Networking: The Morning After

So, a new day has dawned, and you’ve survived Yet Another Networking Experience. Your head might be spinning from all the new faces and names you encountered last night and, hopefully, you have a nice pile of business cards to fill the gap left by all the ones you handed out.

So, now what?

This, my friends, is where you practice the fine art of following up. As soon as your daily schedule permits, you need to sit down with that pile of new cards and go through them carefully. Refresh your memory of each and every person in the pile and do your best to recall what you talked about before, during, and after the exchange. Those details are about to become useful.

Now get your mind cleared, your fingers limbered up, and write a follow-up email to each and every person who gave you a card. Use a friendly and informative subject line, like “Great meeting you at the Chamber Business after Hours last night!” so they’ll know right away why they’re getting an email from someone out of the blue. Be cordial and even flattering, but don’t over-do it and sound plastic and fake. The email is more effective if you can include a brief comment or reference to something you shared while talking—this not only helps reinforce the encounter in their minds as well, it shows them you were paying attention and hence their time was valuable to you. Going back to my anecdote on my “working a room” post, I mentioned how I interested a couple of people in possibly animating their logo. In my follow-up email I mentioned that possibility again, as well as added a couple of thoughts I had on how I might approach it. If they were part of a small group, such as the two people with the logo, it’s fine to address them all with a single email.

That moment you had their attention last night was fleeting, even if you made a good impression. Now they have something tangible with your name on it, reminding them of that impression, and you’ve become a more permanent fixture in their mind. If you feel especially bold, take this opportunity to pitch something of what you do, or to suggest another meeting where you can have each other’s undivided attention. It can’t hurt!

Networking is, first and foremost, all about building professional relationships. You can’t build something like that from five minutes over a handshake and a beer. Such encounters are just planting a seed, one that needs to be nurtured and watered in order to do the proverbial sprouting thing.

Now go ye forth and reap!

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Does Networking Make You Feel Sleazy?

I know that many people have hang-ups related to networking, including fear and self-consciousness. I’m not a huge fan of putting myself out there, either, given my normally-introverted state of mind. It’s taken me years to get to the point where I feel (mostly) comfortable walking up to total strangers, sticking out my hand, and striking up a conversation that’s supposed eventually to lead to what we both do for a living.

It wasn’t until I read an article in Inc. Magazine today that I realized some people’s unease might go even deeper. Here’s the link:

It’s Official: Networking Makes People Feel Sleazy

To quote part of the piece:

“Unlike personal networking in pursuit of emotional support or friendship, and unlike social ties that emerge sxpontaneously, instrumental networking in pursuit of professional goals can impinge on an individual’s moral purity–a psychological state that results from viewing the self as clean from a moral standpoint–and thus make an individual feel dirty.”

Wow, that’s some crazy stuff. I can’t say that I’ve felt this way—at least not consciously. Nervous, feeling unworthy, stuff like that, but not actually unclean. I know there are studies and then there are studies, but this one made me think.

How about you? Do you feel “dirty” when you’re pressing the flesh and promoting yourself?

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More “Smart Watch” Blather

More smart watch musings because that topic is everywhere today and I’m interested in them: the deal clincher is going to be the stuff it does besides tell the time and date, obviously. I wear a $35 Timex that I’ve had so long it’s on its third band; Anne got it for me ages ago. Regular watch stuff I already got.

I’m not terribly hung up on looks, though I expect Apple’s designers agonized over their offering. Given the limited screen real estate I’m thinking Moto’s round face approach was a mistake: those corners are useful. I’m also not a big fan of the chain mail band look. Give me fabric or leather.

I can’t stress this enough: battery life. Rumor has it the Moto can’t even get through a regular workday without dying. The use case: you take it off the charger in the morning and put it on. You use it fairly regularly through the day. You don’t take it off again until it hits the charger when you get ready for bed. If it can’t survive that long then it’s really not very useful.

