Cut Back Your Network To Help It Grow

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‘Another year over and a new one just begun….’

This is a great time to strengthen our networks. Just as we cut-back our fruit trees in winter to ensure an abundance of fresh growth in the spring, we need to prune our networks also.

The number of people we follow on Twitter or are connected with on Linkedin is not the most important element, but rather the quality our network.

Over the year, you may have followed folk based on a passing interest for your business, which may have since lost its relevance. Therefore you may now wish to unfollow such accounts. Likewise, you might have connected with people on Linkedin, for particular reasons, which are no longer relevant. Either way, it is always prudent to prune or, ‘Cut Back To Grow’ (See also my Networking Tips Blog) Remember also people won’t be informed that you unfollow or unconnect with them.

In the 1990’s British anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed that we humans are only really capable of maintaining stable social relationships with a finite number of people. He stated this lies between 100 & 250, but the commonly used value quoted is 150. While this theory is difficult to refute, what wasn’t factored into the equation 20 years ago was the advent of social media. This proved to be a massive disruptor. Traditional networking on steroids. Technology suddenly enabled mass networking. However, it is often the case, that quality is inversely proportional to quantity.

So, if you want to see ‘the wood from the trees’, get pruning your network and watch it grow back stronger.

Networking Tips for Conferences

Getting the most from Conferences  & Musings on Networking

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Research to find out who will be attending and check out their profiles on Linkedin. Also use your social networks of choice, to promote the event and your intention of attending. This will both encourage new attendees and help people to identify your profile and seek you out.

Don’t just stay with those you know – politely disengage and meet new people. It’s easy to mix with friends, but while new people will be more of a challenge, they will be more interesting.

Try to listen more than talk – We have 1 mouth but 2 ears – use accordingly. Don’t be a predatory networker – hoovering up business cards and dealing yours out like a Vegas croupier!

Be Yourself –  be genuine, real and courteous, offer insights that you believe may help others. Often this gets reciprocated, but don’t expect anything in return, networking is a marathon, not a sprint.

Speak in a ‘language’ others understand. Don’t bore people with becoming overly expansive about what your work entails. Most people simply need to get an idea of what your skills are. Too much industry talk can sound like a foreign language to most people outside your own vertical.

Follow-Up. This is commonly a missed opportunity, we invest much time and energy in networking, but often fail to do that most important part, the follow up. Don’t banish those business cards to your desk drawer, but use the contact details to connect on Linkedin, email or phone to arrange to meet up over a coffee.

Don’t just network, connect. In his excellent book, ‘The Tipping Point’, Malcolm Gladwell identified a particular type of networker. Connectors possess an innate skill of identifying people who may be able to help each other. Networking can just be a means to an end. But connecting is about using a genuine love of meeting people and making friends to engage and assist one another.

Have Clear Objectives or who you want to meet and how they might help you. Ask how you can help others. It is surprising how often people don’t have a clear answer to this. Be clear what your own answer to this question will be.

‘Position yourself as the person of influence, the one who knows the movers and shakers. People will response to that, and you’ll soon become what you project‘ – Ben Burg

Musings on what Networking IS… and is NOT

Networking is NOT about the giving or receiving of business cards. We all have lots of business cards that we never did anything with.

Networking IS about thinking how you can help people when you meet them. Think how you benefit when others do likewise.

Networking is NOT about closing-the-deal. But is about patience and relationship building.

Networking IS often about circling back and cultivating existing relationships. It is not always about cold-calling new people.

Networking is NOT about hiding-your-light-under-a-bushel. To succeed in this world (and in business) we need to be known to people.

Networking IS about ‘Paying It Forward’.

Do all human impulses really need to be about, what’s- in-it-for-me?

The above is part of an article that appeared in IrishCentral on 14th October, 2014, in relation to the Annual Global IIBN OpportUnity Conference in New York in November 2014, however these principles apply to any confernece.

See also: My Top 10 Tips for Effective Networking

Pat Carroll, Founder of Touch  online marketing, is an IIBN Board Member.

Five years ago, my career path took a turn which lead me into the global Irish networking space. Through this process of growing an Irish social network, I learnt the skills and value of online networking mainly via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. In the process of launching the network, on-the-ground in London and New York, I began to fully appreciate the real value that is achieved when online and face-to-face networkings are combined. In the process of promoting this network globally, I had the good fortune to connect with many interesting people in Irish Embassies/Consulates, cultural groups and business networks.

One business network that really impressed me, with its vision, welcome and the calibre of the membership was the IIBN. I am honoured to be a part of the Ireland board of the premier Irish International Business Network as we grow globally in both size and stature.

