Networking has changed dramatically with the growing popularity of so many social networking tools, and the upcoming Interactive Awards have got us wondering what that really means. We turned to two of our superstar friends in the industry to hear their thoughts on how networking has developed in recent years, what this change means, and how best to use social and face-to-face networking to achieve both personal and professional goals. I spoke with Joselin Mane (JM) of BostonTweetUp, and Justin Levy (JL) of New Marketing Labs—and got some really great answers.
How do you incorporate networking into your daily or weekly routine?
JM: First, I go to 2-3 events a night, so I can support the events that we promote via BostonTweetUp. I also go to network with the host and attendees, and to see the venue and pick up new event planning and promotional tips and tricks.
JL: Networking utilizing social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn is part of my daily routine, and is integrated into my day as another communications channel in the same fashion as email, meetings or phone calls. I also try to take advantage of any opportunities to connect with people face-to-face at conferences, meetups or other events.
Do you think the prevalence of social media has caused face-to-face networking to lose some of its value?
JM: No, the value has increased substantially. I have noticed a large increase in events. People will always want to meet in person whenever possible; we can now just leverage the times when we can’t meet in person with online communications.
JL: Absolutely not. I find that the prevalence of social media has caused face-to-face networking to have an even stronger impact. What I mean by this is that I can connect with someone online and develop a relationship with them so that when we see each other face-to-face, we’re able to skip past the initial introductions and jump right into a deeper level conversation. Social media has become a great tool for connecting folks at face-to-face networking events, as well.
How would you advise someone to get the most out of networking, if they’re not a social butterfly like you?
JM: Actually, I’m an introvert and rather shy when I first meet someone. I found that the key to networking is, as with many things in life, about having a clear objective. Go into each event with a positive attitude, a time limit, and the objective of not meeting a new person but more importantly introducing two people that haven’t met. If you can get to know a person well enough that you can immediately introduce them to someone else, you instantly increase your social influence. The more you get to know new people and introduce them to someone new, the more people will want to know you, because it will appear that you know everyone. Having a time limit is important because it forces you to get more focused, and not linger. If possible get to know people before you go to events via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
JL: At a face-to-face event, don’t focus on chatting with every attendee but, instead, focus on having a few in-depth conversations. Not only will this seem less daunting but you’ll get more out of the event. Then make sure to follow up with these people following the event and stay connected with them via social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, their blog, and other places around the web. This will help to strengthen those bonds and will provide opportunities for potential professional opportunities in the future. If you try doing this at each event that you attend then you’ll eventually know many of the attendees at a networking event and will have a strong and vibrant network.
Are there any tips, tricks, tools, or books you’d recommend for someone wanting to master networking at large?
JM: Focus is critical. Focus on the moment, on listening to the person you are speaking with, on the time. I would say watch and observe good networkers at the events that you attend. Pay close attention to their eye contact, and their non-verbal communication—the way they stand, the way they move their hands. 80% of communication is non-verbal, and if you’re smiling and approachable, more people will approach you.
JL: If I had one tip for attending a face-to-face event, I’d definitely recommend making a conference dashboard, as Chris Brogan wrote about a couple years ago. This is a great way to connect prior to the event, during the event, and even to follow-up after the event.
The MITX Interactive Awards are rapidly approaching! What value do you see in attending an event like that?
JM: The MITX awards are great because you get a chance to meet very talented people in a very short period of time. It was one of the inspirations for me to put together MegaTweetUp last year. MegaTweetUp was the biggest tweetup in the New England area in 2009, and it was an event specifically organized to connect people who were doing exciting things in the Boston/New England area.
JL: An event such as the MITX Interactive Awards is a great chance to connect with people that you haven’t had a chance to chat with in a while, as well as make new personal and professional connections. A face-to-face event such as the MITX Interactive Awards is a great chance to network with some of the major technology, marketing, and social media influencers in the Boston community.
I loved hearing these smart and creative perspectives on networking. Joselin and Justin, thanks for sharing your thoughts! If you have a networking tip or trick to add, please tell us in the comments! Do you have a great way to begin a conversation? End one? I can't wait to hear your great ideas, and I hope to see lots of you at the Interactive Awards, finding great ways to implement your new networking strategies!