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Tag archives for face to face networking

Are you always on the lookout for a good book or article on networking techniques? Here’s one we spotted: Never Eat Alone by well-known networker Keith Ferrazzi,  a “how to network” book — tips and techniques on how to grow your contact network.

It’s a pleasant surprise to find that it’s really about growing relationships — mostly business relationships.

Networks vs. Relationships

You might wonder why there’s a distinction between networking and building relationships.

If you’ve ever been to a networking event and exchanged business cards with someone, only to never talk with that person again, then you were networking.

However, if you’ve had continuing interaction with that person — perhaps working on a project together or referring business to each other — then you have developed a networking contact into a relationship that will hopefully continue to grow and be valuable to both of you.

In Never Eat Alone Ferrazzi explains the value of having access to people who can help you succeed. One of the keys to obtaining access to influential people is “reciprocity” — making sure that over time the relationship benefits both people. Sometimes you’ll need the other person for assistance, and sometime later the other person may ask you for help. The key is that neither person “keeps score” trying to equalize the amount of help each person gives the other.

Check Your Compass

A key aspect to developing a mutually beneficial connection is knowing how you and the other person can help each other.

This requires that you have a clearly defined mission, or general direction, that you’re heading. Those of us who work independently sometimes think we need to be very specialized and focus on doing one thing so we can have one “brand image.” However, networking only within a specialized area limits the range of people you meet.

Although I’ve worked in technology, advertising, media, sales, and other areas, there is a common thread to what I do: help business people communicate with customers better.

So, instead of being concerned about people thinking I lack career focus, I prefer to look at my overall “mission” or “purpose” that guides me in a general direction.

In other words, you don’t need a AAA road map with the complete route highlighted. But it does mean you need to check your career compass frequently to make sure the relationships you create will help move you in the right general direction.

Build It Before You Need It

Relationships take time to nurture. You need experience in dealing with another person so you’ll know how you can help and support each other.

This is why it’s important to build your network of contacts before you need to ask a contact for help or a referral.

It may be years before you need (or can help) someone in your network. This means it’s important to take good notes so you can later find a person’s information when you need it.

You may have heard a person described as having a “Golden Rolodex,” meaning they’ve collected contact information on a large number of valuable contacts. The use of paper-based Rolodex cards has declined in favor of contact management software (such as the contact manager in SureToMeet), but the objective is the same — you need to be able to quickly and easily retrieve contact data about the people in your network.

Food Builds Relationships

The title of Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone, might lead you to believe that taking customers to lunch is the key to networking. Yes, lunch with prospects and customers is great. But he actually focuses part of the book on a different meal — dinner.

He tells several stories about how dinner parties became a key part of his networking strategy. He explains exactly how to have a dinner party that’s not only fun for everyone, but helps you accomplish your networking goals.

This is one of the techniques I’ve gleaned from his book and put into practice. I’ve hosted a number of small dinner gatherings recently, usually at restaurants convenient for everybody in the group.

One of the purposes of the gatherings has been to introduce people who don’t know each other. It’s amazing how often people are interested in meeting new people over dinner.

Online Networking vs. Face-to-Face Networking

In the past few years a number of social networking Web sites have sprung up. LinkedIn and Ryze are probably the two best sites for online business networking. The challenge in using these sites is what to do after you’ve identified a potential contact. Do you use that Web site’s messaging system to introduce yourself? Do you contact them directly? Unfortunately for many people, these connection sites don’t work as well as users expect.

I’ve met many people online in discussion groups and forums, and have enjoyed those conversations. However, the most beneficial of those relationships included meeting them later face-to-face.

While face-to-face networking usually produces greater results than just interacting with someone online, the ease of online networking makes it a terrific technique, too.

In fact, for most people, face-to-face networking is easier to do and has greater (and more lasting) results than online networking. I’m confident that over time we’ll see more people benefit from online networking. But for now the question is how to meet people face-to-face who can become a valuable part of your contact network. This usually means attending events where you are sure to meet like-minded people — people who share your interests and passions.

In Never Eat Alone Ferrazzi details the strategies he uses to meet the people he wants to meet at events and conferences. For face-to-face networking like this, the event calendar sites (such as SureToMeet, of course) can help you find events where you can meet the people you want to meet.

Food for Thought

If you’ve gotten tired of networking because it didn’t seem to work, or if you’re looking for ways to turn your contact network into a valuable resource, pick up a copy of Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone.

It’ll provide the “why” of networking that’ll help you make better use of those “how to” networking books and articles that we’ve all collected.


Cliff Allen is the co-founder of SureToMeet.com. He is the co-author of the book One-to-One Web Marketing; 2nd Ed., published by John Wiley & Sons.

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.

In a post about getting attention, Nathan Burke, MarketingStartups.com, reminds readers of the benefits to startup entrepreneurs of getting away from computers and attending networking events:

Go to events! Another easy one. Go to tweetups, conferences, podcamps, etc. You’ll meet people, you’ll get to talk about your startup, and you’ll get the chance to hone your message each time you meet someone new.

With all the ways we network online, much of it deals with arranging face-to-face networking.

Even online networking graduates into face-to-face meetings.  Nurturing business contacts requires face-time, handshakes and doing things together.  In fact, if you only meet a person once… chances are they will not be a productive contact.  Caring and sharing is still at the heart of any relationship.

In the Los Angeles area several groups hold networking events for technology and media companies. However, Cliff and a couple friends created free LINC events to fill a specific need in L.A., so these co-organizers hosted these local digital and software bizdev events.

If you are involved in guiding or managing some aspect of a digital media or software company you’ll want to come meet others like you. Be sure to RSVP now because we’re quickly approaching the limit on the number of people that the location can handle. (After you RSVP you’ll be able to see who else is coming.)
If you would like to host casual networking events like this for people in your industry, here are the guidelines we’ve followed:

  • Find a location that’s easy for most people to get to.
  • Make sure parking is convenient and as inexpensive as possible.
  • Choose a venue that will provide a large, open meeting area – and has good food.
  • Recruit one or more sponsors who will pay for the venue and food so you won’t have to charge admission.
  • Invite people in a narrow enough industry or sector that it’s likely that everyone would like to meet each other.

Here in the Los Angeles community we are fortunate to have a large number of high-tech and “new media” companies. However, in other industries and regions it may be difficult to find a large cluster of people in your industry to invite.

If this happens, encourage every person you invite to use the “Send Invitation to Friend” form on the event web page to invite people they know. Take advantage of the connectedness of your community to attract a larger group of people who will all be glad you organized the event.

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.

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