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Networking Tips

8 Networking Goals for 2010

“Achieving the following networking goals in January will pay off all year long,” according to networking and small talk expert, Don Gabor—author of TURN SMALL TALK INTO BIG DEALS: Using 4 Key Conversation Styles to Customize Your Networking Approach, Build Relationships and Win More Clients.

Starting NOW,  Don advises you to:

  1. Save networking dates. Mark your 2010 calendar for at least one networking event a month including SQL Saturdays, other industry or career related conferences or meetings, and, of course, PASS Summit 2010, November 8-11 in Seattle, WA.
  2. Make new or re-establish contacts. Set yourself a goal of making 1-5 new professional contacts a month either in person or via the Internet. Reconnecting with long-lost  contacts counts! If you start now that will yield 12-60 new contacts by the end of 2010!
  3. Follow-up with recent contacts. January is the perfect time to send emails, make calls or mail promised information to the contacts you met at recent events like PASS Summit 2009 or holiday parties.
  4. Refer clients or assistance to colleagues. The new year is a tough time for everyone, so referring potential business or offering assistance to colleagues in January will most certainly be appreciated and remembered all year long.  
  5. Get professionally printed business cards. It’s easy and cheap to have professionally printed business cards. (Business cards printed on home printers look amateurish.) Do a search for “business cards” and get them done right.
  6. Get involved. Join professional associations and volunteer to help in the monthly meetings. The professional relationships you begin in January will strengthen all year long.
  7. Start your list of networking goals for 2010. Effective networking begins with clearly defined goals. Start a list now and you will be pleasantly surprised to see how many you can accomplish by December. To see possible networking goals, click here
  8. Practice your conversation and networking skills every day. If meeting people and making small talk at networking events doesn’t come natural to you, consider reading my book, How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends and improve your connecting skills right away - it’s easier than you think and can really accelerate your career.

3 Ways to Connect at Networking Events

When you attend SQLSaturday or other networking events do you just mingle with your buddies about the latest application, blog or database issue? If so, you’re missing out on career-boosting opportunities! Yes, you want to keep up with old friends, but an even larger part of networking is building professional relationships and making new contacts. Here are 3 ways to connect at networking events:

  1. Spend a few minutes catching up with colleagues.
  2. Reintroduce yourself to acquaintances. Update each other on your business activities.
  3. Introduce yourself to at least one or two new people. Ask, “What are you hoping to get out of this meeting?” or “What part of the industry or business are you in?”

How to Remember Names

When you meet colleagues at networking events, do the names go in one ear and out the other? The people I asked about this issue at my pre-con workshop "Networking to Build Business Contacts," at the PASS Summit 2009, said the same thing. However, most were surprised to learn they could improve their ability to remember names by following these five simple steps.

  1. Focus on the moment of introduction.
  2. Don’t think about what to say—listen for the name.
  3. Repeat the name aloud.
  4. Think of someone you know with the same name. (This works about 75% of the time.)
  5. Use the name during and at the end of the conversation.

Network in Groups to Increase Your Contacts

Networking in groups allows you to meet more people than networking one-on-one. It also allows you to find out about more of your colleague’s experiences and needs. To network in groups you need to join existing conversations. Here’s how:

  1. Look for open groups. 
  2. Move within “eavesdropping” distance. 
  3. Establish eye contact. Smile at the people in the group.
  4. Ask an easy-to-answer question or make a positive comment.
  5. Ask, “Do you mind if I join you?” Introduce yourself, ask a follow-up questions and offer short comments.

Ways to Improve Conversations

How well we connect with others is based on our ability to communicate our ideas, feelings and opinions. For some it’s easy - for others it’s been a lifelong problem. Here are ten tips from Don's tip sheet, “50 Ways to Improve Your Conversations.”

  1. Introduce yourself to others.
  2. Be the first to say hello.
  3. Take risks. Don't anticipate rejection.
  4. Display your sense of humor.
  5. Be receptive to new ideas.
  6. Ask a person's name if you have forgotten it.
  7. Show curiosity and interest in others.
  8. Tell others about the important events in your life.
  9. Tell others about yourself and what you enjoy doing.
  10. Make an extra effort to remember people's names.

