When I was deciding which CMS (Content Management Platform) to adopt as my primary web building tool, I chose WordPress because of the size and enthusiasm of its community. Well, I just wrapped up WordCamp 2012 (read my take on WordCamp 2011) hosted, again, by Boston University and can tell you the community is growing in both size and enthusiasm. It’s also getting younger – or maybe it’s me just getting older. In any case, I’m encouraged by the collective intelligence, creativity and determination of our 20 and 30 somethings.
Who Are All These Smart People?
So as I did last year, I’d like to thank the following people for making me smarter:
*Jesse Friedman wrote a book. Here is how he told us about it: “Oh, by the way, I wrote a book. Buy it.” I’m certainly going to, even though, as Jesse said, “you’ll have to wait four months to get it.” Gotta love the off-handed manner in which such a bright young guy announced such an impressive achievement.
Buffalo Wild Wings in Saugus, Massachusetts hosting a networking event sponsored by the Saugus and Peabody Area Chambers of Commerce
Socializing is one of the most basic of human activities. This has been true since the dawn of man. Whether around a fire after a grueling hunt, or the television after an episode of American Idol, we love to gather and tell stories. We are social creatures. It’s what we do.
Socializing With an Agenda
I like to think of networking as socializing with an agenda. Madison Avenue got it right in the seventies with this classic commercial for Faberge shampoo. (I’m not hawking Faberge products. The video is for illustrative purposes only.) Remember the line “they’ll tell two friends and so on”? That’s networking.
Then there’s the young man who, in the early forties, developed a method for turning black polyethylene slag, a waste product produced in oil refinement, into a material that was flexible, tough, non-porous, non-greasy, odorless and translucent. He knew he had something but it wasn’t until he met Brownie Wise in 1948 that he and his product became household names. Brownie’s idea was to hold informal social gatherings in peoples’ homes to demonstrate the product. “If we build the people,” she was fond of saying, “they’ll build the business.” Apparently, Mary Kay and others were listening. The man was Earl Tupper and to this day, the Tupperware Home Party, remains the exclusive outlet for Tupperware. Earl Tupper sold his company to Rexall in 1958 for a staggering $16 million. That’s networking.
I said that networking is socializing with an agenda. There is nothing wrong with that. But you must play by the rules or you will lose the social capital you have earned and may never get it back. Here are some tips that work well for me:
don’t play at being interested in others. Be genuinely interested.
ask people what they do before you start talking about yourself. Listen to the answer. Really listen.
don’t lead a conversation by trying to sell your product or service. Instead, seek to establish your expertise or authority.
dress appropriately – this may seem obvious but I’m still amazed at how many people show up at networking events dressed for the beach, or the nightclub or …. well you get my point.
act appropriately – this too may seem obvious, but if you’re spending more time chatting up the bartender than the other professionals in the room ….. well you get my point.
business cards – yes, exchange business cards. That’s why you’re there – to expand your professional network. But don’t, I repeat, don’t add your new contacts to your mailing list without asking permission. This is a real pet peeve of mine.
don’t be shy – this is a tough one. If you’re shy by nature than the whole idea of networking is probably challenging for you. Remember that everyone is there for the same reason – to make new contacts and expand their sphere of influence. Once you introduce yourself to a few people you will get into the groove.
The thing about networking etiquette is that the rules aren’t codified or written down anywhere; they’re mostly a matter of common courtesy. But like all rules, violating them comes with a penalty. Many of the people you are likely to meet at networking events are seasoned business professionals. If you come to the party shamelessly selling your wares or talking about yourself non-stop or grabbing business cards and leaving, you will not be taken seriously. That’s the penalty.
And Now Back to You
Are you a networker? Do you belong to any Chambers of Commerce or other professional networking organizations? Has your participation helped you grow your business? What tips can you give others to get more out of networking? Talk to me.
I just wrapped up a great weekend of WordPress related stuff at the Boston WordCamp 2011 held at Boston University’s Sherman Hall. Man there are a lot of really smart people out there and I’m grateful for their willingness to share their knowledge. For me the sense of community has always been the differentiator between WordPress and the myriad other content management systems out there. Oh I know that there are other CMS communities but I’m talking about COMMUNITY as in the willingness to share, to help, to NOT judge and to make you feel welcome. The T-shirt and the great lunch (sponsored by .tv) were certainly an added bonus.
Who Are all These Smart People?
Okay, I get that you may not care about any of this but if you’re going to hire me to build your website you should feel comforted that I care about it. So, many thanks to the following people who gave their time to make me smarter:
And a special thanks to C. C. Chapman (who has to be the world’s friendliest human being) for not making me feel like a complete dork for asking him to sign his book, Content Rules.
By the way, Boston University deserves a thank you too for allowing the WordPress community to take over the George Sherman Union building at 775 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
City of Champions
Sidenote: On one of the breaks between sessions I stepped outside, and with the sound of delirious Red Sox fans coming from Fenway Park three blocks away, snapped this picture of a poster hanging in the window of the Sherman Union building. Pardon me for gloating.