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Spinny’s Thoughts on “Smart Watches”

Why does a “smart watch” even make sense? I’m not 100% sure myself, but I have some ideas. For an analogy: I have a “smart key” for my car. I never have to take it out of my pocket and yet I can lock/unlock the doors of my car as well as start the engine when it’s “on” me. The car even knows when I approach and turns on the interior lights to greet me.

I would look for a wearable gadget to do the same for my phone: reduce the times I need to take it out of my pocket by a large degree. Emails, text messages, calendar (and location-based) notifications…things like that. I might even like to see some navigation ability, but the screen size might make that impractical—in fact, reading an email (much less responding to it) might be difficult on such a screen. I’m curious to see what Apple actually delivers. Yes, I know the Moto just came out, but already it left me meh (and of course I don’t participate in the Android ecosystem so double meh). The “iWatch” (or whatever the hell they call it) won’t get a free pass from me, either. One possible Big Deal? The rumored wireless charging ability. Battery life on the Moto is already drawing howls from reviewers.

Again, we’ll see. I’ll be an interested watcher of the Apple keynote next Tuesday.

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Spinny’s Networking Tips: Working a Room

I’m going to post a kind of series on this, starting today. No, I am not a “guru,” nor a “rockstar,” nor any of those silly over-used social media terms. I’m just a solopreneur making his way through the business jungle and sometimes I feel like I have a glimmer of an idea worth sharing.

So, you’re at your local Chamber of Commerce mixer, beer in hand, some hors d’oeuvres in your belly, and a room full of people surround you whom you know diddley about. Yikes. Rule one: they’re all here for the same reason you are, to network. Relax, they’re not going to recoil in horror when a stranger approaches them.

How do you worm your way in to a stranger’s notice without obnoxiously being “that guy?” It’s not really hard. Size up a smallish group that’s chatting, causally work your way into the circle. Nod and listen. C’mon: this isn’t rocket science. Odds are they’re making small talk, you can feel your way into how and when to toss in your two cents (I’m assuming here that you’re not pathologically terrified of small talk; if so, I can’t help you). At some point other people will drift in or out. I’m also assuming there are name tags involved: I’d be very surprised if not. The guy next to you is probably primed with his own elevator speech, so as things calm a little greet him by name and ask him about his business. Guess what? He’s probably in the same boat as you, and gravitated to a safe group. You’ve just handed him the keys to the kingdom! Score one for you.

Listen to him (okay, also her. I’m not going to get silly trying to stick with gender neutral pronouns. Deal), I mean, really pay attention. No matter how boring or mundane or unrelated to your interests his business might turn out to be, I guarantee you he has some “pain,” as in, things that could be better. As he talks, what are his pains, and can you do anything about them? Do you know anyone who might be able to? If not, the worst you’ve done is met someone you can add to your circle. If you hit pay dirt and there’s some pain you can help with, now you have a real in! Take it from there. If you didn’t score to that degree, odds are he’s going to ask you about your business. Now it’s your turn for the elevator pitch, show your demo if you have one, and so on. I say this without being facetious: be assured and interesting. Stammering and stuttering and acting terrified gets you nowhere. Keep reminding yourself: this guy is here because he WANTS to hear from people like you.

Here’s how the network works in the second degree (after you’ve moved on): yesterday someone approached me at a Chamber mixer out of the blue. She’d heard about me from someone she’d just talked to, with whom I’d talked earlier in the evening, and who remembered me and (correctly) realized she and I should talk. He fired her my way, and voila. Make sure you do that for others! Be a facilitator as much as a networker.

And lather, rinse, repeat. You can float from circle to circle for as long as the venue will put up with your event. Don’t be afraid to spend some time working older contacts you’ve already made, either: reinforcement is always a good thing. I’ve been at this for a couple of years now and at this point I try to divide my time equally between reinforcing old contacts and making new ones. This isn’t a science, it’s an art, and you should trust your gut.

