What are the best networking events to attend?

September 25, 2014

The short answer? Whichever ones have the potential to be a success in multiple ways.

If you’ve read my book, you know I’m not a big fan of most traditional networking events. However, there are certain instances where they can be incredibly valuable if properly leveraged.

If you’re considering going to an event that is only offering the opportunity to connect with other professionals, you are putting all of your eggs in one basket. In order for an event like this to be a good investment of your time and money, you’ll have to connect with several relevant, like-minded people. If you don’t meet anyone worthwhile, you’ll have lost time and money that you can never get back.

With no shortage of events to choose from, there are a few things I look for when deciding which ones to attend, and I suggest you do the same.


You probably have a good idea of who you’d like to meet (either a specific person, or folks in certain industries or positions), and most events will provide some clues around who is likely to attend.

If there is a published guest list on the registration page, give it a quick scan to see if you recognize any names (or industry segment) you would like to connect with. For cadre YOUniversity events, we list the names, companies and job titles of attendees (all of whom are carefully vetted), so it’s easy to see that our events are geared to CEOs, business owners and entrepreneurs.

You should also look for events that are specific to certain industries or job titles in your sweet spot. For example, if your business and the value you can provide others centers around companies that are growing, attending an event that specifically focuses on high-growth businesses (which attracts high-growth founders) would position you for success versus a generic event with the word “mixer” or “party” in the title.

Bear in mind, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll connect with anyone in a meaningful way. This risk comes with the territory. Just because someone has a certain job title or a similar target market doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll share your approach to developing professional relationships. This is why content matters. And to that point I would also include…


If a networking event is featuring a world-class speaker, or a panel of experts discussing a topic that’s of interest to you, a lot of the risk is removed. Even if you’re unimpressed by the other attendees, there’s a good chance you’ll be glad you went if you pick up a few game-changing ideas for your business. That said, you should still try to find events with great information AND attendees, since you can probably find some version of the presentation on YouTube. (For example one of the best recurring events in DC that meets both criteria is Connectpreneur.)

Gary Vaynerchuk presenting at a cadre event

Gary Vaynerchuk presenting at a cadre event

Now that you know what to look for in an event, you’ll want to make sure you optimize the opportunity.


If I identify an event that’s featuring a great speaker and/or the expected attendees seem to be the types of folks I want to meet, my next step is to think of who else I know that could benefit from attending.

If I bring a client (prospective clients and strategic partners also do nicely) and can introduce them to some great ideas (via the speaker) and/or people (via attendees that I know), I will deepen my relationship with that person. I don’t have to rely on connecting with other attendees to validate the investment I made by attending.

Taking this a step further, I almost always offer my client the opportunity to bring someone else along. I do this for a couple of reasons. The primary reason is that my client will get credit for introducing someone in their network to some great content and/or people. In the very least, they will probably get more out of the event by sharing the experience with a key member of their network.

The second reason—which should NOT be your motivation for doing this—is that I’ll get the opportunity to meet and interact with someone who could end up being a prospective client or a valuable addition to my network. However, I never follow up with this person in a business context unless they ask me to. If your client gets the impression that your motive in all of this was to pitch to someone in their network, it will make them look bad and reflect poorly on you.

Do you have a process for determining the best networking events to attend? Have you leveraged other companies’ events as a way to play host to your clients and network? How did it work out?

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The Best Conference of the Year for Entrepreneurs: MastermindTalks (and a recap of all 20+ presentations)

July 2, 2014
MastermindTalks creator Jayson Gaignard

MastermindTalks creator Jayson Gaignard

For the second year in a row, I attended what will almost certainly be my favorite conference of the year. MastermindTalks, the brainchild of Jayson Gaignard, is unique in that it delivers both transformational content AND superb networking.

Most of the conferences I attend are focused around a particular topic (social media, wealth management, etc.) and only attract attendees who are interested in that central theme. If I’m lucky the information is good, because it’s unlikely I’ll make a ton of meaningful connections.

