Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

Interview with Sue Pelletier of Association Meetings magazine

Sue Pelletier is editor of Association Meetings magazine, and has worked on several other of The Meetings Group magazines and Web sites since she joined Prism Business Media in 1998. Sue previously wrote for and edited several national and international trade magazines and newsletters for the environmental industry. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Colorado, Boulder, she also helped to plan a technical trade conference and exposition and several smaller meetings for the environmental industry before deciding to stick with what she does best.

Josh: How do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Sue Pelletier: No offense intended, but I really dislike the word “networking” as applied to humans. Let’s leave the networking to computers and build some relationships instead. Too much of what we think of as business networking really is just prospecting and, while prospecting has its place, it doesn’t develop a level of trust and human connection that I believe is becoming more and more essential to doing business in this Web 2.0 world.

So to me, it’s all about finding people who have a need you can fulfill. Whether or not it will ever pay off for you personally, you do what you can for that person. By meeting that need without a “what’s in it for me” mindset, you create a relationship with that person, and, by extension, with the people s/he knows.

Maybe I’m just na├»ve, but when you do something good for another person, it does get paid forward and, eventually, come back around to you, often in a totally unexpected yet truly meaningful way.

So, I guess I’d define it kind of sideways to how we usually think of networking: as trying to find ways to benefit others we meet, rather than than meeting others with the thought that they can benefit us in some way.

Josh: Can you share one idea that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Sue Pelletier: Use the online tools that are available these days, including LinkedIn, MySpace, and the gazillion interactive Web sites and blogs out there where you can share your expertise.

Does your industry have any listservs? Join up and answer questions in your area of interest. I have made so many connections in so many unlikely places–all I can say is get out there and share what you know in a thoughtful, respectful, non-commercial way.

Josh: How do you follow up with the people you meet? Do you have any particular system in place for keeping up with and managing the relationships in your business network?

Sue Pelletier: I try to follow up immediately, and give them something useful along the lines of whatever it is we talked about. Or at least bring another thread into the conversation, or mention someone who they might want to get in touch with.

The only semi-organized thing I do is to write down whatever we talked about on their business card, so I remember to follow up. My system is mainly serendipity, but you’d be surprised at just how well it works!

-You can visit Sue at Association Meetings magazine.