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

Diane K. Danielson interview – CEO Downtown Women’s Club, Speaker, Author and Blogger

Diane K. Danielson is the CEO of DowntownWomensClub.com a career website and social network for businesswomen and the co-author of Table Talk: The Savvy Girl’s Alternative to Networking (2003) and The Savvy Gal’s Guide to Online Networking (or What Would Jane Austen Do?) (2007).

She blogs for www.womensDISH.com, the Boston Globe, and reviews books online for Entrepreneur magazine and is a frequent speaker at corporations and organizations on gender and generational issues.

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

Diane K. Danielson: Business networking for me is about connecting with people around like interests. This is something I enjoy and tend to do quite naturally because I love learning about business (all businesses) and I love talking to people and helping them if I can.

When you really think about it, networking is about learning; and if you stop learning, or limit yourself or your knowledge base, it’s likely that your career, and even your interest in your career will stall out.

My first real exposure to networking was the summer after I quit being a lawyer. While I was technically “networking” for a job, what I was really doing was seeking information about all these other fascinating careers that I found much more interesting than being an attorney.

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

Diane K. Danielson: Stop worrying about your own comfort and focus on other people’s comfort. If you make other people comfortable (chances are, if you’re at a networking event, they’re just as self-conscious as you), they are going to like you, and people do business with people they like.

Josh: What are some special techniques for starting a conversation at a networking event? Can you share some memorable ways to approach people you are interested in connecting with?

Diane K. Danielson: Always raise the energy level when you approach a group. Don’t be the one complaining about the traffic, location, food, the weather, whatever. Remember: you want to make people comfortable.

As an opener, flattery always work. If I’m approaching a speaker, I might comment on an interesting point and ask them to tell me a little bit more. Or, if I can tell someone has taken great care with their attire/appearance, I might comment on their taste, a piece of jewelry, etc. But, beware, false flattery is always evident. Then after the hello, I put on my journalist hat and start asking questions.

One tip – stay away from yes and no questions. When inquiring about someone’s place of work, ask how long they’ve worked there, what brought them to the company in the first place, etc.

Josh: What events, places, or resources (online or offline) have you found to be especially good for networking? And based on your experience what makes them stand out?

Diane K. Danielson: I actually like online networking because you can get right down to business (and it’s at your convenience, not someone else’s). I’ve had particular success with LinkedIn’s Answers feature, where I can ask a question and have people answer. This also happens with blogs. When I comment on someone’s blog (or vice versa) people do answer if I have a question, and then the conversation continues. Online also allows you the time to research someone’s background (something you can’t do at a cocktail party!).

For my in-person networking, I actually call myself a “CLC” gal (Coffee, Lunch and Cocktails). I like the casualness and the freedom to mix and mingle, or to leave when I need to, that a sit-down dinner doesn’t always afford. But, in truth, my best networking interactions tend to be random and unplanned – on airplanes, at a neighbor’s holiday party, through my soccer team, or just hanging out with my girlfriends.

Josh: Diane, you’re the author of “The Savvy Gal’s Guide to Online Networking”. Can you give us a quick overview as to what the reader can expect to learn in the book. Also, could you share a few of the techniques you teach in it?

Diane K. Danielson: The Savvy Gal’s Guide to Online Networking (or What Would Jane Austen Do?) is a “how to” manual jam-packed with tips and tactics – but written in a fun, friendly and familiar format. That’s where Jane Austen comes in.

Throughout the book, the reader can follow the antics of Wendy, a Jane Austen-like character, whose blog excerpts appear in each chapter. Why Jane? Because good manners is at the root of good networking. No matter what the medium.

Some of the online networking tips that run throughout the book include:

Savvy Tip #5: Do the one-minute search test before you hit the send button. If you’re approaching a new contact via email, take one minute to search his or her name on the web. If there’s a wealth of information out there, and it’s easily discoverable within 60 seconds, then it’s likely that person will assume you have, at a minimum, that base knowledge before you make contact.

Savvy Tip #8: Don’t be a networking bully. We know that your product, service, or dynamic personality would brighten other people’s day, and if they can’t figure out how, then you would love to explain it to them. However, you can’t assume that at the particular moment you sent your email, the other person really wants his or her day brightened by you. This is where networking differs from sales. Your earnest persistence may come off as bullying if you don’t leave some “wiggle room” for your contact to politely decline your request to connect.

Savvy Tip #15: Avoid online identity theft. We’re not talking about the online theft of your bank account, but someone innocently co-opting your online image. It happens, especially if you have a somewhat common name. The best way to stand out from the crowd is to populate the web with content by, or about, you. You also might consider using a nickname professionally or your middle initial. Both will help distinguish you from any online “twins.”

The Savvy Gal’s Guide to Online Networking (or What Would Jane Austen Do?) is 140 pages, and is available at Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com, as well as through the Downtown Women’s Club, where new members who join for $49.99/year will receive a complimentary copy in their welcome goodybag. For more information about the book, and the continuing saga of it’s main character, Wendy, visit www.SavvyGalBlog.com.

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