Today’s Houston Business Journal includes an article titled “Interactive PR hits sweet spot for Internet savvy marketers,” in which I’m quoted. The piece highlights the visibility and relationship-building opportunities for firms and clients who implement campaigns that engage interactive Internet channels and showcases some pretty impressive results achieved by those firms that optimize client news releases for Web consumption.
EFFECTIVE EVENT NETWORKING
Professional and community events represent a prime venue for making connections, qualifying prospects, building relationships, and identifying opportunities to be of service to others. Unfortunately, too many people go to events thinking they have to give out as many business cards as possible and tell everyone they meet everything about themselves. Others are mortified by the thought of walking into a room full of strangers. And still others think that events are just a waste of time because they do not generate immediate business.
The point of events is to make quick connections, establish a rapport, learn about each person you meet, and then follow-up after the event. Networking is not about you – not at first. It is about asking questions of others and finding an opportunity to remain in touch and offer value, whether in the form of information, connections, resources, etc. By giving first, you demonstrate your own value. You demonstrate that you heard and understand the other person. You demonstrate that you care about their interests, before your own. And connection, credibility, and being top-of-mind when the other person has a need are the keys to successful business development.
Below are some tips to make event networking easier and more successful for you.
BEFORE THE EVENT
- Stock up on business cards to give out – although it is more important to get business cards so you can instigate a continuing dialogue rather than wait for someone to contact you
- If you can, get a list of the attendees in advance so you can start identifying people you know and people with whom you may want to connect
- Look over the nametags and see if there is anyone you really want to meet – you may want to put your business card near someone’s nametag with an invitation for them to find you at the event
- Arrive early so you can act as if you were the host and greet people as they arrive, rather than having to search for opportunities to insert yourself into established discussions
- Be prepared with a short elevator introduction
- Be familiar with some of the key current events, as it will help you have something to talk about if conversations wane
- Dress appropriately
DURING THE EVENT
- If you arrive late, give yourself some time to adjust to the dynamic of the event
- Use drink/food lines as an opportunity to introduce yourself to others
- Focus more on asking questions than telling people about you
- Ask for people’s business cards and write any important notes on the back of the card (e.g. “likes baseball,” “is on a museum board,” “company is facing major litigation”)
- Seek out board and committee leaders and tell them you are new and interested in getting involved and meeting people in the group – they can help introduce you around
- Target the “islands” – the people standing by themselves looking like they wish they had someone to talk to
- If you want to join a group already in discussions, listen for awhile and interject respectfully when you have something beneficial to add and then introduce yourself
- Be positive and energetic
- Don’t spend too much time talking with any one person or group – mingle in and mingle out
- Sit between two people you do not already know
FOLLOWING UP AFTER THE EVENT
- Enter each person’s contact information and any background in your Outlook Contacts file
- Send each person you met a short, handwritten note and reference something you learned about them
- Google the people you meet to see what you can find out about them online
- Invite each person to lunch, coffee, or a relevant event (baseball, golf) where you can segue from a strictly social discussion to learn about business needs, opportunities, and connections
- Look for ways to add value to each person, personally or professionally – mail or e-mail them news articles or white papers or introduce them to others who can help them be successful
The viral social networking community MySpace.com is now having to defend itself from criticism and lawsuits alleging that the Internet site is negligent in protecting the safety of children. A 14-year-old Texas girl recently met up with a 19-year-old man after a series of communications started via the Web site and was sexually assaulted by him. Now she and her family are suing MySpace, saying that the site was responsible for her well-being.
In a Sci-Tech Today article, the chief security officer for MySpace, Hemanshu Nigam, was quoted as saying “MySpace is taking ‘aggressive measures’ to protect its members. Ultimately, Internet safety is a shared responsibility. We encourage everyone on the Internet to engage in smart Web practices and have open family dialogue about how to apply offline lessons in the online world.”
Now, whether or not the company actually was negligent and responsible is one thing and may be decided by the courts, barring a settlement. However, another issue is whether MySpace chooses to defend its current informational protection efforts as adequate or whether MySpace truly does take proactive, aggressive and demonstrable steps to show that safety of its members is of the utmost concern and focus going forward. If it does not, it certainly runs the risk of a parental backlash that results in millions of children not being able to access the site as well as a lot of long, negative media cycles. Additionally, regulators are already using the issues raised by such incidents as a platform to curb social networking on school Web sites – and such legislation typically just spurns more legislative oversight. That is certainly not what MySpace wants.
While MySpace does offer some safety tips and information regarding contact between members, this information is provided through standard menu text links at the very bottom of the homepage where few are likely to notice, much less read, them. If it truly wants to show that it is committed to saftey above all else, MySpace should make that a primary focus on the homepage – comparable to the flashy ads that run toward the top of the page. When I first created the darbyDarnit MySpace page, I received a message, obviously an auto-generated one, from the MySpace founder. Why every member hasn’t received another one emphasizing caution in the wake of these issues and rising criticism, I don’t know. MySpace is quickly going to find itself having to dig out of a hole that it stood by and watched being dug. To help share key messages and information regarding the site’s efforts, MySpace should launch an online newsroom that offers company contacts, addresses current issues and directs media to third party sources, and counters inaccurate media coverage.
Unfortunately, we know that this won’t be the last time that someone uses the site with bad intentions, nor the last time that MySpace will be in the spotlight facing questions about accountability. The real question is whether MySpace will do more than what is required to show parents that the site treats its members with the same care and concern as parents treat their kids. Ultimately, that will decide whether MySpace’s slogan of “a place for friends” is deemed credible in the court of public opinion.