Branch report: What do you know about who you know?
Vanessa Roberts brings us the June branch report for Christchurch’s most recent event: What do you know about who you know? It was great to see such a huge turn-out for this event – we even had some non-member attendees! It was also pretty great to have done the networking part of the evening first, because it meant our own behaviour was fresh in our minds when Paul was talking.
Here are the key messages Vanessa took away from Paul’s presentation…
Networking. For some, it’s a dirty word. For some, it’s exciting. Are you a pusher, jester, clinger, or wallflower? Do you know what you want to get out of networking?
Paul Haggath addressed the June Christchurch TechCommNZ meeting and shared his insights into how to build and maintain networks. Despite being, in his own words, “rubbish at small talk” Paul has learned how to tie business development and networking together. He doesn’t believe in the hard sell, and he doesn’t have an elevator speech. He does believe in sharing your knowledge and helping other people in your network, harnessing the skills of every individual, and working as a diverse but cohesive team.
It was really interesting to hear Paul’s stories on both the things he did wrong and the things he now does right when it comes to networking. He also debunked some popular myths about networking, including but not limited to the “it’s just like speed-dating” myth (it’s absolutely not), the “networking is for extroverts” myth and the “have your elevator speech ready” myth. In fact, all of these are the very things that put people off.
Here are the key points I took away from Paul’s presentation:
Define your goals and create opportunities
The first question to ask is: “What are you trying to get out of networking?” It could be advice and support from peer/professional groups, new work opportunities, future job opportunities, or building your reputation and personal brand.
In a nutshell, Paul says networks create opportunities. And you need to leverage your networks to create these opportunities: don’t try to hard sell, look to help others first, and expect at least nine points of contact before seeing any reward.
Points of contact can be subtle, such as getting a reaction on social media or a view on LinkedIn, or they can be more direct, such as a phone call or meeting for a coffee. All these points of contact are an opportunity to enhance or damage your brand.
Be a hub
Paul spoke with conviction about everyone’s ability to be a “hub”. Be the go-to person, be helpful and knowledgeable, and have a purpose. You don’t have to be an extrovert to help others. But others need to know that you can and are willing to help.
Your network includes everyone from friends and family to work colleagues and members of groups to which you belong – people you can help to reach their goals. That also means you don’t need to step out of your comfort zone to be a hub.
What can you do for others? It could be that the second time you meet someone, youintroduce them to someone else. It could be a simple as giving them the confidence to approach other people, simply by showing genuine interest or by being with them when they do.
Structure your networks and networking
Be selective – go for quality over quantity. It’s not speed-dating! Seek out diversity and talk to people outside your own industry, as well as those you have a lot in common with.
Keep records – keep a database of contacts and possibly points of contact. It’s not weird, just organised.
Build trust. Don’t expect a return and be patient – it will take time. Don’t let yourself or your contact feel pressured.
Beware of unproductive meetings and scattergun conversations. We are all very “Time Poor” including our clients and contacts, and nobody wants to feel like they’re wasting their time or yours. Think about your interactions as 1) an introduction, 2) discovery, 3) exploration (how you can help each other), and 4) some sort of action/pay-off.
Follow up regularly (remember it can take nine points of contact to make a gain). Share articles and information, ask advice, or just follow them on LinkedIn. It doesn’t have to be huge. Just be sure you give something each time – share your knowledge!
Review and assess the information you’ve gathered. Sometimes doing this will show you it’s not the right time or not the right person. That’s okay. Like any other relationship there comes a time to move on.
Relationships need to be advantageous to both parties: first and foremost, think about what you can give to the person you’re engaging with. Connecting with people is about give and take, mutual respect, and listening. Stay true to yourself and don’t compromise your values.
Paul shared a story from his past when he made exactly that mistake. Everything looked good on paper, and the company he was reaching out to should have been a huge benefit to the project he was working on. But their values weren’t in line with the rest of the project team, even if they said they were. That became clear quickly, but instead of politely pulling out, Paul continued the association and ended up upsetting and alienating the rest of the project team and his wider network because of it.
You’re in it for the long-game and compromising on the things important to you will only hurt you in the end.
- Be yourself!
- People like to talk about themselves – let them. Use open, expansive questions. Ask follow-up questions and listen to the person’s answer.
- Don’t turn the conversation back to yourself. It’s tempting to jump in with the story of the time you went skiing too…but instead of showing something you have in common it’s likely to sound self-centred. Instead, ask them what they thought of the resort and bring up the topic that way. And if the person you’re talking to does it, try to remember they’re just trying to bond with you (probably). Nobody needs to compete.
- Behaviours are infectious! The way you act and behave influences others. Body language speaks far more loudly than words.
- Remember, most people feel the same as you (and may be uneasy networking). Take the plunge and just say “Hi!”
- Hunt in pairs if you lack confidence. This is also a great way to start a conversation. You just have to shake hands and say “have you met my friend…?”
Paul enjoys working with good people on interesting and diverse projects and loves sharing his knowledge and experience. His mantra is “Share your knowledge, don’t protect it.”
This was his motivation for creating TEAM Projects Advisory, and for establishing the TEAM Mates – a collective of specialists working (and networking!) together to assist each other at key project milestones.
He shares ten acres in Loburn with his wife, daughter, and menagerie.