Networking is the New Leadership

We’ve been defining leadership and what makes great leaders for 75 years. But networking? Well… that’s a little nebulous. What makes a great networker? What are the top five things they do and don’t do? How much time does it take to do networking right?

Keynote Marcia BallingerThe Unraveled Network, hosted by Pollen Midwest on November 6th at the Weisman Art Museum, got to the heart of this challenge. Their aim? To delve into the concept of networking through research and behavior to uncover what’s at the core of a great networker then share that learning with aspiring networkers.

Efficiency, Etiquette and Ownership

Keynote speaker Marcia Ballinger, author of 20 Minute Networking Meeting, and Pollen co-founder Jamie Millard kicked it off with a networking etiquette and strategy Q&A. They covered efficiency, etiquette and ownership with scenarios like someone the phone card, not the coffee card (it’s okay!), setting expectations with a beginning and end time for meetings (20 minutes is all that is needed!) and coming prepared with an agenda that highlights connections and brings value to both parties.

PopUp Speaker PointsPop-Up Presenters

The event continued by building on Marcia’s message with pop-up speakers. I love this concept. In a room full of 200-some people, everyone may want to talk to the main speaker(s) that delivered the message. Sometimes that isn’t possible. The pop-up style presented four speakers’ expanding views on networking in brief 2-3 minute format.

They were diverse and made very memorable points like Levi Weinhagen, Co-Founder of Comedy Suitcase, who suggested people ask mentors about their most challenging tasks and Pahoua Hoffman, Policy Director of Citizen’s League, who encouraged people to find the humanness in networking. She likened her networking approach to making friends rather than networking as a necessary evil solely for career gain.

Pollen Program + Connect CardIntentional Ice-Breakers

The match-up for attendee seating assignments (8 per table) was intentionally aligned by the event planners. The methodology (think LinkedIn and online search) is a secret, but even before that was revealed some of us discovered how we were connected just through the natural course of conversation.

The more orchestrated ice-breaking technique for the event began with a 3×4 card designed with a simple question about our daily routine and a specific networking question for each person to answer. When shared around the table, the answers brought insight into personality and networking style, strategies and tactics which stemmed further discussion.

On the flip side of the card there was a “connect card” — a business card to the plus — where you could check the variety of ways you’d like to connect including email, social channels and going to an event together. We couldn’t select just one person to give our one connect card to, so we all exchanged business cards.

Part 1: Recap

For part one in a series of two (to be continued on January 28 from 7:30-10a.m.), this event had the educational component, interactivity in subject matter (all attendees completed a 35 minute survey on their networking habits) and meaningful connections dialed in. I’m looking forward to building on the connections I made at the event and Pollen’s assessment of feedback (in collaboration with the Carlson School of Management) yet to come during Part 2.

The New Leadership

Networking is the new leadership. As a communications person who attends a lot of events and event planner driven by research and behaviors, I can’t help but be drawn to discovering networking best practices. Some subscribe to the theory that the more people you meet the more opportunities you have to make connections that translate into career value. But it’s not necessarily about quantity, it’s about quality… and time, resources and value for your personal life and career.

Fellow Pollenites: Did you find value in this event? Networkers: What value do you give and receive through networking? What do you love and hate about it?

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