Most seasoned networkers know all the tips and tricks when it comes to meeting people? But how can you avoid the conversations that aren't mutually beneficial? Matt Kaine, chief marketing officer of Big Rock Labs has developed an app that should streamline the networking process. With a networking guru in our midst I couldn't resist an interview, so we discussed using social media to network,
Let’s jump in at the deep end shall we? At networking events it feels like everyone’s got the process cracked, the days of rapid-fire pitching and “sales-y” style conversations are over.
What advice can you give to this new breed of networkers who have already heard all about “providing the other person with value” and “help others connect”?
I would suggest a few things. Do your research and know when to exit. Before the event, read up on the event online especially if it's your first time. Know who attends, get a feel for the vibe and know how to dress. Nothing is worse than entering a room you know nothing about, topics you are foreign to or being over or underdressed. You don't have to be an expert on the topic but being able to speak generally and ask the right questions will get you a lot further.
Time is precious. We have all met a few mismatches during a round of networking and it's always good to have a polite yet abrupt way of ending a conversation and moving on.
Be wary of handing out a business card or suggesting to follow up at a later time as an exit as you may be opening yourself up to a connection you had no synergy within the first place. You'll gain confidence as you acquire this skill and will benefit in meeting more people at an event.
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Similarly do you have any advice for people who are starting to grow their professional network? Once your network gets to a certain size it becomes nigh-impossible to manage due to the sheer amount of names, industry sectors, and skill sets to remember.
Do you have any techniques or secrets that can help people maximise the usefulness of a large or growing network?
If you are just starting out I would recommend attending as many events as possible. The more practice the better and over time you will grow your network strategically through referrals and by identifying yourself as an active member of the community.
The types of events I recommend are events that grow your network in your current business and build insight and open doors to a role or industry you are curious in exploring. For example, if your first job is a sales role at a tech company you should attend industry events to grow that specific network.
If you are, for example, interested in moving into the Ad industry I would recommend attending Advertising mixers to begin to understand the culture and language as well as meet people who potentially could help you find a role in that industry.
With the ubiquity of smartphones and our access to social media always in arms reach, what (other than your Reach app) is your favourite way of connecting with other professionals and can you share a story of a digital handshake that went particularly well?
Twitter works well for me. Event goers, organizers, sponsors and speakers are usually very active and approachable. There have been numerous times where I have been able to crack a lead and book a meeting. An eventual advisory role happened during a live tweet event at a technology predictions summit.
Seasoned networkers often tell me that they know there are people who they can be valuable to at an event but don’t know who they are, your app Reach seems to address that.
What’s the most innovative use of the app you’ve seen and what features are you hoping to add in the future?
Right. My favorite feature in this version is definitely the filters function. You're able to work a room in a matter of seconds.
You can sort people by industry and role and zone in on the person you are looking for which results in time efficiency and avoiding any unnecessary missed connections. People are connecting because of mutual connections, recruitment, mentorship and more, all in real time.
Over the next quarter, for Reach 1.5, we have an exciting design update as well as improved messaging which includes instant messaging, Blackberry integration, additional sign-in options and several engagement strategies for both local business and events.
In March, 2.0 will launch and this will be our WOW release. Stay tuned.
Speaking of the future, what networking “trends” do you expect to see in 2015 and which trends from 2014 do you hope will continue?
In 2014, we've seen a lot of new event groups pop up. It's been more available than ever to host an event, particularly in the tech space and there has been some great evolutions in the area of hack-a-thons which usually spinoff the said events. We also saw more willingness from sponsors to get behind or sponsor grassroots, local events, which was very refreshing.
In 2015, I hope to see further iterations on events such as hack-a-thons. I hope to see more funding, encouragement for those who don't win to carry on and for the winners to enter programs that will enable them to take their concept into completion and go to market. Unfortunately in 2014 many of those who won were limited to very few advisory roles and little to no funding which lead to the demise of many potentially good ideas.