MTalks is built from the inside out. Jayson starts by carefully selecting the attendees to ensure that everyone in the room is a good fit. To give you an idea, he receives over 3,000 applications and only extends an invitation to 125. The quality of the attendees truly sets this conference apart. For the second year in a row, I met several remarkable people who could have easily been one of the presenters (several of last year’s presenters were, in fact, attendees this year). And of course, I love the idea of vetting for the highest caliber attendee, as it’s the same model we use when selecting members for cadre.

Melanie and I enjoying a breakout dinner with our friends (old and new).

Melanie and I enjoying a breakout dinner with our friends (old and new).

Once he establishes who will be attending, Jayson selects speakers based on who will provide the most value for his audience. He handpicks 20+ topic-agnostic experts to give TED-style talks, and the amount—and range—of information they share is life-changing. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with all of them (I have linked their names to their website, Twitter profile, etc, where relevant):

Cameron HeroldCameron is a friend who previously headlined a cadre event, where he introduced his “Painted Picture” process. Painting a picture has to do with using creative exercises like imagination and free association to bring the future you envision into the present and get clarity on what you’re building now. You end up with a detailed overview of what your business will be like three years out. It really is transformational, and I recommend it for all types of businesses. You can learn more and see Cameron’s own Painted Picture here.

Marcus Sheridan — Marcus is a great friend and cadre member. I never tire of seeing him present, as he is one of the best in the world. His approach to attracting prospective clients via your blog and website is to identify the questions they’re asking and provide the most straightforward and honest answers. Forget about buzzwords like blogging, inbound marketing and social media marketing, and see these things for what they actually are: listening, communicating and being the best teacher in your industry. His blog is a must for anyone who’s serious about identifying more clients via their website.

Ted Whitling – The Director of Surveillance at ARIA Casino Las Vegas, Ted looks for anomalies in data and human behavior to identify anyone who might be cheating or gaming the system. He says, “We identify the weird; the money is in the weird” – which can be very applicable as an ethical way to uncover opportunities in your business.

Esther Perel – Recognized as one of the world’s most original and insightful voices on personal and professional relationships, Esther gave a presentation titled “From the Boardroom to the Bedroom.” In her fascinating talk, she suggests that many of us struggle with balancing our need for both adventure (freedom) and stability (security), and that we use up all of our passion at work and “bring home the leftovers.” One of the many tips I loved from her, pertaining to those of us who regularly schedule a date night, is to find 15-20 minutes a day or two earlier to catch up on the kids, priorities around the house, etc., so you can focus on having a fun adult conversation while on your date. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with her and her wisdom.

Dave Asprey – It turns out the founder of Bulletproof Coffee, which I’ve been drinking for four months and love, has a ton of insight that goes way beyond my favorite caffeinated drink. Dave provided us with advice focused more around managing our energy, as opposed to our time. As a “biohacker,” he is constantly testing the environment inside and outside of his body to improve things like his health and sleep.

Dave Asprey, Founder of The Bulletproof Executive, rocking a pair of blue blocking glasses.

One tip: The standard lighting (blue) emitted from your screens (computer, phone, etc.) is hurting your sleep. Put on a pair of blue-blocking glasses and download Flux to enable red lighting. This will help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep throughout the night. There’s too much wisdom to cover here, so I strongly suggest checking out his website to learn more.

Steve Sims – The founder of Bluefish, a high-end concierge company, suggests we all do what he does and “create smiles, not transactions.” While Steve is the man to see if you want a monumental experience like attending the Grammys or going on a submersible dive to view the Titanic, he also says you don’t have to go big to make a big impression. For example, when he’s traveling, Steve will frequently rip articles out of magazines and send them to clients using the hotel’s stationery. Letting your key clients know you’re thinking about them when you’re on the road is a great way to deepen relationships.

