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3 Ways to Succeed At Networking Before Attending The Event

NetworkingThe most common question I hear when working with IT businesses is “How do I find new clients?”. The answer I always give to them in the first instance is a simple one – get out there and meet fellow businesses by attending networking events.

The old adage “People do business with people they like” is as true now as it has ever been, and so attending networking events where you can meet new people, build new relationships and strengthen existing relationships is very important and should be an integral part of any IT Solution Provider or Managed Service Providers (MSP) plans.

But… Networking Doesn’t Work For Us

But the push-back I often get from the IT businesses I share this advice with is “We’ve tried networking, and it doesn’t work for us”. “We meet the wrong people”, “It’s a waste of my time”, “I’ve nothing in common with the people I meet” are all common complaints I hear about networking events.

I understand this attitude because I’ve been there myself. Dragging myself up at the crack of dawn to attend a networking breakfast which feels like a waste of time, or pushing myself to attend the latest Chamber meeting where people seem more interested in talking about their Sports teams than business.

But attending networking events does work. You can meet the right people who you can do business with – either directly or indrectly. And these events don’t have to be a chore.

Here’s my 3 ways to succeed at networking before attending the event.

Choose the right event

Choosing the right networking event to go to is key. But how will you know the right event to attend? By asking your contacts!

Rather than randomly signing up for an event you’ve found via Google, why not ask your clients, your strategic alliance partners and other business owners near to you which events they attend? More often than not they’ll point you in the right direction or even invite you to join them at the next event they are attending – which has the bonus of meaning they can introduce you to others when you are there.

While there’s no guarantee that the events others recommend to you will be an ideal fit for you, experience tells me that a recommendation from others is a much better way to choose where and when to spend your time than any other way of picking an event.

Check out the attendee list prior to the meeting

I’m still surprised by the number of attendees at networking events who don’t bother to do research to find out who else is attending the same event.

Most progressive networking events – especially members events – publish an attendee list prior to the event to allow others to see who is attending. You can scan this list and do some research on your fellow attendees, understanding the people in the room you think would be best to meet and then seeking them out at the event itself.

Knowing who you want to meet and why is preferable to turning up at the event and hoping that you bump into somebody who you have something in common with!

Even if the attendee list isn’t published prior to the event, when you arrive at the event there is often an attendee list you can scan, or you can ask the event organiser if you can check who is attending. Most will be happy to share.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that many people announce their attendance at events on Social Media prior to the event. Check out LinkedIn groups and run Twitter searches for keywords related to your networking event to see if you can find other attendees, and then seek them out on the day itself. Which leads us nicely to my final tip…

Announce you’re attending the event on Social Media

I can’t tell you the number of networking events I’ve attended where I’ve announced I’m attending the event on my Social media feeds – such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook – and somebody at the event has sought me out to say hello to because they knew I was attending.

I’ve even (flatteringly) had people tell me they’d decided to attend events because they saw I was going, and so decided to come along too!

By announcing you’re intention to visit the event on Social Media, you’re doing two things – giving the event a plug to ensure that more people are aware of it, and giving others the opportunity to seek you out at the event itself.

Conclusion

Networking events are still a sure-fire way to build relationships and win business – but only if you choose the right networking events, do your preparation before hand and use Social Media to link up with others.

People do business with people they like. Make sure people have a chance to meet and like you!

What is it like to disconnect from the Internet for a day?

Disconnected from the Internet In my last blog post I shared that Friday 7th March 2014 was National Day of Unplugging and that I was going to undertake my experiment in unplugging for a day (go ahead and read that blog post now, I’ll wait here for you!).

I’m now back on-line after 24+ hours of not using my Smartphone, turning off my Tablet and disconnecting from the Internet.

So how did I fare?

First World Problems

Firstly, I’m fully aware that millions of people live without the Internet and as many others aren’t connected as well as I am.

But the Internet is “my job”. I work in the IT industry where everyone is connected. I work with clients in multiple time zones across the world. I’m a Knowledge worker. I’m also a self-confessed Geek who enjoys being connected for both work and play.

