I hear a lot of people talking about networking.
How to do it, what are the do’s and don’ts, how much booze can I drink at a conference, on and on and on the list goes.
Image: takomabibelot via Flickr, CC 2.0
There’s a dirty little secret in the communications world though:
Networking is a joke.
I’ve come to this conclusion after really thinking about what “networking” means.
The general concept I get is walking around a room, drink in one hand, stack of business cards in the other, trying to meet as many people as possible.
It’s funny that in most areas of communication, we offer the advice of “quality, not quantity.”
Why shouldn’t it be the same when it comes to making connections?
I have a relatively small Twitter network.
As of this writing, I’m following just more than 700 people and I have in the ballpark of 1,200 followers.
That’s nothing compared to other giants in our industry like the proprietor of this blog, Sarah Evans, Lauren Fernandez, Justin Goldsborough, Heather Whaling…
I could go on, but you get the picture.
I curate that list of who I follow, and who is following me, on near-daily basis.
It’s much more important to me to have a high quality network than a high quantity network.
Going to a conference with the express purpose of handing out the 500 business cards you take with you is a horrible idea.
I’d rather take 50 with me and make solid connections that I think will bear fruit; and if I give only 10 of those out, I’m fine with that because I know those 10 people will remember me.
If you’re at a conference like South by Southwest Interactive, just think about how many people are there.
All the stuff they’re carrying around, and just where are they going to put that precious business card of yours?
In the trash can most likely.
However, if you shrink your focus and set a goal of making five contacts that will increase your business or network in a substantial way, you’ll be far more successful.
Why? Because those people will remember speaking with you.
Of course, all of the rules of don’t drink too much, don’t be a creeper, do be friendly and open, do go out of your way to talk to people you don’t know all apply.
To be clear, I’m not saying you should make a list of five people you’re going to make a real impression on before you head out for conference du jour.
Go to the social hours.
Go to the sessions.
Meet and talk with a wide variety of people.
What I am saying that you don’t need to hand out your card to everyone you meet.
You are valuable, which means so is your business card.
Don’t treat it like it’s a party favor.
[…] pick (by moi!) is an updated version of Matt LaCasse’s terrific post from March 2011 on the secret behind good networking. Always relevant. Also, he recently welcomed his first child – a darling baby girl – […]
[…] events are a few days to a week long and let you network (there’s a proper way to do that), or get your product in front of a core demographic. You have an opportunity to directly market […]
@ginidietrich LOL. I can’t imagine a world without @HowieSPM now. Yes, that is indeed how we both met him… though, technically I guess that’s how you met him and then i met him via commenting on your blog.
Howie, I miss people too; so when the longing gets bad, I just look ’em up or send them a random @ (you’ve seen my “good morning” ones) and that brings ’em back – or, rather – takes me back to them.
And don’t worry – I have no fears for the measurement of Public Radio while you’re around!
@MattLaCasse @HowieSPM Blackmail? I’m proud of the truck-chasing videos! ;)
@HowieSPM @MattLaCasse Look Howie, I love my Korean BBQ taco trucks and I will do WHATEVER I have to get them!
@HowieSPM @Shonali FINALLY I figured you out! It only took six months.
@ginidietrich @Shonali Ok that comment just won you one week without any teasing or meanness Gini. You found my soft spot. Flattery. LOL
@Shonali @HowieSPM What?! I totally keep track of all of them. You don’t? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of social media??
To your point…isn’t this how we both met Howie!? And think how sad our lives would be without him.
@HowieSPM @JMattHicks I’d pay good money to have that on tape. Never know when you’re going to need blackmail material. ;)
@MattLaCasse @JMattHicks Jeremy was not at the conference he was clubbing to dance music and chasing food trucks. The Austin City Surveillance cameras don’t lie.
@Shonali @ginidietrich @shakirah_dawud@tweetforamrit Shonali it’s about focus. We all know Gini can juggle at least 25,000 connections and make them all best friends. And I agree with the randomly seeing tweets as kind of a wondrous slot machine. But lately I have thought of people I miss who I got to know and see them less on the twitter. I don’t see many of your tweets or gini’s. I just tweet you both to make sure you don’t feel the Public Radio is not being measured properly or that Jack Bauer isn’t slacking on his Martini pours.
@Shonali Not afraid of you, you are good people: I was half way through the post before I realized it was a guest post. When I saw the mention of curating daily, I’m thinking yikes, she follows me and might be cutting me loose if I don’t contribute more…….:).
Lets just say I did open a WordPress account and have actually written a few things, but let me get my legs under me before I officially go ‘public’. Thanks so much for making the offer……………………….I’m afraid……………………:)
Have a great weekend.
