August 04, 2004

Networking For Business And Personal Success

As part of my ongoing quest to understand the value of "networking", on Monday night I attended the British Computer Society Young Professionals Group's Networking For Business And Personal Success. I think I've been searching for that "Aha!" moment when I suddenly understand the value of networking. While Monday's event didn't provide that, it did impart a number of useful tips, and I've realised that I haven't worked out how other people can help what I'm doing right now. I expect networking will make a lot more sense in a while, when I've got the bulk of the software written.

The main speaker for the evening was Craig Goldblatt, an enthusiastic, go-getting salesman - not quite Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia (played by Tom Cruise), but in a similar vein. Despite this, his presentation was interesting and contained some useful tips and ideas.

Preparation and planning are just as vital in networking as they are in anything else. Do you know who your ideal person to meet would be? Spend some time working this out, and then take a couple of hours to write down all the questions you can think of that you'd like to ask them. And think about what the ideal answers to those questions would be.

Before the event, contact the organisers and request a delegate list. Then you can work out in advance who you should be looking to talk to. Work out what makes you unique within the group, and find a novel or "shock tactic" approach to introducing yourself; we all meet so many people that you need to look for ways to make yourself memorable (presumably memorable in a good way...)

When it comes to the actual event... Take the opportunity! Get excited about what you're doing, but don't monopolise the conversation. In a fifteen minute meeting, a bad networker would talk for maybe twelve of those minutes; a good networker maybe seven or eight; and a great networker would only talk for two or three minutes, and ask a couple of great questions.

The second speaker was Ben Booth who (IIRC) is in charge of IT for MORI. His presentation was much shorter, but I felt it was more suitable to an audience of geeks. He agreed that planning is vital, and pointed out that networking is something you have to put some effort into: keep a spreadsheet with details of people you've met, and note something personal about them so that next time you meet you can show that you've taken an interest in them.

Networking begins with one person, and a good way to approach that person is to ask their advice. If need be, contact them and ask if you can meet with them for twenty minutes, then use that time to tell them a little about yourself, listen to their advice, and ask them if they know anyone else that you should talk to. And so on. Be persistent.

Rounding up the presentations, the Chief Executive of the BCS, David Clarke, outlined his plans for the BCS. They are in the process of moving the headquarters to new offices in Covent Garden, which will include a lecture theatre and a drop-in centre, and so be of more direct utility to members. The recent changes in membership criteria are part of a drive to make the BCS more relevant, and provide more value to the public: there'll be 50,000 Members of the BCS this year, and the aim is to have 100,000 MBCS next year; the Society is starting to have an impact, it is involved with the government select committee on technology, for example; but things can take a while compared to a commercial organization when the Privy Council only meets a few times a year, and the meetings must be scheduled such that Her Majesty The Queen can attend!

Posted by Adrian at August 4, 2004 10:05 AM | TrackBack

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