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

Interview with Ted Demopoulos – Business Consultant, Speaker and Author

Ted Demopoulos’ professional background includes over 25 years of experience in Information Technology and Business, including 15 years as an independent consultant. Ted has helped start a successful information security company, was the CTO at a “textbook failure” of a software startup, and has advised several other startups.

He is a frequent speaker at conferences and other business events, author of “What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging and Podcasting: Real-Life Advice from 101 People Who Successfully Leverage the Power of the Blogosphere”, coauthor of “Blogging for Business“, and the principal of Demopoulos Associates.

Ted also has an ongoing software concern in Hong Kong, The Arial Group, an Enterprise Risk Management solutions provider.

Josh: Ted, how do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Ted Demopoulos: I define business networking as meeting and interacting with other professionals. It’s more than just meeting, although certainly there will be plenty of people you just meet once and nothing further happens. I also define “professional” extremely loosely: a friend who is an unskilled hourly worker has found his last two jobs through networking.

Business networking is important simply because we like to do business with people we know, and when we don’t know someone directly, a personal recommendation is the next best thing.

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

Ted Demopoulos: Two extremely effective techniques I’ve started using relatively recently are volunteering and blogging.

Volunteering is a great way to meet people. For example, I volunteered to design and implement a survey of the membership for a hobbyist group I belong to, I volunteered to help with a local fund raiser, and I keep volunteering to speak at almost any and all local groups where I think I can add some value. Every time I volunteer, I can’t help but network with new people.

Although I’ve been blogging since 2004, it’s only recently I’ve decided that the biggest benefit is networking. The number of people that have come to know me through my blogging and that I’ve come to know is simply staggering, and I’m certainly not one of the most popular bloggers.

The business connections are pretty amazing. For example, tomorrow I start working on a new project where I was recommended by someone I met through blogging, and I have two current profitable joint ventures with people I’ve met through blogging.

Josh: Do you see any common mistakes people tend to make when it comes to attempting to make business connections? If so what are they and what corrections could they make in your opinion which would help them to be more effective in their approach towards networking?

Ted Demopoulos: There are a lot of common mistakes I see, and I’m sure there are some I don’t see that I make as well. The three most common mistakes I see are:

1) Not networking until you need something. That does not qualify as networking, and also doesn’t work!

2) Simply shaking hands and handing out/collecting business cards. Merely going through the motions does not qualify as networking!

3) Not offering value. Whenever I meet someone, whether electronically or in person, if I’m able to provide them with some value, e.g. through a connection I can offer, advice on a topic I’m knowledgeable on, by recommending a book, article, or Web site, I always do.

Networking is about giving. Giving is usually very easy — it costs nothing to arrange an introduction or recommend a book for example. People you help will remember you, and if one in twenty has an opportunity to help you in the future your investment is easily repaid.

A friend refers to business networking as “The Theory of Karma as Applied to Business,” and although I wouldn’t choose those exact words, they’re very accurate!