And I’m definitely not alone in matching this description, at least judging by some of the feedback I had on-line when I shared that I was going to undertake an experiment in unplugging for a day. Comments such as “What? Voluntarily?”, “Rather you than me!” and “I’ll call you at mid-day to see how you’re getting on” were shared with me tongue-in-cheek, but hinted at the fact that for most of us – being disconnected from the Internet is something we would casually shrug off as “not a problem” until we actually experience it.

The night before

The night before I disconnected, I set my email out-of-office message and I also installed the Android App Auto SMS (Autoresponder) to send automatic responses to anyone who contacted me to let them know I was disconnected.

Tweet from Buffer I also used Buffer to schedule some Tweets and maintain a presence on Twitter, specifically sharing links to articles about disconnecting from the Internet.

Then I shut-down my laptop, turned off my iPad and packed them away along with my Smartphone and iPod, safely out of reach so I wouldn’t be tempted by them during the day.

I actually had a really rough nights sleep. It’s bizarre (and slightly sad, I admit) but I woke up a number of times during the night with bizarre concerns about what I’d forgotten to do. Of course, there was absolutely nothing that couldn’t wait 24 hours – but this again hints at a (perhaps unhealthy) reliance on being “connected” that I didn’t anticipate.

Being Disconnected

Reading a newspaper Waking up and being disconnected felt somewhat liberating. I had made the decision to spend the day out and about, away from the temptations of my electronic devices and so headed out for breakfast and to do something I’d not done in quite some time – read a newspaper. While sitting in the Cafe and reading The Independent cover to cover, it occurred to me that while in such situations I’d normally be browsing the BBC News web-site, reading a newspaper page-by-page took me to read about stories I’d normally overlook. For most of us with Smartphones, I’d say we now choose the news we want to read – often picking the unimportant and the salacious ahead of what is truly newsworthy.

I also experienced my first “gotcha” of not having a Smartphone – reading a newspaper article about some Green Technology that took my interest, I felt compelled to go online and share a link to the product. Except I couldn’t, because I was disconnected. This happened quite a lot during the day where I saw things that I instinctively went to share with my “audience” but couldn’t.

Are we uncomfortable being alone in public?

Taking a leisurely stroll to the Train Station to head into Birmingham City Centre, I sat on the platform and instinctively went to whip out my Smartphone to pass the time. D’oh!

So I sat and people watched for a while. Almost everyone of the people on the platform were heads down tapping away on their Smartphone. I initially felt a little uncomfortable being sat doing “nothing” but soon enjoyed it. I watched as one couple stood together, immersed in their Smartphones, while their young Son tried (and failed) to get their attention until the train came along.

So what do you do when you’re sat alone, killing time, without even a Kindle to read a book on? Well, I struck up a conversation with the folks sat next to me – one of whom was an elderly lady from Germany who was exasperated at the state of the British transport system compared to that in her homeland (“Here, I have to set out 30 minutes early to accommodate delays. In Germany, I set out 2 minutes before my train is due, knowing it’ll arrive on time”.) and the other a middle-aged man from Redditch who was resigned to being late for his meeting but said that the people he was meeting would understand as he’d contacted them to let them know.

Oh yes – the train I wanted to catch was late. 30 minutes delayed. Which lead me to my next Smartphone-less quandary…

Panicking when we’re late for a meeting

Don't Panic Fellow blogger and organiser of Birmingham Social Media Cafe, Karen Strunks, had (probably against her better judgement) decided to join me in unplugging and we’d agreed to meet in Birmingham City Centre at 1030 that day.

Despite leaving an hour to make the 12 minute trip into the City, Central Trains had let me down and I was now going to be late to meet Karen. I’d normally drop her an SMS to say “Running late” but of course, I couldn’t as I didn’t have a mobile phone.

I felt like I was 17 years old again when I recalled that if you were let down by the British transport system (which was frequently) you’d have no way to convey this message to the friends you’d agree to meet a specific spot at a specific time.

