Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Keeping in touch - it doesn't have to be that tough

One of the biggest challenges facing the active networker is keeping in touch with the many contacts they meet. If you are attending large numbers of networking events and also connecting with an array of new people online, how do you stay in touch on a regular basis?

Obviously online social networks are a great tool for keeping your name in front of many people efficiently, but the personal touch is equally important.

It doesn't have to be that difficult. I have just received an email from a fellow speaker and friend Graeme Codrington. Graeme subscribes to a book summary service and has just sent me the contents of a summary he has received from a book about networking strategy.

In the simple act of forwarding an email to me, Graeme has demonstrated that he is thinking of me and of what will be useful to me, has reinforced his position in my mind and helped to build our relationship.

When you see something interesting, don't just ask yourself how useful it is to you, ask who you know who would also be interested in it and forward it.

It's that simple.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Final copies of '...and Death Came Third!' available for FREE with 'Networking in Ninety Minutes


We have just found a box of the previously sold out '...and Death Came Third!'. These are available for the cover price of £14.95 or for free if you purchase the 'Networking in Ninety Minutes' audio programme.

You can purchase the programme here. Please send an email following your purchase with 'Book Offer' in the subject line to harvey@lopata.co.uk, including your address if you have bought the audio programme as an mp3 download.

This offer is only available while stocks last and with full price purchases of Networking in Ninety Minutes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

How do you choose which online networks to join and who joins you on them?

Every day I receive new invitations to either join or connect on different online (social) networks. Some of them are well known, such as LinkedIn or Facebook, others less so. The fact is that the numbers of social networking opportunities are continually growing, and it would be impossible for anyone to manage a network on all of them, unless that was their full time post!

This begs the question of which do you choose and with whom do you connect, where? I met with leading figures from three of the larger networks last week, LinkedIn, Xing and BT Tradespace. Each of them is looking for their own way to stand out from the crowd, to be different.

One of the most striking things for me is the number of people who, once they're connected with you on one network, want to connect with you everywhere else. If this is the right approach to networking, what do we need all of the different networks for. How do you use them differently? Or don't you bother?

In my mind I have different uses for each network.

Remember that networking is about both breadth and depth of relationship. Some networks are well suited to growing your network. For me, Ecademy is the main 'network growth tool' but Xing and BT Tradespace can also serve a similar purpose.

Other networks are better served helping you deepen your existing network. In my case, I see Facebook as a great tool to build existing relationships by opening the doors of my private life to strong business connections, and the doors of my business life to strong personal connections.

LinkedIn, in the meantime, is a great tool to leverage existing networks, and to help your connections gain your help and support when needed. Using their three degrees of seperation principle of looking at their connections and asking for introductions is incredibly powerful, if done professionally and with focus.

The problem lies in the way these depth networks are diluted by mass connections. I can't put my hand on my heart and say that my LinkedIn or Facebook networks contain only people I know well, I have accepted too many connection requests for the want of somewhere else to connect for that to be the case. Quite how 'LinkedIn Open Networkers', who have thousands of connections can make trusted introductions I just don't understand.

I have realised that the time has come for me to rationalise my online networks and start to connect with different people in different places for different reasons. It will take me some time and I want to do so in a way that won't cause offence to people I move or spurn, but it needs to be done if these networks are going to achieve anything like their potential for me.

I know that there will be many who disagree with this approach, and others who are even more confused than I am. I'd love to hear all views, and some other strategies.

It's time to create some sense from the confusion.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I can't, I won't, I don't need.....

Last night I attended an excellent event as part of International Women's Week, co-hosted by Morgan Stanley Women's First Choice Network and European Professional Women's Network. There were a lot of interesting comments both from speakers and the panel and I hope to blog a few of these over the coming days.

The first comment that caught my attention came from Maryann McMahon, who opened the Conference.

Maryann told the audience that she speaks to a lot of young women who are at the beginning of their career. She tells all of them about the importance of networking, and receives a negative response from many. Those responses fall into one of three categories:

I can't network

I won't network

I don't need to network.


The first category is easily addressed by companies stepping up networking skills training and increasing all staff's confidence in a networking situation. The last two are more concerning.

There is still a negative mindset about networking among many people in corporate life, not just women. It is seen as manipulative game-playing and something to be avoided. Or its value is simply not recognised.

I have seen positive signs, including many last night, that this mindset is shifting and there is a growing recognition of the importance of embracing networking as a key tool in career development. There is still some way to go and more events like last night's, which promote the importance and positive impact of networking, play a key role.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Seth Godin: Superficial Networking is Just a Waste of Time.

Dave Clarke posted this video of Seth Godin on his Business Networking Blog last week.

In short, I couldn't agree more!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

CONNECTING IS NOT ENOUGH: The Trouble with Networking Events......

