Thursday, April 30, 2009

The importance of a mentor

I appeared on a panel at The Minority Lawyers Conference at The Law Society in London on Saturday.

One of my fellow panelists, Amrik Kandola, a Partner in the law firm Eversheds, gave a presentation about the importance of mentoring and the impact on his career. Mentoring seems to be a forgotten benefit of networking. It is hard to underestimate the positive effect on your career or business offered by someone who has already overcome the challenges that lie ahead of you, and who has an influential network who can help you achieve your goals.

I have two mentors, one to help me with my business and the other to support my speaking career. As Amrik stressed during his talk, the emphasis is on me to keep in touch with them and share issues or discuss ideas, rather than for me to wait for the phone to ring.

One of the questions during the panel session concerned mentoring. Amrik was asked how to approach mentors and ask for their support.

The advice Amrik offered was to understand your objectives and know the profile of the person who can help you. Show enthusiasm and commitment and people will want to help you.

I'd add this thought to that. If you know who you need to approach, you'll find the links to them among your existing network.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Getting Started on LinkedIn

I have just put together a simple presentation to help you take the first steps needed to get started on LinkedIn. These are the first steps to navigating the site and making the most of it. Once you have built your network and got used to these steps, there is so much more the network offers.

Please note, you will need to view the presentation in full screen (the second button from the end on the bottom row) to see the screen shots.

Monday, April 27, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER - How to be a Great Networker - Be a Great Listener

Following a conversation we had recently, I have invited a colleague of mine, Neil Urquhart, to write a guest blog on the qualities of great listeners.

Neil is a cross-cultural communication trainer and coach. He helps organisations and individuals to work more effectively with their international clients, teams and suppliers. We are currently working on a joint workshop together.

You can visit Neil's website at

How to be a Great Networker - Be a Great Listener

Over 2300 years ago, Aristotle wrote a treatise, ‘The Art of Rhetoric’, in which he outlined three principles that are as relevant to your relationship building and networking activities today as they were then.

The principles were Logos as in logic, Pathos as in emotional connection and Ethos as in trust.

Aristotle knew that it wasn’t enough to be logical when trying to connect with people, he recognised that we also need to be liked and/or trusted by them. In the same way we might justify buying a product or service based on logic (e.g. “It’s the cheapest one available”) we can rationalise networking with someone on logical grounds, too (e.g. “She’s the most appropriate person to speak to”). However, just as our underlying reason for purchasing something is almost always that we like and/or trust the person who is selling it to us, the real reason we choose to build long-term and mutually-beneficial relationships with some people and not others is that we like and/or trust them as well.

So how do we build this type of relationship? One clue to success can be found in the qualities of great listeners. Take a moment to write down the names of the three people you consider are the best listeners in your life; anyone you feel demonstrates the qualities of a first-class listener.




Now ask yourself the following questions:

Do you dislike or hate any of the people you have listed?
Do you distrust any of them?
Is there anybody on your list who you don’t either like/love or trust?

I’m sure that the answer to all of those questions is “No”. All things being equal, great listeners are people you know, like and/or trust.

Think of three qualities that these listeners in your life demonstrate and write them down, too.




Do you emulate these qualities? When was the last time you demonstrated the qualities you’ve written down? The next time you are building a relationship with someone or attending a networking event, interact with and exhibit these qualities and you’ll go a long way to achieving your aim.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Get Yourself on Telly - The Power of Networking

Richard Flewitt is this week celebrating the launch of The Book Channel on Sky TV (channel 166).....and it all came about through networking.

Richard explains:

Do you want to hear a story about networking - working?

I’m excited and proud to announce the launch of a new venture, The Book Channel TV show - The place to be for book lovers and writers. I came up with the idea along with a networking colleague about a year ago and the first programme aired this week on Sky channel 166 and Freesat channel 402.

So why blog about it?

Firstly I’m immensely proud of the programme, entirely produced by my production company New Edge - It’s great to be back to our roots making television programmes.

Secondly, there is no way that I would be here announcing this today if it wasn’t for networking and in particular the Black Star community within Ecademy, which I joined about two and a half years ago. Let me take you through the chain of events.

I joined Black Star on the premise that you get out what you put in, and it really is a lifetime membership where relationships are nurtured before any real business takes place. I began to attend Black Star meetings and started on a journey of many, many 121 meetings.

