HBR: How to Make Networking at Conferences Feel Less Icky

The LBMExpo is this week. What new discoveries might you make while attending the conference? Will you build new relationships? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Francesca Gino.

How to Make Networking at Conferences Feel Less Icky

Whether you like attending them or not, conferences offer great opportunities for networking. At conferences, you can extend your network by meeting new people, including potential employers or employees, and you can catch up with and get updates from those you already know.

In fact, networking has become a key factor for professional advancement and career success. Whether you’re an extrovert who fits naturally into any situation or someone who has a hard time chatting with new people, networking is a necessary skill if you’re looking to get ahead. But while a lucky few clearly have a natural talent for developing business relationships and reaping the resources that come with them, most people find networking uncomfortable, stressful, and even manipulative. I have studied why people have these feelings and have some suggestions for how to overcome them.

In research I conducted with Tiziana Casciaro (of the Rotman School of Management) and Maryam Kouchaki (of Kellogg), we examined how people react to the prospect of personal networking in pursuit of emotional support or friendship and instrumental networking in pursuit of professional goals.

In one experiment, we asked 306 adults to remember a time when they networked. One group was asked to recall a scenario in which their goal was to form one-sided professional contacts — that is, instrumental networking. People in the other were asked to remember an attempt to form a more natural, personal connection with people in their industry — that is, personal networking.

Next, the participants did a word-completion task in which they were given word fragments such W _ _ H, S H _ _ E R, and S _ _ P. These puzzles could be filled in with words related to cleanliness like wash, shower, or soap. But they could just as easily fit words unrelated to cleanliness such as wish, shaker, and step. The participants who’d been asked to recall the situation where they’d engaged in instrumental networking were about twice as likely as those who engaged in personal networking to fill those puzzles in with cleansing-related words.

We concluded that instrumental networking, but not personal networking, makes people feel not only anxious or inauthentic but also physically dirty. The metaphorical link between feeling morally and physically pure, or clean, is a powerful one. In previous research, my colleagues and I found that feeling morally tainted increases our desire for cleanliness and find ways to be helpful to others in order to reduce such strong feelings.

Because professional relationships formed primarily for the purpose of getting ahead tend to be more one-sided and selfish than other relationships, a transaction in which reciprocity is a secondary concern feels a little immoral. Why is this a problem? Because your performance will suffer if you don’t engage in networking. In another study, we asked 165 lawyers from five offices across North America how frequently they networked and how they felt while they did it. The lawyers who did more professional networking performed better (in terms of billable hours) than those who didn’t. Interestingly, the more powerful the individual was at his firm, the less likely he or she was to report feeling dirty about networking.

In another study, we asked students to think of someone they’d like to know better. One group was told to think of a person they’d like to know better socially; the other group was told to think of a person in a professional context. Those in the “social” group were told to send a message to the person through Facebook; those in the “professional” group were told to send a message to the person through LinkedIn. After sending their message, the participants indicated how they were feeling. Once again, the people in the professional networking group reported feeling physically dirtier than those in the personal group.

Given the benefits of networking, how can we get around the uncomfortable feelings it triggers? The answer is to reframe the way you think about what you’re doing. Networking rooted in a motivation to benefit others and an authentic desire to grow diminishes feelings of moral impurity, we’ve found. With that in mind, here are four recommendations:

Think about what you can give, not just what you can get. When you network to extract benefits without considering what your counterpart’s interests, needs, and desires are and how you can meet them, you make yourself vulnerable to the insidious psychological burden of inauthenticity and moral impurity.

Think broadly about what people value. As you focus on what other people value, you probably tend to think very narrowly about their obvious interests (e.g., earning more, having a higher position) and much less about what is unique about that person and how that relates to what you might be able to provide him or her that others can’t. You must consider much more broadly and creatively the resources that can potentially flow through a relationship and appreciate the entire range of what the other person may value at any given point in time.

Build relationships based on substantive shared interests, and do your homework. Much too often, people confuse networking with simple extraction of value from others. But networking must be mutually stimulating and valuable to be sustainable. Networking driven by substantive, shared interests and based on thorough research into others can be highly effective and won’t spark negative feelings.

Think of networking as an act of discovery and learning. Approaching networking as an opportunity rather than a necessary evil can also be an effective strategy. It can lead you to view networking with excitement and curiosity. If you are open to learning from people around you, you will begin to view networking as a gift, and one that is totally clean.



P501: The Art of Pinging

I attended The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) Spring Meeting & Legislative Conference last week. I had a wonderful time at the conference. Below is a blog post from Productivity501. This post will help me to keep in contact with everyone I met at the conference. Evernote is also a good way to keep track of your contacts and their interests.

The Art of Pinging
networking group

In this article we are going to talk about networking. Specifically, we want to look at how to “ping” people. I believe the term “ping” comes from the excellent book Never Eat Alone. A ping is defined as a small action that keeps the relationship with someone in your network alive. First let’s talk about the benefits of pinging your network of contacts, then we’ll look at how to actually do it.

Benefits of Pinging

Our brains organize information in a very efficient way. Imagine that our memories are a bunch of envelopes in a pile. The size of the envelope corresponds to the emotion associated with that memory. So you can easily retrieve the memory of your first kiss no matter how long it has been since you last thought about it because it is in a very large envelope. On the other hand, you may not be able to remember your college dorm room number after a decade because it is in a much smaller envelope.