Serendipity at The Summit

‘To get the most value from The Summit: – the people are the real differentiators’ – Gary Vaynerchuk

In his typical colourful way, Gary, who was one of my own favourite keynote speakers also said, ‘for all your f*#king tech, apps and APIs, the one thing that will never be replaced is human interaction. We’re living in an era of IQ and EQ, and you need both! ‘

Malcolm Gladwell (who, incidentally, launched his latest book, at the same location as the Summit, on the following day) speaks of a distinction between connectors and networkers. I believe I belong to the former category, as I have the good fortune to know a lot of people, who I habitually connect to each other, by making introductions. This mindset allows me to quickly identify the direct and indirect links between people. So, I was not surprised that the main value I drew from at The Summit was making tangible connections between many great people who I know but prior to bringing them together had not met.

The sheer scale of the event makes it very challenging to do all the things one would like to, at The Summit. So, while it would have been great to attend lots of keynote talks by the many ‘Tech Rock stars’ present, the reality was that even the best laid plans were impossible to stick to. However, as with most events, it’s those serendipitous, unplanned meetings that we remember when we later mentally ‘separate the wheat from the chaff’ of our two days (and nights!) of making connections amongst the 10,000 tech souls present.

While Paddy Cosgrove and his team did Ireland proud by producing this world-class conference, I do believe that the organisers missed an important opportunity by not having a workable networking App. The official App, ‘thesummit.me’ didn’t have that basic component of an event networking App – it did not allow users to connect with each other. The bizzabo App would have done the job, adequately, but as it was not the official one, it only had a limited number of people registered and its schedule of events was patchy.

So, at the largest tech event in Europe, we ended up having to rely on our good old fashioned, low-tech ability to connect with people…and you’ll never guess who I bumped into ..!!

My Top 10 Tips for Effective Networking

When it comes to creating strong connections, networking is most effective when online and offline activity are combined. Social postings can help build our personas, but it can also be difficult to be ‘heard above the noise’ of the millions of daily online posts.

I helped build and grow an online community on Irish Social Network, shutterstock_Networking RendezVous353. We attracted more than 10,000 Irish people globally. To achieve this we used Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I discovered when physically launching the network in London and New York, however, that ‘on the ground’ networking was as important as the online activity.

Each of us has a combination of strong and weak connections within our networks. We all need to work at improving our networking skills. Here are some tips to help nurture your own business network.

1. Harry, Meet Sally
As appropriate, make introductions between your connections. Ideally you should seek the permission of both parties. We all remember those people who made introductions for us which proved beneficial to our businesses.

2. Pay It Forward
Reach out to share information that may help your contacts. It’s good to ‘pay it forward’ and not to be always looking for something for ourselves in return. This attitude has been a key component in the success of Silicon Valley’s start-up ethos.

3. Give  Due Credit
Engage with connections directly by congratulating them on new jobs. This also gives you a chance to update them on your current situation and explore possible synergies that may exist between your product or service and theirs.

4. Ask To Get
The old adage is true: if you don’t ask you don’t get. Use the knowledge and influence of your network, by asking for help when you need it. Most people are glad to help, if they can. It is equally good to engage and offer your help to others.  After all, what’s the point in building networks if we don’t help each other?

5. Personalised Contact
Send links to articles, blogs or other postings you think may be relevant to your connections. As with all things digital, these should be timely and relevant and be sure to personalise.

6. Cut Back To Grow
Another useful task to perform periodically is to ‘prune’ connections you have who, on reflection, may not be relevant. It’s easy on LinkedIn, for example, to ‘Remove a Connection’. You won’t cause offence, as they won’t be aware that you have done this. Quality matters more than quantity when it comes to connections. Isn’t it better to have fewer, but stronger, links?

7. Nurture Connections
After the above ‘pruning’ process, outlined above, it may be useful to re-introduce yourself to contacts you value but may not have engaged with for some time.

8. Are You Engaged?
Making connections without engaging with them is like joining a gym and never using it – a wasted opportunity. When it comes to social networking, building connections or followers isn’t enough in itself to help raise your online profile. You need to engage. On Twitter this can be achieved by retweeting, replying or favouriting. On LinkedIn or Facebook commenting on posts or group discussions or ‘liking’ are effective ways to engage.

9. Checking In 
If you don’t have a specific reason to contact a connection, it’s often worth checking-in with them anyway. Give them a brief update on your business and enquire about theirs. You never know when you might ‘jog their memory’ about the service you offer and perhaps prompt a business opportunity.

10. Face Up
Try, when possible, to meet with your connections face to face. Social networking is all well and good, but you can’t beat good old-fashioned meetings. People appreciate you taking the trouble to meet them. Often the conversations we engage in at these meetings produce serendipitous opportunities, which may not have happened online.

by Pat Carroll                                                                                                                                   Founder of digital marketing and networking consultancy : Touch Communications