Approximately 18 months after first joining, I was invited by a Black Star, who I’d had a 121 with, to attend a VIP networking event on a boat on the Thames. There, as promised, he introduced me to ’someone I need to know’, I spent most of the evening talking to this guy over champagne and far too much red wine,realising the synergy of our approach to communications, and in particular video. That relationship then developed with a couple of meetings, and more introductions.

Meanwhile I discovered that within Black Star there were a community of specialists who help people make the most of their expertise by writing books. The problem at this smaller end of publishing is that the best sellers and big publishing houses eat up most of the national promotional opportunities, and it’s a real struggle to get books noticed.

I had another meeting with the man from the boat, who also happens to have a past in publishing and we came up with an idea... to make a specialist programme for all book lovers and writers, uncovering the story behind the story in a book and hearing some extracts read by the author. Broadcast the programmes on Sky and Freesat, and make all the programmes available to watch online. Additionally allow the authors and publishers to stream the programmes on their own websites providing them with a promotional video for their book. The result is The Book Channel.

The guy on the boat was Fred Perkins, owner of Information TV and a number of Sky channels - now one of my business partners at the Book Channel. Our three experts who guide viewers through the book writing world from inspiration to publication are Mindy Gibbins-Klein, Sue Richardson and Tom Evans - all Black Stars from Ecademy.

Our presenter is Tina Bettison, another contact who found me through Ecademy.

We have filmed the first three programmes and the launch was on Monday 20th April, to coincide with the opening day of the London Book Fair. Authors and publishers are invited to submit books for selection in future programmes through the website,

So there you are. In a nutshell my networking contacts have provided the inspiration, the application and a great deal of the content in the pilot shows

Who says networking isn’t worth the investment? Like all good thinhgs, it just takes time and energy.

I often talk about the misconceptions of networking events only leading to meetings with small businesses and the mistake people make of chasing 'low-hanging fruit'. If you have ambitious dreams, the people in your network can help you achieve them. If only you'd open yourself to the possibility.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Word of Mouth on Steroids

I saw this blog on the 'Get Elastic' blog yesterday (ironically through a post on Twitter). They refer to the advert below by Faberge in the 80s. The concept of telling friends to spread the word about your business hasn't changed.

Thanks to social media though, the numbers have.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Power of the Social Web

I have just seen that an article I recently wrote has been linked to on the internet by people in four continents, all in the same day.

If you still think that Twitter is purely a gimmick and a passing fad, it may be time to think again!

Mixing Business and Pleasure

In the last few months, there has been a rise in the number of people boasting two profiles on Facebook. Concerned by the horror stories in the media about people being fired, losing jobs or being thrown out of college because of indiscrepancies caught on the social web, many are making the choice to keep their personal and business lives seperate.

While I understand the reasons behind this, I think it is a shame. For the first time ever it has been made so easy for us to educate our personal network about what we do in a non-intrusive manner. No-one is suggesting that you force your business down other people's throats, but how many opportunities are missed, both to help and to be helped, by not sharing our business lives with those who care the most about us?

Inviting your professional contacts into your personal life also has its benefits, along with some pretty obvious dangers! After all, we've always been taught that 'people buy people', here's your chance to let others know more about you, the person.

I have found that I've forged a lot of deeper relationships with others in my professional network because we have found that we share similar passions outside of work. As I mentioned, there are obvious dangers, but common sense and a degree of moderation should, in most cases, help protect you.

Monday, April 06, 2009

CONNECTING IS NOT ENOUGH: Will you be my Friend?

This article originally appeared in The National Networker

Have you experienced that strange sensation recently? A feeling of importance, of celebrity, of previously unmatched popularity. It’s the feeling that the lucky kids at school all understood but that the rest of us could only dream of.

All of a sudden everyone wants to be your friend.

From Facebook to LinkedIn, from Plaxo to Fastpitch and from Xing to Friendster, people are asking to be friends. And they’re not just people we know, have met or who share mutual friends. They are people from all over the World, with varied backgrounds and different interests. Yet they all want to be our friends and share in our lives.

Do you embrace each and every one of these new-found friends? Or do you find something uncomfortable and disconcerting about all of these requests from strangers?

