Following Up with Finesse

An old adage says that 80 percent of success is just showing up. But how do you accomplish that other 20 percent – particularly following a networking event like a tradeshow or membership meeting? What comes after collecting a stack … Continue reading


In today’s fast-paced, digital world, it gets easy in the hustle and bustle to overlook the human aspect of a business relationship. “The foundation for successful networking and relationship building is making a good connection—that initial contact with someone rooted in mutual interest or experience that breaks down the wall that exists between us,” said Randy Haim, managing partner of Atlanta-based Bell Oaks Executive Search. “These connections should emanate from your genuine desire to learn about the other person and determine what you have in common.”Â

In his whitepaper “Connecting… The Forgotten Art of Social Interaction,” Haim outlines 10 connection-building skills to develop before your next big networking opportunity. Here are a few:Â

  • Ask questions – This may be one of the oldest pieces of networking advice, but it holds true: you are more interesting when you ask questions. People love to talk about themselves, particularly to someone they can tell is listening with genuine interest. As you get them talking, listen actively, looking for common ground.
  • Get personal – We’re often trained to avoid personal information in business conversation. However, conversations are human interactions, and those personal components – faith, family, values, perspective – are what make us who we are. Don’t shy away from sharing your values and talking with someone about theirs. However, getting to this personal level is uncomfortable for some, so gauge the reaction you receive and proceed accordingly. When done well and with a warm reception, this is a powerful way to an authentic, deep dialogue that can lead to a strong relationship.
  • Use humor – Laughter is one of the easiest icebreakers. Jokes veer toward awkwardness, but when you use humor by making light of a situation or poking fun at yourself, it can build an instant – and positive – bond.
  • Connect through content – Don’t be afraid to take the next step in showing someone you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say by putting that interest into action. If your contact mentions struggling with a professional development challenge and you’ve recently read something on the subject, go ahead and send them an email with the link to the article or a review of the book. This creates a point of discussion and follow up for future interactions.

As you work to better connect with new contacts at a personal, human level, you’ll be surprised at how naturally and easily networking becomes. Focusing on individuals as people, not stepping stones to success, forges a deeper bond that may sustain beyond the business at hand.

Word of Mouth: Networking as Marketing?

Networking is undoubtedly an important professional activity, but could you use it for marketing – or even as your sole means of marketing? By harnessing word of mouth’s power while providing a quality good or service with potential to help … Continue reading

Blogging to Opportunities

In today’s world of social media, it seems like everyone and their dog has a blog. (No, really – I’ve seen “dog blogs”!) However, blogging can and should be valued as a platform for differentiating yourself from peers and competitors. Not only is it a space to opine, but it’s also a way to find and create opportunities you never knew existed. Here are a few ways that blogging could lead you to bigger and better things:Â

  • Build a personal brand – A blog provides a platform in which you can share your personal passion and expertise, whether that be related to your profession or not. Some hobby bloggers have gained such followings that they’ve made blogging a lucrative full-time gig, like Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman. Ree’s quirky personality and killer recipes made so many fans that she’s gained sponsors, national exposure on morning shows, and even her own series on The Food Network, not to mention publishing a cookbook. Her success is one in a million, but it showcases how much people connect with passion and stories, no matter in what specific area. If you’re an avid golfer, tell some of the experience that stand out from your time on the course. Draw analogies between your golf game and business or life in general. Help your personality shine through. Many bloggers have made their way to the corporate speaking circuit or the realm of consulting.
  • Increase your network – One of the interesting dynamics of today’s online world is that perfect strangers can find one another by connecting over content, whether it be vigilance over car-seat safety or a shared interest in bird-watching. Place relevant, engaging content in the blogosphere, and then take the time to find bloggers with a shared passion. If you comment on their blogs and engage in a conversation – not merely trying to direct traffic to your own blog – then you will be able to find like-minded online friends. Increased connections up your chances of professional opportunities, either from focusing your blogging energy on a professionally relevant issue or by making new friends who might know someone with the ability to get you to the job you need.
  • Keep current on what’s hot (or not) – Blogging can be a great way to learn what connects with people. See what people are talking about in the blogosphere, and notice what posts you write draw the most comments and debate. Don’t shy away from being a little controversial. Don’t purposefully incite a fight, either – but if you have strong opinions on a particular subject, be bold in stating them. Listen openly to those who counter, and respond thoughtfully. Not only will everyone benefit from a reasoned discussion, but it will also help frame you as an individual who is willing to take a stand.

What Is Klout (and Why Should You Care)?

Social media measurers Klout announced that they reached the milestone of 100 million people with “Klout Scores” that indicate the individual’s influence from data across 10 networks, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare. That’s a significant chunk of online users … Continue reading

Leveraging Twitter for Small Business

When looking into Twitter success stories, a lot of the most obvious winners are major companies and national brands – Ford, Dell, Johnson & Johnson. However, if you think that means Twitter is only for the “big dogs,” think again. … Continue reading

Baby Steps Toward Social Media Prowess

Recently I was talking with a friend whose baby girl has just started to crawl. While watching footage of this little gal get around – hesitantly and haltingly at first – it made me think of how important it is … Continue reading

Want to be Like’d? Be engaging

Everybody wants to be liked – especially in today’s Facebook world, where the thumbs-up “Like” button represents the ultimate stamp of approval from consumers to their networks. But how do you get the “Like” love on Facebook (and other crowd-sourced … Continue reading