Sharing my predicament with the people I was chatting to, the middle-aged chap empathised and shared that had become irritated over the lack of forward planning from people nowadays. Venues and times for meetings with friends we often decided at the last minute and conveyed by SMS or Facebook rather than in advance. The man shared with me how he’d recently made a trip from Redditch to Manchester for a party, only to find when he had arrived that the venue had been changed at the last minute and as he’d forgotten his mobile ‘phone, he had no way to find out where and so drove home in less than party spirit.

As it was, I arrived in Birmingham at 1040 where Karen shared with me she’d have waited until 11am (or interestingly, 1045 if I was a boyfriend) for me to arrive before leaving. Phew.

Library of BirminghamMissing my Camera

I enjoyed a fabulous tour of the new Library of Birmingham. It’s an amazing building – more like a Community hub than a traditional library – and at every turn I felt the pull to take a photograph of my wonderful surroundings and share it with the world. Alas, my camera is built into my Smartphone and so I had to remind myself that we used to store images of wonderful experiences well before Facebook and Instagram – by using our memories.

But the persistent urge to share where I was, what I was doing and with whom was one of the most noticeable points of my experiment. It’s not enough to live in the moment anymore, it seems. We feel compelled to share what we’re doing with others. With the advent of technology such as Google Glasses — eliminating even the barrier of getting your Smartphone out of your pocket to take a snap to instead tapping your glasses to take a photo of what you are seeing — I see this phenomenon increasing exponentially.

Feeling naked with a Smartphone

Feeling naked The rest of the day was really relaxing and enjoyable, despite the fact that every so often I’d feel for where my Smartphone would normally be (in my trouser pocket) and panic that I’d dropped it before I got a hold of myself and reminded myself that expensive chunk of technology was safely tucked away at home.

Other instances of my reliance on my Smartphone were:-

  • When deciding on a lunch venue, I went to use location app Yelp! for a crowd sourced suggestion but remembered Yelp needed a Smartphone to work.
  • When coming to pay the lunch bill, realising there was probably a money off voucher I could use online but sadly, it would stay there this lunchtime.
  • When deciding on a movie to see at the cinema, having to walk to the cinema and see what was on rather than checking it out online first.
  • Remembering to turn my Smartphone to silent during the movie, only to remember my Smartphone was silent at home already.
  • When deciding whether to meet friends in town for a drink after work, realising that unless I wanted to trawl the pubs of Birmingham to randomly find them (not necessarily a bad idea) that I couldn’t phone or SMS them to see if they were out.
  • Going to listen to a Podcast while out for a walk, which is difficult without Podcasts or anything to play Podcasts with.

On the evening, I enjoyed being sat at home and watching a movie without being distracted by my Smartphone beeping but still feeling pangs on FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and wondering if my friends had perhaps text me to ask me to meet them at the greatest party there ever was that night (they didn’t) or that if any incredibly important emails had arrived (they hadn’t).

Reconnecting

Despite feeling a little bit anxious when I disconnected yesterday, I knew the world would continue turning. I knew that it was highly likely that I’d not missed any important messages. I knew that anything important I received when disconnected could and would wait until the next day.

But it did feel good to reconnect this morning and confirm that I’d not missed out on anything important and that sadly, I’d not been missed <sniff>.

Conclusion

Multi-taskingIn short, as anyone who has been without Broadband Internet at home or has experienced a broken Smartphone will know, being disconnected from the wider world in this way leaves you at a disadvantage. People can’t contact you (which is good and bad). You can’t do on the spot research (which is mostly bad, but easily overcome). You’re disconnected from the worlds biggest information store – the Internet.

But positively, being off-line means you’re also forced to be in the moment and enjoy your surroundings instead of trying to capture thoughts and images of them to share with the network of people you’re connected with.

As human beings, we typically multi-task very badly.

  • Trying to be out with friends while also Tweeting is difficult.
  • Being at a family meal while sneaking a glance at Facebook is daft.
  • And trying to enjoy a concert while filming it on your Smartphone is just stupid.

Being disconnected means you’re focused on the people you’re with, the things you’re doing and the places you’re at, instead of trying to maintain a presence in the real-world as well as be connected with people, places and things elsewhere at the same time.