@HowieSPM I completely get your point w.r.t. trying to keep your follows low. But take someone like @ginidietrich or me, for example. We follow thousands of people, and of course I can’t keep track of all of them (I’m not going to speak for Gini, because we all know she’s Super Woman).
The fact that I’m not seeing ALL their updates in real time ALL the time doesn’t really worry me. But what I like about it is the potential to see their updates, depending on where/when/how I’m checking Twitter (it’s amazing the different kinds of tweets I respond to when I’m on my iPhone as opposed to my laptop), looking at specific hashtags, etc. Are they all solid connections? No. But they could potentially become solid connections… and if nothing else, it helps me mix up the stream of people I’m interacting with. That’s how I met @bryce_keane , @tweetforamrit , @shakirah_dawud … the list could go on… and you know how intrinsic to my circle they have become.
Btw, do you really have a sorry butt? :p
@bdorman264 LOL, why would the thought that it might be a post from me make you nervous? Surely I’m not THAT frightening?! Hey, any time you’d like to guest post here…
@BrickandClick I think the benefit to QR codes is that you can immediately have whatever information is contained in the code in your phone. For example, here’s a link to my QR code: http://is.gd/KNPi0o. If you scan that, my email, phone number and blog address all pop up and can instantly be added as a contact. The key here is that there’s no work for the other person to add the contact. I think it just makes it easier to pass on your info essentially.
@MattLaCasse swonderlin just saw this last night, from Mari smith, about her new biz cards that contain a QR Code on the back. http://on.fb.me/gHrhpu I”m about to order new cards, and now need to rethink everything! I think you’re on top of what will be a huge trend … QR Codes. BUT, to play devil’s advocate, why can’t someone just go to my website/blog or linkedin profile, which are on my biz cards, and find out all they need to know there? I’m in a debate w/ myself :-)
Per usual – great post! I agree that “quality” not “quantity” is important. At my last work/networking conference, I had to write notes on the back of each person’s card so I could remember if and why they were important. What a waste of trees, ink and time! I recently made a face-to-face meaningful business contact and as we were departing I was asked (with smartphones out) “Can I Facebook you?” Within seconds, my personal Facebook page became my calling card. This immediate connection meant that we agreed to invest in a relationship and a conversation, not just a stack of useless paper in a Rolodex. I don’t know about you, but I am always disappointed and immediately disengaged when a meeting starts with – “Before we start, please go around the room and pass out your business card.” I wish I had the cojones to just shout back “Why?!” without looking the annoying jerk in the corner. At the next meeting I conduct with a room full of strangers, I want to start with something fun like – “Before we start, can you please explain why you are worthy of being contacted?” Just think of the answers and conversation that could generate.
In a few words: I agree. Quality = Good, Quantity = Bad
@HowieSPM I like your rationalization. I see you out and about in the blogosphere because we engage with some of the same people. That’s been my biggest concern in not trying to follow too many people but have a more meaningful connection with the core of the people I do follow. Other than that, what’s the point; I don’t need the numbers.
I like your insights on a lot of your responses, I’ll see you around.
Whew, at first I thought this was a post from @Shonali and the mention of curating the twitter list daily had me a little nervous; I was thinking I better pick up my game quickly or I could be gone.
I go to many ‘networking’ events; I have probably handed out 10 business cards total, maybe more but not many. I agree if quality is your focus it plays much better because it allows you to get deeper, see what they are about and let them get to know me as well.
Somewhere down the road I might have the opportunity to help connect them with someone or vice versa. I would prefer to know you first before I totally open my door and let you in.
I definitely don’t want to be the creeper or the drunk; I want to be memorable, but certainly not in that way.
Good post Matt.
@HowieSPM LOL! Oh, you are going to LOVE tomorrow’s post… :p You star front and center too!
@Shonali @MattLaCasse @BrickandClick You are a geek you use word press that is mobile formatted! I am still 1998 Blogger.com LOL
@HowieSPM I cannot believed you called me a tech geek. I’m SO non-techy! :p @MattLaCasse @BrickandClick swonderlin
@MattLaCasse @BrickandClick swonderlin @Shonali great discussion on QR codes on the last thebeancast Podcast. We tech geeks forget 95% or more of smart phone owners have no idea they can scan codes with their smart phones. Which means 98% of consumers don’t use them.
Definitely versatile. But don’t leave the business cards at home.
This is a great post Matt. Networking is one of the most misunderstood aspects of business out there. Keep your network small. I am trying to keep from following more than 1000 Twitter accounts. At an average of 4 tweets per account (I did my own study) we miss 95-98% of tweets. To me that isn’t value. And I agree with the 150 rule meaning we really can only have solid connections with that many people at once online. It is the law of diminishing returns after that. But beyond that nothing wrong with making connections that can last even if they aren’t everyday interactions.
