Know Your Network Types

If the point of unraveling is to discover, I believe the #UnraveledNetwork series by Pollen Midwest achieved their goal. Part 1 took place early November 2014 (see the recap here), followed by Part 2 on January 28, 2015.

Part 1 featured keynote speaker Marcia Ballinger, author of 20-Minute Networking Meeting; clever attendee networking icebreakers among round tables, and an intro to the networking study in process by The Carlson School of Management. Part 2, in classroom style, featured findings of the network study and two speakers who posed ideas about storytelling and the role of a mentor.

Networking experts and seminars focused on the tactics of online networking all start with the assumption that we want to and need to be connected for our personal and professional growth. They may focus on quantity of people you’re connected with or create a sense of urgency that you need to dedicate a lot more time for networking in-person and online via social media or you’ll be left out of important conversations or suffer a stagnant career.

Unraveled Stage is Set

Unraveled Stage is Set

On the flip side, #UnraveledNetwork and additional conversations about networking lately have been more about quality networking. They describe the purposes and types of networking. They touch on integrating social media, research and interpersonal skills so that each person can create their own intentional approach regardless of where you fall on the introvert to extrovert scale.

The Carlson networking study, unveiled at the January 28 Unraveled Networks Part 2 event, looked at networking on a holistic level from 106 survey participants. The survey took 30-40 minutes to complete and included Unraveled Network participants and professionals employed in many different companies, industries, and functions in the Twin Cities area. Seventy-seven percent of the survey respondents were women.

Researcher Patricia Dahm cited correlations between people’s work behaviors, career successes and their overall wellbeing. She broke networking down into three deliberate categories: personal, operational and strategic. She also suggested that you are divided among networking modes of building, maintaining and using based on your current work environment and where you’re at in your career.

Network Types

Your Personal Network
This network is all about your personal and professional development long-term. This group generally includes your mentors, mentees and close contacts who know you on more of a personal level. This group is your go-to for career advice and asking those difficult questions – is this career move really right for you? Are you going to be fulfilled in this new role or is it a derailing your long-term goals?

This network is typically smaller on average, but critical. If you don’t have a mentor, get one. If you’re at a point in your career where you can mentor, seek out that opportunity. Pay it forward.

Your Operational Network
This network is all about getting your current work done efficiently. This group is comprised of the immediate and daily people involved in your work like your boss, co-workers and outside vendors. For people within larger companies this network was broad and deep within their own organizations. For entrepreneurs, they logged fewer connections in their operational network and skewed more toward strategic.

The size of this group varies greatly for each individual, but for survey respondents it was the smallest of the three. On the topic of operational networks, an attendee asked which network type would be appropriate for past co-workers. No doubt they may know you well, but when they move out of your operational network, they either move to your personal or strategic network or go untapped.

Your Strategic Network
This network is futuristic, external and diverse. It’s closely aligned with innovation and career growth and potentially the most challenging of the three to build, maintain and use. It includes people outside of your current company, in different industries that might be tangentially related to your interests and even your competition. The Carlson study showed that people surveyed had the most people in their strategic network, followed by personal and then operational.

Research Findings
Patricia gave the survey group kudos for being highly strategically networked and savvy on social media for networking purposes. She also pointed out five key correlations the study uncovered:

  1. People who build large and diverse operational and strategic networks tend to get promoted and advance more quickly career-wise
  2. People who work outside of a company office are apt to have a more diverse network (my shameless plug for #coworking as in @CoCoMSP here)
  3. People who value their own personal development have more diverse network and higher career aspirations
  4. People who have more emotional support have increasingly higher status contacts in their network
  5. People with more diverse networks enjoyed less relaxation

Networking Purposes
The next segment of the program moved from networking types into networking purposes including: building, maintaining and using. These distinctions are important as people evaluate what they need to do in each of their strategic and operational networks to keep them in balance based on where they’re at in their career.

Building
Pollenite Mehgan Murphy kicked of this portion with a talk-show style conversation with D.A. Bullock, owner of Bully Creative. D. A. shared a divergent idea that I’ve not come across in previous seminars that address professional networking – just tell your story.

In his craft, he expertly draws out people’s stories by being his be relatable, inquisitive, human and authentic self. In response to an audience question about his approach in interviewing he says it is planned and organic and 100% of both. He talked about breaking down barriers like professional walls we put up to get to know someone’s true story. Things like elevator pitches? They need to be tossed he says. Deeper connections allow more meaningful ways to pursue your personal interests and causes and better connect to the world.

Maintaining and Using
Next up, Pollenite Jamie Millard brought Lynn Casey, networker extraordinaire and Padilla CRT CEO, to the stage. Lynn talked about ways she’s maintained and used her network in her career to-date. She goes to lunch with her long-term mentor annually, just to catch up. She mentors with an inquisitive mind. When she gets a padded answer, she keeps probing like a journalist who continues to ask why until they get the full story.