My takeaway from this experiment is to be conscious of living in the moment. It’s a balance. I’m definitely not about to give up on the modern world, go and live in a hut on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere and enjoy only nature for company. But I am going to try to focus on where I am and who I’m with more. To reduce un-important distractions. To stop being concerned about what is happening elsewhere.

What about you? I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

photo credits: Elvert Barnes via photopin cc, ell brown via photopin ccrosipaw via photopin cc, fotologic via photopin ccNoodles and Beef via photopin cc, Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via photopin cc

My Experiment in unplugging for a day

Texting at dinner Have you ever been spending time with friends or family and you have noticed that it’s suddenly gone quiet. Everyone has stopped talking and the silence has managed to distract you from browsing on your Smartphone long enough for you to look up. You quickly see that the reason everyone has stopped talking is… the have their head down on their Smartphones too.

FOMO – Fear of Missing Out

According to research from Assurant Solutions, Brits feel lost without their mobiles after just 13 minutes. We also check our mobiles on average of 45 times per day. 33% of Brits check their phone first thing in the morning upon waking.

National Day of UnpluggingFacebook, Twitter, SMS, WhatsApp, Skype, LinkedIn, Blogs… we have so many methods to stay connected with friends and the wider world, and we all seem to suffer with FOMO – Fear of missing out. A fear that drives us to regularly eschew being present in the moment as we go online to keep up with what is happening elsewhere.

I’m as guilty of this as anybody, spending more time taking photos and sending status updates to tell others where I was, what I was doing and with who I was doing it than I was actually being present in the moment.

In 2012 I quit using Foursquare, and in 2013 I reassessed my relationship with Facebook. On Friday 7th March 2014, it will be the National Day of Unplugging and I’m going to join in by turning my Smartphone off for the entire day, giving my iPad a wide berth, ignoring Social Media, not reading emails, and generally  being disconnected from the Internet.

24 hours without the Internet

How will I get on? As a self-confessed techno-geek, will I get withdrawal symptoms? The cold sweats? What on earth will I do for a full 24 hours without the Internet?

On Saturday I’ll update this blog post with my thoughts on my experiment in unplugging for a day.

photo credit: tantek via photopin cc

Persona – Online Reputation Management

Persona - Online Reputation ManagementEvery Friday I try to share one of my favourite finds of the week – a web-site, tool or app that has impressed me.

My Friday Favourite this week is Persona.

Persona is an online reputation management tool. It actively scans your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ profiles and lets you identify and manage content that could compromise your personal brand – whether it be an inappropriate status update, a dodgy photo you may have been tagged in, or even a low-brow comment that a friend may have left.

Employers check Social Media

With employers now actively checking job applicants Social Media I can see tools like Persona being of huge benefit to job seekers who don’t realise the negative impact a dodgy photo or an inappropriate comment can have on their reputation.

Persona offers a historical clean up (scanning your entire profile) and then offers real-time monitoring of your profile – alerting you to issues so you can deal with them.

Conclusion

Sign-up for Persona is free and monitors Facebook, Twitter & Google+ for text posts, comments, links and hash-tags, while there is a Persona Pro plan at $19.99 per year which also monitors images.

If you’re a job seeker, self-employed or care about your online reputation at all – then Persona looks like it will be a useful tool to help you avoid sharing anything that could damage your reputation online.

How To Use Social Media To Be More Effective At Your Job

Social MediaA heads-up that I’ll be joining my good friend Cathy Alper of CompTIA, along with Ginger Clay of 4-Profit for a free webinar this Thursday 14th November 2013 at 4pm GMT (10am CST) where we will be discussing How To Use Social Media To Be More Effective At Your Job.

I’m excited about the webinar because while most of the webinars I typically participate in are aimed at IT business owners, this webinar will focus on the personal use of Social Media for success and being effective in your professional role. In other words, it’s going to provide value for anyone – regardless of the type of work you do!

How to Watch the Webinar

Registration for the How To Use Social Media To Be More Effective At Your Job webinar is free and open now. I hope you can join us!

A recording of How to Personally Use Social Media to be more Effective at your Job is now available to view on-demand. I hope you find it useful! Recording of my webinar w/@CompTIA now available!

 

photo credit: Jason A. Howie via photopin cc

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