Having a Finance/Sales background I calculate value every day, which is why Facebook and the Social Media Talking heads hate my sorry butt. We all fail to realize how much we waste or don’t garner by being spread too thin in many aspects of life not just business/work. Myself guilty included.
@JMattHicks Kinda crazy how we don’t think about that when we’re at a conference looking for new business opportunities, or just trying to strengthen our professional network. Thanks for the comment!
“I’d rather take 50 with me and make solid connections that I think will bear fruit; and if I give only 10 of those out, I’m fine with that because I know those 10 people will remember me.
If you’re at a conference like South by Southwest Interactive, just think about how many people are there.”
A simple, yet fantastic and under-utilized bit of information. I learned that first hand earlier this month on my first-ever trip to SxSW. The quality was, at the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, in the QUALITY NOT the QUANTITY. That’ definitely a lesson I’ll remember next year!
@BrickandClick I think you’re right Jeff. The physical, paper (or whatever material) business card is going the way of the dinosaurs. If I go to a conference, I do not want to carry around my cards PLUS the cards of those people I meet. QR codes and other electronic means are the future I think.
@Shonali @MattLaCasse good points about ‘if they want to find me’, they can. I still think it’s a professional ‘good thing’ to have nice biz cards (with all of my social contact URLs on them), the LI app at hand … and love the QR Code idea from Matt as well. Eventually, I predict, biz cards in their physical form will cease to exist. The main QR Code I use is on my iPhone Starbucks app, to pay for espresso each day :-)
@MattLaCasse Well, to be precise, they’re only relatively new in the US, they’ve been used in Japan for ages. :p
You’re exactly right about not using it on WUL, which is why I took it down. For a while I had my contact info in a QR code there… in fact, I think it was for an email inquiry to work with me, but then I replaced that with a “work with me” widget. If I really wanted to use one, I should probably incorporate it into my main website and direct it to a landing page that has a good CTA on it… but I am a ways away from that, since it would mean quite a bit of a redesign, and I’m not ready for that yet.
@Shonali The thing about QR codes is that they are SO new that we can still define how/what they are used (for). I feel like any good QR code drives people to an action. I feel like mine drove people to add me as a contact. I think businesses can use it to drive customers to a special offer, exclusive information, etc. See your problem with how to use a QR code on WUL. Do people really need an additional option? Probably not.
@MattLaCasse I remember seeing it on your avatar and being a little relieved when you switched it back to your pic. :p I’d set one up a while back and posted it on WUL, but then I removed it… I couldn’t quite figure out what to do with it. I might make another one that’s a QR for an RSS feed but then, if people are reading WUL, they have enough options to subscribe… so I’m torn about that as well.
@Shonali I was using it as my Twitter avatar, I’ve switched back to using a picture of me. I don’t have a QR code on my biz card currently, but that will change in the near future. I’m hoping it will cut down on the amount of biz cards I need, and how many I have to carry with me.
@MattLaCasse I noticed you had a QR code a while back. Where do you post it & how do you use it, Matt… on the biz card itself?
@BrickandClick I’ll have to give the LinkedIn app another look; truth be told, my LI use is way down. I’m sure it’s me, not them, but I haven’t been finding it very useful… though, of course, it’s entirely possible that I haven’t been finding it very useful because I’m not using it. Chicken & egg.
I care so little about business cards (shocker!) that I sometimes forget to take them to events. I know – I sound terribly careless, don’t I? But I feel that if someone really wants to find me, it’s pretty easy to do so. And vice versa. @MattLaCasse ‘s point about making fewer meaningful connections rather than a bunch just for the sake of it really resonated with me. In fact, I might have to write a post about it, piggybacking off of his. I love when my guest authors light a fire!
@BrickandClick Nice idea Jeff! I also like the idea of using a QR Code so people can instantly scan my contact info, or using a service such as contxts (thanks to swonderlin for turning me on to that). I haven’t looked at the LI mobile app, I’ll have to download it and play around with it.
Good advice. I used to stress about how many business cards I ‘didn’t hand out’ at events, but after realizing each of the two dozen I did involved real conversations … I started to take your attitude. Another tip: use the Linkedin app (I have it on my iPhone) to connect with people you meet, if they have it as well. Much better than a biz card, which can get tossed into a pile and never seen again. If I electronically connect with someone via Linkedin, when I meet them, I’ll see them in my social feed sooner or later, and be much more likely to stay connected. Of course the alternative is fine, send people an invite for LI as soon as possible after an event. But that in person connect feature LI’s app has … is really impressive, and a great conversation starter.