Ben Greenfield – This world-class triathlete and NYT bestselling author of Beyond Training is also the father of 6-year-old twins. His presentation, “How to Grow Tiny Superhumans,” which made him a co-winner (along with Renee Airya) of the event’s $25,000 prize for best talk, was incredibly useful to me as a parent of two young boys. Here are a few of the unconventional gems he offered up for anyone with young children:

  • Let them get dirty. Exposing your kids to bacteria and germs will help them develop a better immune system. Stop using antibacterial soap and consider skipping the baths more often (his boys get one every three days).
  • Let them eat fat. More healthy fat = a more developed immune system. Ben suggests bone marrow (bake it in their veggies), grass-fed butter and egg yolks, to name a few.
  • Let them fight. Roughhousing makes kids more socially mature, and how a child deals with pain and discomfort is more predictive of first grade scores than their Kindergarten scores.
  • Let their feet free. Have your kids go barefoot around the house, which will improve their lifelong posture, among other things. Wearing protective shoes too often will cause their foot muscles to atrophy.

One other important takeaway from Ben was to unplug your router at night. The EMFs emitted from your wi-fi router can be harmful to growing kids. Since their cells are rapidly dividing, they absorb much more of the radiation than adults.

Melanie and I are already implementing a lot of what we picked up from Ben and look forward to learning more via his blog.

Aubrey Marcus – The founder of puts a premium on telling the truth and being as honest as possible, and assumes his customers are wired this way too. For example, his return policy not only gives them a money-back guarantee, but also lets them keep the product! He believes most consumers keep products they are unhappy with to avoid the hassle of returning them – then stay unhappy and stop being a customer. Trusting his customers allows him to get more feedback and retain more of them.

Renee Airya – In her inspiring talk, “Flip Your Flaws,” this successful entrepreneur and model shared her journey, which began with having massive brain surgery in 2004 and falling into the less than 3 percent that get facial paralysis. A nerve had been severed, and she went from modeling a perfect smile to not being able to move the right side of her face. While overcoming this setback, she learned that “flaws are gateways to our sincerity.” One key takeaway for anyone whose life has been dramatically altered is to stop comparing yourself to the person you were and focus on what makes you unique. Renee’s story touched everyone in some way, so it was no surprise when she was announced as a co-winner for best talk along with Ben Greenfield. She has a lot to share and a ton of inspiration on her website.

Todd Tzeng – This investor and turnaround specialist shared the highs and lows of his entrepreneurial journey. One idea of his that I love is to plan your perfect day. What time would you wake up? Who would you spend time with? What would you do? He acknowledged it would be difficult to live out this day on a regular basis, but understanding who and what is important to you will guide you in the choices you make.

Robbie Richman – The author of The Culture Blueprint and co-creator of Zappos Insights shared how he focused more on what not to do when he created a world-class business culture. Like Michelangelo sculpting David, Robbie suggested we chip away at the things that do not represent our culture. He also suggested we avoid trying to please everyone, citing Tony Hsieh: “Most businesses don’t die of starvation; they die of indigestion.”

Michael Norton – I was excited to see Michael as I am a big fan of his book, Happy Money. This Professor of Marketing at Harvard discussed research that shows the importance of transparency in the buying process. Specifically, if you show customers the work you’re doing, they will be more likely to trust you (and buy from you).

He told the story of a master locksmith who shared that he sometimes takes longer than he needs to do the job so people don’t think he’s ripping them off. The interesting thing is that this also applies to work done by a computer. Sites like Orbitz and Kayak both show a progress bar while searching for flight options, but Kayak tells you specifically what the computer is working on, i.e. “now searching United flights.” Even if people have to wait longer, they will buy more frequently if they think more work is being done to personalize their search results.

Dr. Nick Morgan– This presentation and communication coach highlighted the importance of body language when presenting. Some keys for tapping into the unconscious minds of your audience include using “open up” gestures (no hand clenching) and having a confident, upright posture, which creates mirroring. One tip for the ladies: When someone’s pelvis is out they’re communicating flirting, so remember to tuck in your abs while wearing high heels.

Michael Port– Right on cue following Morgan’s presentation, the author of the excellent Book Yourself Solid, did as good a job of using body language as anyone I’ve ever seen (with the possible exception of Sally Hogshead). Rather than drop some savvy business ideas on us, which he could easily have done, he talked about an eating disorder that held him back at various times throughout his career. He suggested we all have some secret or unhealthy habit that is holding us back and that we subconsciously marginalize our efforts so others won’t find out. The sooner we identify and deal with this thing, we can show up as we are and make a bigger impact on those we touch.