This article originally appeared in The National Networker.

Last month a member of the Business Matters Magazine Facebook Group posed a question.

“Networking events…….do they work?”

The questioner went on to explain, “Over the past year I have been overwhelmed by the volume of networking events that have been shoveled through my letter box but I have had a busy time so attending has not been a priority.

“Now times for business development are key, so what is the verdict on networking events to increase business?”

In the last column I discussed the problem of people attending networking events and joining groups because of an invitation, without a clear outcome in mind. This person has been inundated with invitations and is now asking the question, should I be going along?

In a similar forum recently, another contributor asked whether they should pay £500 ($700) for membership of a networking group. To him, it seemed to be too expensive.

The lack of a clear outcome that I discussed last month is building increasing disillusion with networking events, at a time when businesses need them more than ever. Visit any number of forums and you will find similar questions to the ones above, coupled with complaints about meeting people trying to sell at events, meeting the wrong type of people,

There can be little doubt that networking, whether formal or otherwise, plays a key role in the sustainability and long term of success of most businesses, particularly during tough economic times. Yet, as we have already explored, people are missing out by making the wrong choices and adopting the wrong behavior.

So how do you make the right decision? To which group or events should you devote your networking energies and how does price reflect quality?

It all depends on what you want to achieve. At the moment, networking groups seem to be defined either by whether they are online or offline or, alternatively, by the time of day they meet. While useful categories for identifying which networks are convenient for you to involve yourself with, and to which you can commit, they don’t necessarily help you make the right business decision.

To decide which networking group you want to join and whether membership will be expensive or tremendous value for money, you need to have a clear vision of what success will look like from your membership. What, in other words, is going to be your return on investment?

Any other business purchase tends to be accompanied by the question, ‘what value will this add to the business?’. There is no reason why networking should be any different.

First of all, focus on what your goals are. What do you want to achieve from your membership? The type of group that will suit you will vary depending on whether you are looking for peer group support, referrals, to enhance your industry knowledge or simply getting out of your ‘cave’ and meeting other business people.

There are a wide range of reasons why people network. Some of them people recognise beforehand, such as lead generation, in other cases, people find themselves enjoying the benefits passively. A proactive, considered approach to gaining these benefits can make a huge difference.

Take a sheet of paper and split it into four columns. In the left hand column, write down the ten major areas you need to see improve, either in your business or personally. Where do you struggle? Where do you need help?

Now in the second column, by each area of improvement, ask yourself how other people can help you achieve that goal. For example, if you have written down ‘more business’ in the left hand column, you might write ‘referrals’ alongside.

You now have a clearer idea of how networking can help you than beforehand, and that should help you pick the right group but we still want to know what your return on investment will be.

How many of these improvements can you place a value on? In the third column, write down the difference such an improvement would mean to you. Quantify it where possible; if you can’t put it in words. What would it allow you to do that you can’t now? What would it mean to your personal life? How would it affect your emotional state?

You now have a tool that will help you measure a network’s effectiveness for you, understand what success will look like from that network and, importantly, help you select the right network for you.

Instead of defining networks by their time of day or whether they are online or face to face, I split business networks into three categories:





The categories overlap, most networking groups will deliver more than one benefit. But the key is that you can look at each group and recognise what the key benefit they will deliver is. For example, BNI is a referral-building network. You will learn and get peer support (Brain Building) from BNI Chapters and your profile will grow as people talk about you but their primary focus is on generating referrals.

In contrast, events which focus around people from the same industry tend to be more focused on Brain Building, whether through learning, best practice sharing or mutual support. Despite this, my membership of the Professional Speakers Association of the UK over the last five years has provided me with some of my strongest referrals sources. It is, however, still primarily a Brain-Building network for me.

With this in mind, look at the needs and goals you have written down and ask yourself which networks will best help you achieve them? In the fourth column, write down ‘Profile’ ‘Brain’ or ‘Referral’ by each need.




You should now have a clear idea of which types of network will suit you best and where you should focus your time. Look at which types crop up more than the others, look at the value of meeting that need to you in terms of prioritizing where you spend your time.

Now when you look at the invitations you receive, you have questions you can ask the organizers.

“This is what I want to achieve from my networking, how will membership of your group help me achieve those goals?”

“What would I have to do within the network to ensure that I can achieve the return I’m looking for?”

You are much better placed now to ask the right questions and select the network that will work for you. And when you look at the cost of the network, it falls into perspective.

After all, if the need you have identified is met from membership, and if the value of meeting that need is worth £100,000 to you, will £500 seem so expensive?

The trouble with networking doesn’t lie in the events and groups themselves. They offer so much potential to businesses who, currently in particular, need that support.

The trouble lies with the lack of planning that prevents attendees and members realizing that potential.