Powerful Networking Strategies to Kick Off 2015

After a holiday event hiatus and despite winter weather conditions, January is heating up event-wise. For starters, people and companies have a new outlook and marketing initiatives on their mind. Additionally, the backlog of events we held off scheduling from mid-November through the first week of January have piled up. And for companies that host an ongoing series of events, January is the time to launch those annual initiatives.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that 2015 is happening. I tend to like to leave my calendar as open as possible with room for possibility and spontaneous event decision-making. RSVP’ing in January for an April event? Never! However, I’m going to make a few exceptions this year. In particular, the sell-out, high ticket events that I’m typically too late for… well I’m planning and budgeting for those up to three months out.

I’m also being deliberate about which professional networking and educational events I attend. For many of these a somewhat last minute RSVP is acceptable, but just because space is open and your schedule is free doesn’t mean you should go. Last year, I went to a complete mix of event types from speed networking to women only to technology and startup focused speaker series. It helped me test the waters and find out the right fit for my goals. If you’re looking to evaluate event worthiness, ask if the event provides you with things you value like new clients, learning, connections for career move, developing a network of support or just pure entertainment. If you don’t know, call the event host and ask for more details!

MSPBJ Power User Series

MSPBJ's Power User Kit

MSPBJ’s Power User Kit

I continue to ask these questions and based on the answers, I’ve filtered a few out already for 2015. One series of events that I plan to attend regularly is the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal’s (MSPBJ) Power User series. MSPBJ has events for every type of business professional from women-focused (BizWomen) to C-Suite to entrepreneurs. They also have some powerful, influential and connected networks to offer because of the journal’s content (and various distribution types) and their solid awards programs that attract community and business attention while delivering business growth and real value to individuals.

Power User Seminar Speaker Dina Simon

January 12 was the first of the 2015 MSPBJ Power User series. I arrived for this 8:00-10:00a.m. event at 8:20 due to an east vs west directional snafu and only informal networking had taken place. They were just getting started. After grabbing a cup of coffee, meeting the friendly guy next to me and turning my attention to the upbeat speaker Dina Simon of Simon Says Lead, I let my directional and parking challenges go. Dina shared some specific examples of how networking and being the first to ask How can I help you? has come back to her tenfold.

She cited a willingness to explore connections that might not be clear to you upfront and trusting that when a connection introduces you to one of their connections, you should follow up and thank them regardless of the outcome. Dina also got into the ways she builds relationships from showing up, following up, using tools like email and LinkedIn and keeping good records of who she needs to thank. Her book that shares her process, Make Unstoppable Simple, Creative Problem Solving for Llfe and Leadership. is coming out soon.

MSPBJ Speaker Wendy Blomseth

Then the event transitioned to Wendy Blomseth, business development rep extraordinaire at MSPBJ. This is where the tactical how-to content of the Power User series became clear. Honestly, I didn’t really know what Power User meant going in…. turns out it’s MSPBJ’s ideal reader who actively engages, shares and adds to the conversation via all of the tools and content churned out by the journal. Wendy shared a list of top nine tactics related to their content and how to use it to your professional and business advantage.

Without giving away too many inside Power User techniques, I’ll highlight a few. The seminar touched on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Nothing new, but if you recall, self esteem and self actualization are at the top of the pyramid. If you’re connecting with people in ways that reaffirm their value and/or bring them new value, that’s building a relationship. You can use the information you read (i.e. in MSPBJ) as a conduit for conversation in person at a networking event, via email with a link to a relevant story or in a phone call as an immediate way to make a direct connection that shows you understand their business and motivators. Submitting for one of their awards, nominating someone for an award or posting a new position or role online and viewing this page regularly (i.e. every Friday) are also good ways to stay up to date with the business community.

I can attest to the effectiveness of her suggestions. I used one over 16 years ago. I was seeking a career change from marketing insurance to the then new world of websites as an account manager. I sent a congratulatory email to a growing company’s new Marketing Director hire based on the announcement in a news story. Despite my total lack of experience and zero connections in the industry, that got me an interview, then I got the job. Sometimes it really can be that simple, even in our overly socialized networks.

Thanks MSPBJ for a valuable seminar! I’ll be adding more of the Power User series to my 2015 calendar. What events are on your hot list for 2015?