Michael Port encouraging us to think big.

Michael Port encouraging us to think big.

Guy Kawasaki– During a Q&A with the multiple bestselling author and former Chief Evangelist at Apple, Guy offered up a variety of helpful tools and ideas. When asked about his former role at Apple, he stated that “the key to great evangelism and marketing is to do it on behalf of great stuff.” After admitting that he owns an Android because it is superior to the iPhone (I’ve been saying this for two years), he talked about how much more important value is than price—which is why it’s been a while since people lined up outside an Apple store to buy their newest product. He also shared a number of quotes from Steve Jobs. My favorite was “I’d rather have a hole in my business than an asshole.”

Philip Mckernan– I had not previously heard of this author of Rich On Paper, Poor On Life, but boy was I impressed. He began by saying, “Entrepreneurs are great at two things: complicating their lives and justifying why they do it.” According to Philip, “the path to an authentic and meaningful life starts with questioning the one you are already on.” While running a business, we have many choices and sometimes all these options prevent us from acting on any of them. He suggests, “In the absence of clarity, take action. The more we do this, the more we will trust ourselves.”

Steve Sisler– Steve is a behavioral profiler and lead Behavioral Analyst at The Behavioral Resource Group. As conference attendees, we were given the opportunity to take a DISC test to learn more about ourselves. He shared insights on how to get more out of our strengths and how we can improve in our areas of weakness. I highly recommend going through this process and becoming more aware of what you bring to the table (and what you don’t).

Meg Hirshberg– It was a real treat to hear the story of the non-entrepreneurial wife of the founder of Stoneyfield Yogurt, a super-successful company that failed to turn a profit for the first nine years. The author of For Better or For Work compared her journey to being the passenger in a car on a curvy road, in that it’s much harder when you are not in control and cannot anticipate the twists and turns. Meg suggested that anyone in a relationship with someone who is not wired like an entrepreneur should consider withholding information about the business, explaining that this is “not about babying your spouse, but about respecting their smaller appetite for risk.”

Hal Elrod– We were treated to a bonus session with Hal, whom I had recently discovered while listening to a podcast interview with him. Hal’s story, which includes being clinically dead for six minutes and told he would never walk again, and then walking again in a few months is incredible. He shared the insights behind his bestseller, The Miracle Morning, which I just finished and highly recommend. I’ve never been a morning person, but he has convinced me of its power and I am excited to give it a try!

Again, I strongly encourage you to look further into what all of these amazing minds have to say. And if you come across anyone or anything that really strikes a chord, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments below.

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Revisiting My Book Release One Month Later

June 10, 2014

NINW coverSince the release of my book, Networking Is Not Working, on May 5, I’ve been on a crazy ride. A fun kind of crazy. I’ve been blessed with the support of friends and people from my network, and had many opportunities to promote the book. I sold 5,001 copies the first month, and while I didn’t have a specific sales goal in mind, I’m thrilled with this. As of today the book is still #1 in a few categories and was #1 in Marketing and Sales for books (not just Kindle) 30 days after the release. Pretty cool, eh?

I’m not sharing this to brag, but to express my gratitude for the support I received. The book would not have sustained the momentum it did had it not been for the early bump in sales and reviews—which is a testament to the importance of creating some good velocity around the release of a book.

I sold 512 units on Day 1 and a total of 1,004 by Day 4. This is about what I was expecting from my network, because I had focused on getting a strong start by sending around 300 personal emails in addition to my email list of 1,250 people. I also used a few unconventional strategies that helped a lot.

Then it got interesting. On Days 5 and 6, I sold 67 and 28 units respectively. It appeared the run was over and I would be able to return to my regularly scheduled life. However, the number shot up to 137 on Day 7. Later that day, a friend forwarded me an email he received from Amazon that featured my book as his top recommendation.

I cracked Amazon’s code! I’m not sure how—no one is—but I can say for certain that they give a lot of weight to early sales velocity and a large number of positive reviews (I had around 50, and 48 were 5-stars).