I can’t stress this enough: these people WANT to meet you, that’s why they are there! Relax, relax, and relax some more. Have fun! Yesterday I spent a fair amount of time listening to some insurance sales reps talk about how they make cold calling fun. I laughed and laughed, and also got the business cards of every single one of them and have a couple of them potentially interested in how I can jazz up their logo with animation. No one is a waste of your time.

Next time I think I’ll talk about what you do The Morning After.

Cheers!

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What Makes Spinny Feel Old

You know when I start feeling old? When I interact with situations like the “night life scene” and with people into “street” culture. Maybe those aren’t even the right words for it.

Noise and crowds bother the shit out of me. I avoid them whenever possible. When I think of fun live music my image is sitting on a couch where someone with a guitar (acoustic, of course) and a mike is all there is on stage, and you can hear the person next to you talking at a normal volume. Sure, I like to “rock out” to groups like Led Zep—but on my own, in my own space, and the volume is pretty low. I’m that guy complaining about a neighbor’s noise, not the one making it.

The “street” thing I also don’t get. Crooked caps and saggy pants? Straighten out and pull up, man! Making weird signs with your fingers? What the hell is up with that?

So, yeah: contrasting myself to that kind of stuff is what makes me feel old. While I’m at it, all you kids get off my goddamn lawn.

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Spinny’s Mini Review of Godzilla 2014

The verdict up front: generally good and a satisfying monster movie, with lots of homage to the original. Monsters going all WWF on each other is, after all, at the core of a Godzilla movie.

I found the beginning slow, but they managed to start ramping up the tension towards mayhem before I got too restless. The rationale behind one of the principals ending up in the thick of every major event felt flimsy, but again a hallmark of the genre is seeing colossal mayhem through humans trying to survive it and that character’s perspective gave continuity to the epic action happening all around.

My main beef was with a seeming incomprehensible decision by the military to move some critical assets via a means that appeared doomed to monster interference from the beginning. The decision generated a lot of opportunity for tension, drama and outright fright but that whole section of the movie could easily have been avoided by a trivial change in what was, frankly, a dumb plan.

I give it 3.5 stars out of 5. This isn’t high drama but it’s a kick ass monster movie and worthy homage to the genre.

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The Power of Prayer

This is potentially controversial. So be it.

In light of the recent joint prayer for peace (including Jewish and Islamic leaders) facilitated by the Catholic Pope, I wanted to hold forth on why I consider such events to be important:

  • People hear/participate in a prayer.
  • People believe in that prayer.
  • People modify their behavior based on that belief.
  • Things thereby happen.

That’s how it works. I respectfully submit that if you merely say the words (regardless of how devoutly or fervently) and then passively wait for Divine Intervention you are destined for disappointment.

“God helps those who help themselves.”

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Great profile piece on my Studio in today’s Observer-Dispatch.

Image of Mark at work

Image credit: Mark DiOrio / Observer-Dispatch

All his life, Mark Dyson kept his two passions – art and technology – separate.

That was until about two years ago, when the 53-year-old Deerfield man quit his job as a computer graphics designer with the Northrop Grumman Corporation and combined those loves into his own 3D animation business called Spinland Studios.

“I went back and forth with my wife for about a year before finally pulling the trigger,” Dyson said. “It just felt like the right time … and I knew that the Mohawk Valley was historically underserved in this area and I could hopefully fill the gap.”

Operating out of his home studio, the retired U.S. Air Force member creates 3D animations and logos that can be used by local businesses and organizations for advertising and presentations, and by independent filmmakers as special effects.

Read the whole article at the Utica Observer-Dispatch here.

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The Fisherman and The Businessman

I’ve seen several variations of this brief story. All are similar in the basic premise, differing only in trivial details. I believe it’s a powerful answer to the question, “What are you working for?”

An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.

“But… What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you could run your expanded enterprise with proper management.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, señor, how long will all this take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years, 25 tops.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions señor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll into the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

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