And while she knows that time is finite and she admittedly may not have enough if it to respond to all of the business cards in her top desk drawer, she offers this: Be present in the moment. Even if it’s only a 10 minute moment.

Wendy Blomseth, Susan Scofield and Jennifer Gilhoi after the event.

Maintaining with Wendy and Building with Susan after the event

Series Recap

We took in a lot of information over the course of the Unraveled Network. Now, as survey respondents evaluate their results and see where they fall among their fellow networkers, we’ll continue to learn, apply and be deliberate about our networking. The series offered some tactical groundwork for networking and some relief that it can be intentional, productive and not as time consuming as it’s been in the past.

In future posts, I’ll be exploring how to apply this learning and the quantity vs. quality of networking. Connections need to have a certain level of depth to have long-term meaning. As D.A. mentioned, “Social media is a starting point. It can only take us so far. We still have to do the rest.”

Pollenites, what other nuggets did you walk away with? Please share your insight in the process of raveling your networking.

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?

Networking Pre-search and Planning

So many events, so little time. I understand exactly how this overload happens. Get a room full of enthusiastic people together around a cause, and the topic eventually trends toward throwing an event. But enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily translate into a good event worthy of your time and energy.

Good events have the elements of learning, clearly communicated objectives, schedule of events (SOE), logistics, communications and follow-up all sussed out. It’s up to you, as the event-goer, to discern if it’s an event that aligns with your personal and professional networking strategies and goals. This process is called pre-search.

Fanaticon Event Brought Brands Together to Talk Fans

Fanaticon Event Brought Brands Together to Talk Fans

For the purposes of this exploration, I’m focusing on business seminars and events with formats based on learning and networking in a professional environment. I’ve already reviewed networking effectiveness (a checklist of what to look for before rsvp’ing), networking formats and networking timeframes in previous posts. Now I’m getting more in-depth on the pre-search portion.

EVENT PRE-SEARCH

When doing pre-search on an event, consider the host and partners involved, the event format, attendee make-up and your networking goals.

Event Host
Are you familiar with the hosting and partner organizations? If not, check them out online. If there are speakers, check them out too. Do you have people in your network that are connected to the host, partners or participants in some way? Ideally, someone you know in your network might recommend the event and give you a little insight on the format and the audience you’ll find there. It’s worth asking if you’re unsure.

Event Format
What’s the schedule of events? Is there time for intentionally networking before or after a learning program or is it solely to network? Is it an annual or celebratory event, focused on learning or a format tried and true that’s on a more frequent basis, like a monthly event? This will give you cues on what you can expect and plan for during the event.

Event Audience
Who is likely to be there? Are these the type of connections that would be beneficial to you personally or professionally? Do you want to re-establish your existing network or broaden it? Generally speaking, a balance of both is healthy.

Your Goal
What’s your goal in attending the event? Are you there to meet people who can help you find a job or work? Are you there to sell your services at a business to consumer level or business to business level? Or maybe you want to learn from others to educate yourself on a new topic or gain new skill sets?

WLIT Panel Brought Women in Tech Together to Talk Fearlessness

WLIT Panel Brought Women in Tech Together to Talk Fearlessness

MONTHLY PRE-SEARCH and PLANNING

At a very top-level, you can do this pre-search for events as they arise, but making a more concerted effort to pair your business networking goals, like on a monthly basis, with events tends to make you more intentional and deliberate in your efforts. And remember, you also need to build in time for follow-up!

Understanding the how and why of building your network will help you select the events most worth your time. It will also help you go into events with realistic expectations, read the tone of the room and determine how you go about networking and follow-up. Long term, it will ensure you’re balancing re-establishing and building on existing connections with time and resources to branch out to new connections.

Networking in Two and Twenty Minutes

Last week I attended two events focused on networking: Speed Networking and The Unraveled Network. Two completely different experiences in interaction — one allowing two minutes per conversation and the other setting the stage for a 20 minute conversation.

Speed Networking at it's Fastest

Speed Networking, hosted by YPOTC (The Young Professionals of the Twin Cities) on November 5th at the Copper Hen Cakery in the gorgeous newly renovated building at 2515 Nicollet near the Bad Waitress and IceHouse, was definitely an experiment in maximizing the number of people you meet. The Unraveled Network, hosted by Pollen Midwest on November 6th at the Weisman Art Museum (read the recap here), was more about how to network and discovery through audience survey feedback to find out what’s at the core of a great networker.

For Fast-Talkers and Brief Conversation

The speed-networking format in and of itself is intentionally designed to force people into conversations. At two minutes per meeting for each of the 30 people in attendance, it might be deemed as efficient, but I found it to be a whirlwind of disconnect.

By the event’s end I was tired of hearing my one-minute elevator pitch. I walked away with 20 some business cards and a follow-up list. I diligently followed up with most by LinkingIn with them, which is pretty minimal on my part. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a roomful of energy and excitement and good potential connections. It just wasn’t a format that allowed me to fully understand what the other person had to offer.