I started receiving more media opportunities (you can check out the full list here) and Amazon continued to promote my book. I sold at least 100 books a day over the next 24 days (and received 3 more emails like the one above from my friend). Keep in mind, I was only selling the book on Amazon which likely hurt my overall numbers, but helped me on their platform from a rankings/promotional standpoint.

It’s also been interesting to see the large discrepancy between Kindle books and their physical counterparts. Almost 4,200 of the 5,000 were Kindles, which surprised even me. It also made me feel even better about using the print-on-demand option from Createspace (as opposed to paying several thousand dollars to print hardcovers).

But again, it all goes back to my supporters. You did this. I might not have a huge network, but I am extremely grateful for all of the amazing people in my small part of the world. You not only supported me directly, but also indirectly, by helping to get my book in the hands of 4,000 people who would otherwise not be reading it.

If you have read my book, or are currently reading it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Press, Articles and Interviews for Networking Is Not Working

May 13, 2014

It has been one week since Networking Is Not Working was released. We are still #1 in a few categories on Amazon and I am incredibly grateful for all of your support.

I’ve received some great press and have had the honor of sharing my thoughts about the book with a number of media outlets. I put together this post to archive everything—or as a place to get started if you’re new to me and the book.


“Networking always sounds like a simple concept — but as we’ve all discovered, it can be a maddeningly mysterious and elusive reality. Three cheers, then, for Derek Coburn. In this terrific book, he explains why your efforts to connect may be falling short and provides an arsenal of effective strategies for building a productive network of colleagues.”
Daniel H. Pink, #1 New York Times bestselling author of To Sell Is Human and Drive

“Finally, a how-to guide that throws slick schmoozing out the window and focuses on building meaningful relationships. Derek Coburn’s book offers actionable tips for making connections that create value for everyone involved. If more people followed his approach, we’d look forward to networking, instead of dreading it.”
Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take

“Derek has removed the “work” from “network” with this book. For an introvert like me, he’s unlocked the secret code.”
James Altucher, Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Choose Yourself

“Derek teaches simple yet profound truths that can transform the way you see networking.”
Mark Batterson, multiple New York Times bestselling author and Lead Pastor of National Community Church

“Networking is a totally essential skill that so many people get wrong or hate because they feel fake. If you want to create meaningful connections and authentic relationships read this now!”
Yanik Silver, founder Maverick1000 and author of 34 Rules for Maverick Entrepreneurs

“This is now THE book on Networking for this era of doing business. A must read for all CEOs and their key employees. Derek has forever changed my outlook on networking from something I hated and avoided doing, to something I’m now excited to do more of.”
Cameron Herold, author of Double Double

Press About NINW:

Forbes: Networking is Not Working: The Secret to Making Meaningful Connections

Articles I’ve Written For NINW:

Convince Convert: How to Use Networking 3.0 to Make New Connections

Paul Brunson’s Blog: (Un)Networking: Top 3 Dating Strategies to Apply to Networking


The Owner’s Mind with Chris Brogan: Derek Coburn

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch: Is Networking a Waste of Time?

Six Pixels of Separation with Mitch Joel: Your Networking Is Not Working with Derek Coburn

The Marketing Agents Podcast with Rich Brooks: Why Your Networking is NOT Working – Derek Coburn

Go Fire Yourself with Laurel Staples: Why Networking Isn’t Working and What To Do Instead

Entrepreneur On Fire: Derek Coburn Talks About Un-Networking

Content Warfare with Ryan Hanley: Building Remarkable Professional Networks with Derek Coburn Networking Is NOT Working Author Derek Coburn

Paper Napkin Wisdom with Govindh Jayaraman: The Ultimate Tiebreaker

We Mean Business with Steve Dorfman: Networking Is Not Working

Business Builders Live with Brian Carter: Networking Is Not Working

Beyond the To-Do List with Erik Fisher: Derek Coburn on Networking 3.0, Generosity and cadre




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On Being a Fraud

April 23, 2014

freaksI just made the decision to delay the release of my book by one week (until May 5). While I’m certain this is not the most devastating news you have heard today, I still wanted to provide an update and explain why.

