what targets they are working toward. Lots of people complained about the poor performance of the replacement referees. But it was not their fault. They got called to do a job they were not trained and ready to do. They meant well and tried the best they could within their ability and experience. If the NFL wanted seamless transition, they should have spent a little effort to train the replacements.
Football teams have second and third string quarterbacks, baseball teams have a crew of pitchers, and the President has his VP. What’s your back-up plan? If your customer service team walked out of the office today, how would you handle it? Would you throw your accountants at the job because they “talk to customers and vendors” on a daily basis? What have you done internally to cross-train employees so that everyone can appreciate everyone else’s job? If you hire temporary employees, what will you do to ensure that they provide the same quality product or service? (See above.) No matter how well you address points 1-3, you still need a plan B.
Everyone is delighted that the real referees are back in the game and that negotiations reached an agreement. But had the NFL been more prepared for the situation, they would have been able to make it a lot less painful for the fans who love them, as well as less damaging to their brand. I’m sure the referees are glad to have their job back, but do you think they feel valued? Appreciated? With the way the negotiations where handled, what’s their level of job satisfaction?
What lessons can you pull from the NFL and the referee negotiations? Please share in the comments.
“No plan” is a solid idea
If you haven’t yet read the book REWORK by 37Signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson, I recommend you pick up a copy. As a first time business owner, I found their advice and viewpoint refreshing and motivating.
One lesson has been ringing very true in the past couple of weeks. Under “Takedowns” in the first section of their book, they discuss that planning is more a form of fortune telling. They proclaim is that long-term business plans are a lot like guessing. One sentence I underlined on the page was, “Plans let the past drive the future.”
This would most certainly be the case from my last post as Group Director, Sales & Marketing for Apple Tree Hospitality in SE Asia. My arrival in December of 2008 could not have been at a worse time in the status of the global economy. Between August and December that year, the travel industry flipped upside down and sideways. It was NOT a pretty sight. The past could not have dictated that overseas travel agents and tour operators would not be able to fill large groups as they had in 2007 and therefore cancel numerous dates booked on the calendar. The past could not have predicted that agents would want to stop booking one year out, but 90 days prior and therefore change the terms of contracts for groups. Trade show attendance turned more into lessons about what was happening in overseas markets and changing travel trends than it was gaining new clients. The global events were not predicted or labeled anywhere in the 2009 business plans.
The changes in the travel industry pushed us to drive business online and build entirely new websites for our boutique group of properties. We had to be more open to last minute bookings locally, push this even, and “go with the flow,” bending to the changes in traveller habits and new business methods of tour operators.
So when I returned to the US and launched my website and business in May, I did not write a specific business plan. I initially planned to offer services in naming, branding, copywriting and marketing consultation. I wanted to play to my strengths and my joys.
What’s happened over the last few months is that I have had numerous conversations about my business, about what’s happening in San Diego industries, trends in the US, and certainly what’s happening online, and I’m finding that my focus is being shifted. My contacts are leading me down a path which was unimaginable to me at the beginning of this year, but now is so wonderfully possible. I’m seeing my business, my clients, and my future in a whole new light. It is extremely exciting.
I spoke in my last post about being accepting of change. And while this piece hints at that, I’d like to suggest “not planning” is more an encouragement to be more open. Be open and be flexible. Listen to what your friends, contacts, clients, …what the world is telling you. Take a moment to realize when new opportunities are staring you in the face. Be willing to change directions. Fly by the seat of your pants on occasion. I’m enormously amazed at how wonderfully things are falling into place and what big cheers I am hearing from all the right people. I’m glad I am ready to shift into a new gear.
Working in the industries I have in the past, I have always subscribed to having a “solid” business and marketing plan. While it is hard to let go of that completely, I am finding, with the advice of REWORK and the nature of all these fabulous circumstances, that a rough outline and a red notebook filled with scribbles of ideas are working just as well. I do have goals, a vision of what I want my business to become and what clients I want to serve, but I’m also OK with writing them down in pencil.
Q: Would you feel comfortable without a business plan, or do you find that structure helps you succeed? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and comments.