For Learning and In-depth Discussion

Pollenites BuzzingThe research-oriented networking event, The Unraveled Network, continues to intrigue me. Keynote speaker Marcia Ballinger, author of 20 Minute Networking Meeting, had the learning component covered. Pop-up speakers brought additional context surrounding networking. And our online presence and social content and interests informed the organizer’s placement of attendees in tables of eight people, guaranteed to have some sixth-degree connection yet to be discovered.

I found this to be more aligned with what I look for in an event. Within the context initiated by the presenters, our table was able to have a more focused discussion in 20-30 minutes around the topic (networking). The conversation starters placed at our tables (two different questions per eight people), allowed us to find some common ground among our diverse careers and expertise. I followed up with the connections I made at this event by LinkingIn, connecting on other social channels and sending a few emails to new connections that I want to further explore.

Format Comparison 

An effective networker can work any crowd — whether it’s a two or 20 minute conversation. Obviously there are many more event formats to explore as they relate to networking (YPOTC has several other formats like happy hours). It’s really about researching the event format, knowing the audience, setting your expectations appropriately, expressing interest in others and finally… the follow-up. All of which fall into the broad idea of networking best practices that I plan to cover in future blog posts. In the meantime, I’d like to know, What events have you been to lately that were very worthwhile and not-so worthwhile networking-wise, for whatever reason?

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?

Effective Networking

Are you too busy to make business/ social engagements you rsvp for and have earmarked in your calendar? How do you choose which seminars or events you attend? Where’s the most value in networking and business to fun-factor balance?

Networking at the Launchwise Event

Networking at the Launchwise Event

The RSVP

As an event planner myself, I always marvel at the number of people who would RSVP for an event and never show up. Events can average around 25-50% no-show rate depending on the event’s cost, exclusivity and communications. And with the explosion of social media – specifically Facebook Event Pages and other rsvp services like EventBrite – there is increasing potential for false positives. People want to support a cause and in the case of Facebook, click to “Join” and it’s automatically assumed you’re going. Event planners are taking these new factors into consideration and coming up with new equations to predict an event’s success – writing off a higher amount of the one-click rsvp’s as no-shows, for example, but attributing those “likes” as promotional.

We’re all busy. We’re also optimistic. We rsvp and add events to our calendar in hopes that we can attend, then give them a re-evaluation the day of and might have to bow out. There are unforseen business or personal conflicts to manage plus there are no shortage of events. Here are some of the things I consider when rsvp’ing.

1. Time commitment
2. Location/ convenience (additional events to attend)
3. Potential business / personal connections to be made
4. My level of interest in the subject/ content
5. Exclusivity – annual, or reoccurring monthly
6. Cause to support
7. Entertainment factor and structure of the event
8. Cost

Where’s the Value?

I carve out time in my schedule to make events a priority. There might be one main event I want to do (Thursday nights seem to be good event nights for networking and it generally works with my schedule), so I might seek out additional events in any given evening while in networking mode. For me, this is easier than having several events spread out over the course of the week/month. And, depending on the event, you can typically get in and out in 30 minutes if you’re on a time crunch and still make it worth-while and effective. This means pre-networking via social channels (following the host company/organization and event speakers/participants), enjoying the event itself (meeting people, making connections) and doing your follow-up online (LinkedIn) or personal networking in a timely manner — like within 1-2 business days. More on this in a future post.

The events I find most valuable to attend include some sort of short program – 15 min to 45 min – that is educational or inspirational in some way for business or personal reasons. Typically there is some social time before and after – 15 -30 minutes on either end is plenty. I also really appreciate it when the hosts are mingling and ready to be engaging. There’s nothing worse than walking into an event alone where no one greets you or takes a moment to find out why you’re there and make a suggestion or introduction. And sure, a lot of people come to events and already know each other, but as an event planner, wouldn’t it be beneficial to attract a new audience to your event/cause to keep it fresh and interesting?

Good Event Examples

I recently attended an event hosted by DTZ Global and Knoll at the Minneapolis Club in downtown Minneapolis. In my book, they scored highly on their program structure (national thought leaders on Change in the Workplace), educational/inspirational value, number of people from different yet related professions and industries and being great hosts. It was a more intimate event with about 70 in attendance, which meant easy access to the hosts and keynote presenters.

Another group, Launchwise, which I discovered in June, is solely for networking purposes. They have reoccurring bimonthly events around a wine and chocolate theme. Oh, and there’s a cool, new property for its location too as in the VUE in June and the Elan Uptown in August. It’s low key and easy with creative types and entrepreneurs in the mix. I met an art gallery owner and graphic designer who is also AIGA Minnesota’s President and caught up with my architect and writer friends too (pictured above).

A Networking Plan

For some networking is work. Getting into a positive mindset and having a plan can make it effective for you. And remember new people can spark new creativity and perspective and that’s important. Choose one to two slots a month for networking and attend events by good hosts you can count on and try out some new events with an open mind after doing your research, of course. Happy handshaking.

What events have you attended that were really well done?