A lot of work goes into prepping a book for release. I knew what had to be done, but underestimated how much time some of these things would take. I have also been overwhelmed (in a good way) with support and opportunities to promote my book, such as podcasts, guest blogging, etc. I am incredibly grateful for all of this of course, but at the same time it has put even more on my plate.

I have been going non-stop preparing for this launch. I cannot begin to describe the emotional swings (good and bad) associated with this process. Don’t feel bad for me though; I knew all of this going in!

I have been contemplating pushing the date back now for a few weeks, but put it off because I did not want to look like someone who does not stand behind his commitments. I’ve always been more of a “ship it” guy, as Seth Godin likes to say.

However, I was running out of time and even worse, I felt awful. I had become extremely irritable and anxious. I’m sure it would not have been so bad if not for the fact I have been running two businesses throughout this process.

Yesterday, it came to my attention that yet another necessary task would take much longer than I had anticipated. In order for me to launch my book on Monday, I would basically have to forego sleeping. I then glanced at the 80+ emails in my inbox (I am normally an inbox zero guy on a daily basis) and realized there were several people waiting on me to help them in some way. I had been putting off serving those who are important to me! The thought of delaying my book made me feel like a fraud, but I now realized I was already earning this label for different reasons.

Connecting people and supporting my friends are not just tactics I talk about in my book. They are a way of life for me. I had become so self-absorbed in preparing for this launch that I was not practicing what I preach. James Altucher talks about the importance of The Daily Practice in his excellent book, Choose Yourself. Making meaningful connections and helping my network are big parts of my daily practice. They fuel my fire and give me energy. I can go a few days without doing them, but now it’s been a few weeks.

At that moment I realized my mindset and attitude were not going to improve until I stopped ignoring those who needed me. Cramming everything in for April 28 was not going to happen if I continued feeling the way I had. I needed the positive energy I derive from making connections. And sure enough, as soon as I decided to grant myself more time, I sent a few of those emails and immediately felt better.

Then I realized that my friend Chris Brogan’s new book, The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth, was released on Monday (you can learn more about it here). It was not supposed to come out until next week, but still, he wrote the foreword for my book. There are few people who deserve my help more than him, and I’m excited to put his book on your radar. Had I not made the decision to delay my book, I probably wouldn’t be writing about it right now.

Thanks for giving me a pass on this. I feel good about the decision, and will feel even better if you buy The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth while you wait for my book to come out. But don’t do it for me. Do it because it’s an excellent book that could change your life. I wouldn’t ask if I thought otherwise, and I’m glad this delay has given me the chance to introduce it to you.

As always, thanks for your support!

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Are You a Connector, or Just Well-connected?

April 14, 2014

I am constantly meeting professionals who boast about their “network” or Rolodex, and promise that they can connect me to just about anyone. They say that if I look at their LinkedIn connections and see someone who could help me, they’ll “try” to make an introduction. The funny thing is that most of these so-called connectors have a list (huge ones, in some cases) of connections they barely know. It could be someone they met at a networking function for 30 seconds, or someone who found their profile interesting and wanted to “connect.”

Anyone who makes this kind of offer (especially if you make it easy for them to recommend you) is still adding more potential value than someone who makes no offer at all – but there’s an important caveat: you have to do the work. And there is a real possibility that you will invest a lot of time scanning their contacts only to find out that they barely know the person you want to meet.

The definition of “connect,” according to Merriam-Webster, is to become joined, which gets me thinking about how people become meaningfully joined – or connected – professionally. I don’t think it matters how many people you have in your Rolodex as much as how well you actually know each of them and how you can help them. It’s not how many people you know. It’s how much you know about them. When I connect two people, I do so because I genuinely believe there will be a mutual benefit. I do this proactively (500+ times over the past 18 months), and I try to frame the introduction in a way that suggests where the connection should go.