Once you have befriended them, your popularity knows no-bounds. They want to follow you to every party you go to, and want to invite you to the ones they’re attending. All of a sudden you are a member of countless social networks…….and your network is the same on each one!

There are many people who embrace this method of networking. They believe that the more people you connect with, the broader your network, the more successful you are. For the more extreme, they count success in terms of ‘notches on the bedpost’. Others do take a more level-headed approach, recognizing that they do need to interact with many of these new ‘friends’ but that there is value in broadcasting to everyone else they are connected to. Not so much networking as marketing.

It might not surprise you that I favour a different approach to my online networking. My approach takes three stages, each one making it far easier to manage my time on each network effectively, interact with people in the best way possible and able to connect with everyone who genuinely wants to connect with me.

Stage One –

Understand WHERE you want to be

With so many invitations coming through now, there is a danger of stretching yourself too thin. I have received two more invitations to new networks in the short period of time I have been writing this column. Unless you plan to make membership of social networks a full time occupation, it would be impossible for anyone to be an effective, active member of every network available, so be selective.

There are probably four types of online network for me. Those I will never join; those I join, upload a profile but never visit again; those I join, upload a profile and visit occasionally and those I commit to.

The networks that I commit to are the ones who draw me in, encourage me to contribute and demonstrate a value to being there. For a long time LinkedIn was a network on which I had a profile and visited infrequently as there was such little apparent activity on the site. Over the last 12-15 months two things have happened to change that. The network themselves have added more functionality, allowing you to achieve more through the site, and more people have been drawn to LinkedIn, making activity there more rewarding.

Therefore, you do need to join a few networks and try them out to find out where you are at home, where you feel most comfortable and which ones demonstrate that membership will deliver a return for you, whatever that may be.

That leads us nicely onto

Stage Two –

Understand WHY you want to be there

In my opinion, the most effective way to exploit the sheer number of networks is to use each for a different purpose. If you simply join a lot of networks and use them in the same way, you will find yourself repeating the same activity again and again. Can you really afford to spend your time doing that?

People have talked for a long time about wanting a site, or some software, that replicates your content and profile across networks. I know such software is being developed and wouldn’t be surprised to find out it already exists. You can already post a ‘tweet’ on Twitter and see it duplicated on Facebook and elsewhere.

That’s all very nice but doesn’t it take away the ‘human’ element of social networking? Have a look at the Facebook page of someone who feeds their tweets through. You will see a lot of activity, much of which doesn’t make sense in isolation and using jargon from one network (Twitter) that makes no sense to Facebook users not accustomed to it.

The redesign of Facebook into a Tweeter-style feed is going to encourage this activity more. It means that people using this technology will have fewer reasons to visit Facebook and will no longer be ‘networking’ on it. Facebook will simply be reduced to another broadcast mechanism, rather than a tool for effective engagement and interaction.

If you want to broadcast, that’s fine. My approach takes a slightly different direction though. I believe that each network can play a different purpose. For example:

Facebook is a very human network and provides the opportunity for your professional network to find out about the person, and for your personal network to find out about your profession. It is a great tool for deepening relationships and, used wisely, building trust.

LinkedIn’s primary purpose is to aid connections. You can find out how you are connected to the key people you want to meet, and secure the introductions through your existing network.

Networks such as Ecademy, Xing and FastPitch encourage you to build the breadth of your network by making new connections. These are great fora for meeting new people, finding out about them and developing the beginnings of a relationship. They also allow you to build on those relationships through various events, clubs and ongoing conversations.

By taking that type of approach to your online networking, it means that you can be more selective about

Stage Three –

Understanding WHO you want to connect with there

Following the approach above, you would only invite existing contacts to link to you on Facebook or LinkedIn, while having other networks you can direct newcomers to. Let them develop the relationship on one of the other networks before taking it to the next stage.

An additional benefit to this approach is that it is easier to find and connect contacts in your ‘deeper’ networks. One of the problems of building mass connections is finding people if you’re not looking by name. Keeping these networks smaller makes that task much easier.

The numbers of social networks is going to continue growing as niche networks become more popular. With the increase in popularity of Ning and similar sites, more of your contacts will develop, and invite you to, their own personal social network, while face to face networks you belong to and industry bodies will all invite you to theirs.

Without a strategy to approach these invitations, you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed and turning your back on social networking completely.

Now, that wouldn’t make you too popular!