Communication for PM’s and techies… N (part deux): Networking


With communication accounting for over 80% of a project manager’s time, it makes sense to focus on clear and effective communication.

N: (part 2): Networking

In today’s technology-infused, internet-savvy, globally wired world, connections to others (or at least the information networks of others) is increasingly important.  And yet, as our dependence on email, voicemail and texting increases, our daily face-to-face interactions with others decreases.  I’ve heard statistics that upwards of 80% of people would classify themselves today as “shy” – and it is increasing as we can cocoon in the comfort of our offices where we can communicate through email and instant messaging instead of walking down the hall to talk to someone in person.  Our global “shyness” is increasing with each new technology “advancement”.

Author and human relations expert, Susan RoAne (www.susanroane.com) wrote the classical books on networking in the 1980’s: “Secrets of Savvy Networking” and “How to Work a Room”.  Since then she’s said that today’s number one fear is “Walking into a room full of strangers”, supplanting fear of death and fear of public speaking as yesterday’s top fears.  The importance of effective relationships and connecting with people is nothing new in business – recall the saying “It’s not what you know but who you know” – yet the prospect of networking and mixing with strangers can be daunting. While most people would say that they are comfortable mixing with other parents at their child’s soccer practice, the same cannot be said for business mixers because the perception is that there is more at stake. Yet, networking skills are some of the most useful communication skills one can have – particularly in today’s uncertain employment market.

Here’s a list of ideas to help you to make your next networking event a success:

  • Everyone is a stranger:  Considering that many people at a networking mixer are in the same boat as you can ease the discomfort of approaching a stranger.
  • Approach someone standing alone and start conversation in a neutral way:  It is easy to open with “have you been to one of these events before?”
  • Initiate conversation with a neutral and positive topic: avoid asking someone what they do for a living and instead open with a neutral topic such as the weather or a current (non-political) news event. With the number of unemployed professionals today, it is wise to open with a topic that has less potential to embarrass
  • People like people like themselves: find commonality early on – for example if you notice something you may have in common (for women you may tell someone that you like their handbag, for men, you may comment on tie colors, for example)
  • Offer to help the organizers:  Volunteers are often needed to assist with registration, directions, greeting people, etc. and extra help is usually appreciated.  Arrive early and offer your help – the worst that can happen is that you meet a few of the organizers and can feel comfortable early on; the best is that you will be busy assisting as part of the event’s “insiders”
  • Introduce people to each other: knowing the level of overall shyness (80% or more), if you are comfortable introducing people to each other, do so with gusto. People appreciate being introduced because it saves them the work of approaching a stranger themself
  • Join in with a group by standing in an open space (don’t break a closed circle) and listening before adding your comments
  • Realize that rejection and acceptance are both possible – and either one speaks volumes about the other person(s) and is not personal to you.  Remember the words of Michael Jordan on basketball and taking risks:  You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. It’s worth the risk to make new contacts
  • Exchange business cards with new contacts (and have up-to-date ones with you. There is nothing more irritating than meeting someone and they immediately need to “cross out” and write in new information on their business card)
  • Don’t linger, mingle:  be aware that friendships take time to nurture so don’t monopolize any one new contact’s time.  While it feels comfortable to meet someone who is willing to talk to you, be aware that they are also there to meet people. After a few minutes of discussion, move on to meet others – the person will typically approach you if they wish to continue the conversation further.
  • Write down information about where you met the person (and any tidbits of knowledge you exchanged) on the back of the business cards you receive (as soon as possible) after the event so that you can recall who the person is later. A pile of scrambled and mixed business cards isn’t good for business later.  (Key point: do NOT do this in front of people, especially with new contacts from Asia as the business card is an extension of the person.)
  • Be helpful to others: people love to talk about their own business(es) and will often approach you to sell you on their company or product. Let them do so and give them information to help them (such as a lead or idea)- interest in others invariably ends up attracting others to you.
  • Follow-up with the people you meet – especially if you’ve promised to email or otherwise give them information.

What do you think – are these tips helpful?

Do you have any tips to add?  Please post them as a comment !

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.
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=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

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