Networking for PASS Summit

It’s never too early to start the networking process for PASS Summit 2010. This is the biggest and best educational event for SQL Server and BI professionals who want to connect with their industry leaders, peers, mentors, speakers and vendors. It may be about five months away, but here are 5 things you can do now to enhance your networking in Seattle in November.

  1. Visit the PASS Summit website and check out the “ROI Justification” to help identify your networking goals. Successful networkers set networking goals.
  2. Get involved. Click on http://www.sqlpass.org/Community.aspx and explore the many opportunities to connect and network with industry leaders and peers before, during and after the conference.
  3. Join the PASS LinkedIn group and Twitter to stay on top of the latest 2010 PASS Summit news.
  4. Send emails introducing yourself to PASS officers, committee members, speakers and anyone else you want to meet in Seattle. (Note: It’s a lot easier breaking the ice in person if you’ve already met and chatted online!)
  5. Serve as a PASS volunteer for the conference. You’ll have an inside track to the movers and shakers who make this event happen. Plus you’ll get to attend my pre-conference volunteers' networking session for free!

Networking at Summer Functions

Composer George Gershwin probably said it best: “It’s Summer time and the living is easy!” And so is networking at BBQs, parties, company picnics, reunions, weddings and other places where people congregate to have fun. Keep these points in mind and you’ll see that it’s easier than you might think to connect with co-workers, old friends, acquaintances and even strangers.

  1. Make a list of general interest and technology topics you like to talk about.
  2. Be able to tell non-techies what you do in a sentence or two without using technical jargon or cryptic initials.
  3. Ask the host for a guest list and to introduce you to a few people who he or she thinks might share some of your general and business interests.          

People attend summer functions to socialize, make new friends and have a good time, so everyone expects you to mix and mingle.

Networking at IT Conferences

If you sometimes are at a loss of what to say when you network at IT conferences, here is a conversation tip that I presented at SQL Saturday #40. Before you attend a networking event, take about ten minutes to do this exercise.

Trace an outline of your left and right hands, palms facing you on a sheet of paper. In the center of your drawing of your left palm write, “Business topics.” In the center of your drawing of your right palm, write “General topics.” Next, on each finger of your left hand, write a specific business topic that you can talk about. For example, “SQL Industry trends,” “PASS Summit 2010 networking goals,” “Career opportunities,” etc. On each finger of your right hand, write one specific general topic that you can talk about. For example, “Computer games,” “Electronic gadgets,” “Sci-fi TV shows,” “family vacation,” etc.

Take a minute to memorize the topics on the drawings of your hands. The next time you are at a networking event and there is a brief pause in your conversations, glance at your hands and, chances are, you’ll remember a few of the business and general topics you like to talk about.

PASS Summit Preparations

As PASS Summit 2010 nears, it’s time to reach out to others with whom you share professional interests and goals (bloggers, colleagues, vendors, PASS officials, etc) with emails and/or telephone calls. Tell these potential contacts that you are attending the conference and if they are too, you would like to meet them and discuss:

  • Industry trends (“What do you see as the trends over the next 6-24 months that will impact our markets, companies, positions and careers?”)
  • New products, systems and procedures (“What training and new equipment do you think we will need to stay competitive?”)
  • Technical issues (“What are your company’s biggest technical challenges?”)

Taking the initiative to contact people you don’t know well or at all takes some nerve, but it shows you are confident, want to network and understand the value of connecting with your peers and the SQLServer industry thought-leaders. 

Don Gabor will be presenting three programs at the Summit. A networking session for volunteers, a pre-con workshop, “Networking for Business Contacts” and a regular session, “Effective Communication with Non-Technical Colleagues.” Don is a networking expert and the author of eight books. Don is the current president of the NYC Chapter of the National Speakers Association. His website is www.dongabor.com.

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