Every time a memory is accessed, that envelope gets put on the top of the pile. It isn’t too hard to remember your departing gate number for 15 minutes after looking it up on the screen in the airport, but you may have a very difficult time remembering your parking space number after returning from a two-week trip. (There is an organization system like this called the Noguchi filing system.)

When it comes to your network of contacts, you want your name to be easy to remember. Since it is easiest to remember things that are emotional or recent, you have two options to make your name memorable. Saving someone’s life is going to be a very emotional experience, but obviously it isn’t very practical to try to save the life or have your life saved by everyone in your address book. There are other ways of creating emotional experiences, but they either don’t scale, have inappropriate side effects, have significant risk, or will make you well remembered, but not in a positive way.

That leaves us with trying to be memorable by being recent. So how do we do this?

How to Ping

You “ping” people by making some type of contact with them. It doesn’t necessarily mean having a four hour conversation–just a brief “how are you doing” or “I was thinking about you today.” It can be as simple as sending them a text message saying “happy birthday” or calling them up when you have a layover in their city just to say you were in town for 15 minutes, thought about them and wanted to know how they were doing.

Here are some tips for pinging your contacts:

  • Send a newspaper/magazine clipping on topics they find interesting with a handwritten note.
  • Call them up on their birthday and sing happy birthday to them.
  • Send them a text message when their favorite team wins or loses.
  • Send birthday cards.
  • Leave them a voice mail with a bit of info you learned that they might be interested in knowing.
  • Occasionally send an email with a link to something they would find useful.
  • If they blog, leave a message on their website.
  • Write a recommendation for them on Linked In.
  • Comment on their posts on G+, Twitter, Facebook or wherever they interact online.
  • Send them something through the mail. It could be a matchbox version of a car you know they want/have/had or a photograph of their hometown.

If you look back through that list, you’ll notice that the recurring theme is to do something that shows you know who they are and what they like. You are trying to do simple things that show you know their birthday, know their interests, read their blog, etc. Pinging is a matter of doing those little things that say “you are important.” Obviously you don’t want to be annoying, but making a conscious effort to ping all of your contacts 3 to 10 times a year can go a long ways toward making sure that you stay in people’s memory and keep your marketability high.

JoA: Raising Rainmakers

Below is a great article from Journal of Accountancy about how to network, mentor and develop your personal marketing plan. Click on the title below to read the full article.

Raising Rainmakers

Firms should start early to nurture business development skills in young CPAs.

By Lynne Waymon, André Alphonso and Pamela Bradleyrainmaker

There are three types of networking identities. About 20% of people are Naturals at developing business relationships, while 10% are Naysayers, who resist business development responsibilities. The rest are Neutrals, who are willing to adopt the skills when they are told to do so.

CPAs should start early in developing their networking identity for three reasons: (1) to take advantage of mentors before they retire; (2) to build on relationships with peers from college; and (3) to have enough time to learn networking skills and to make business development a natural part of their repertoire.

Firms can teach CPAs five strategies to develop the skills needed to foster professional relationships and bring in new business.

Firms should establish an atmosphere that encourages networking. Even better, networking should become ingrained in their culture.


PBB: The Importance of Attending Industry Events

Below is a blog from Personal Branding Blog by Ceren Cubukcu. She talks about how important it is to attend Industry events. If you need information on finding associations in your industry go to Dealer.org. or leave a comment and I’ll assist you in finding an association.

The Importance of Attending Industry Events 

3 LPOTY recipients CT Bob Kelly (Torno Lbr) MA Bethany Sawyer (Boston Cedar) RI Mark Grant (Moulding & Millwork)
3 LPOTY recipients CT Bob Kelly (Torno Lbr) MA Bethany Sawyer (Boston Cedar) RI Mark Grant (Moulding & Millwork)

Many people skip attending industry events unless they are required to. They usually underestimate the importance of these kinds of events. They find excuses not to attend such as “I have a very important meeting that day” or “I am very busy during that time” or “the ticket prices are expensive.

You shouldn’t wait until your company or your boss sends you to these kinds of events. You should be proactive and follow the events in your area and demand from your company to attend the event. If your boss is reluctant to send you, then make a case and try to convince him/her how useful this event will be for the company. You can find new clients for your business, see what your competitors are doing or observe the improvements in your industry. Also, during the event you should make yourself available to others and meet as many people as you can to increase your network. Don’t forget to ask their business cards so you can follow-up afterwards and stay connected with them via LinkedIn.

I will give you an example to show you the importance of these kinds of industry events. Last week I attended Webit Congress, one of the largest web and IT conferences in EMEA region. I was one of the speakers at the event and presented my company to the rest of the attendees. Approximately 8000 people attended the congress this year including professionals from large corporations, mid-sized companies, startups, investors, freelancers and journalists.

I was not sure who will be listening to my presentation due to the diversity of attendees. However, the outcome turned out to be much better than I expected. A famous European journalist came to me after the presentation and told me that he is interested in featuring my company at his magazine. This means free international advertising for my company. Also, I met with a few people who can be potential clients in the future. Long story short, you never know what to expect when you attend large conferences like this one. However, in my opinion, it is very important to be present in these kinds of events and meet with other professionals in your sector. Even if you are not the presenter, it is still essential to be there so you can follow the trends in your industry or find new clients for your business.