The difference between being a connector and being someone who offers to connect is analogous to being a matchmaker vs. With, the burden is on you, and due to the lack of knowledge that has regarding whether someone is a good fit for you, this process (from what I am told) usually does not work. On the other hand, a matchmaker is selective about who they work with and takes the time to get to know you and learn more about what you’re looking for. If you make the offer to connect (like performing the function of, you’re at least in the right ballpark – as opposed to not offering at all, which is more like wandering into a singles bar when you want to meet someone who’s looking for a relationship.

In business, people who are true connectors, and not just blindly offering up their Rolodex, may not extend an open invitation. But when they make an introduction, all parties involved can see why it makes sense to connect with the other person. The connector knows what each person brings to the table, and exactly how they can benefit one another.

If you have the best of intentions when offering to make introductions, I would encourage you to take it just one step further and proactively look for ways to connect people. You can add a lot of value and be a hero in the minds of these individuals when you do this authentically.

What are your thoughts?

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Don’t Look For Business Love At Networking Events (Part II)

April 14, 2014

RifiutoWe all know how difficult it is to find someone at networking events who takes a long-term approach to developing mutually beneficial relationships (If you don’t, check out Part 1.) Like nightclubs, it is possible to meet good people with good intentions at these events.

But when we do go to big events, we might have another hurdle to clear: Trust issues.

We all have to attend events to support a great cause or a great client. And attending events where you will know several other people there can make for a fun and productive evening. What is challenging are those times when we won’t know more than a handful of attendees. All we know is that the majority of people there essentially will be looking for professional one-night stands and as such, many of us are conditioned to have our guards up.

We assume that if someone approaches us, they just want to push their own agenda – even if they use an indirect tactic. If someone says to me, “Hey, I want to learn more about you and how I might be able to help!” it throws me off. What’s the catch? What am I missing? This person could be sincere for all I know. But based on my experience, they are more likely taking this approach because they heard that by initially focusing on the other person, they give the impression that they’re not just out for themselves.

As much as I hate to say it, many of us will always be skeptical of this approach – even if it is sincere – because more than likely it isn’t. I am guilty of this myself.

Let’s go back to the nightclub for another perspective. You’re out on the town for a fun evening with your girlfriends and a seemingly nice guy starts chatting with you. What would your reaction be if, immediately after exchanging formalities, he informed you that he is looking to settle down and get married? You would either decide he is hitting on you and masking his true intentions, or you’d think he’s serious — which is just creepy. Even if you’re looking for a spouse yourself, your reaction will likely not be a good one. Revealing this information two minutes into a conversation at a bar is not consistent with your expectations in that environment.

This same socially awkward scenario applies to me going to an actual nightclub as The Married Guy. (Not that I get out to clubs much these days, but say I had to for whatever reason.) If I went up to some guy or gal and said, “Hey, it would be great to have an extra friend. Tell me more about you and what you have going on.” It would be sincere, but it would also be weird, off-putting, and have the opposite of the intended effect. Wrong place, wrong time.

If you’re going to fit in, whether at a nightclub or a networking event, you have to assume that pretty much everyone there is thinking of what they’re going to get out of it. This is the accepted norm, so we’re thrown off even if someone is legit (which is why sincere people usually pass on attending in the first place).

It reminds me of a quote by George Akerlof, which Dan Pink shared in his excellent book, “To Sell Is Human“, relating to sales professionals:

“Dishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market. The presence of people who wish to pawn bad wares as good wares tends to drive out the legitimate business.”

Essentially, well-intentioned sales professionals do not want to be in a business with dishonest salespeople. And since most people who attend networking events are not looking to develop meaningful and helpful professional relationships, the ones who are stayed home.

Have you ever met someone at a networking event and gotten lucky?

If one of these chance encounters turned into a mutually beneficial relationship, I’d love to hear about how it happened. It might give us some hope…but probably not. At the end of the day, I think it’s best we avoid the larger events where we don’t know many of the attendees and spend our time networking in more conducive environments.

What say you?

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Don’t Look For (Business) Love At Networking Events

April 14, 2014

ChessAttending networking events where you don’t know many of the people there, no longer seems like an effective way to meet other like-minded professionals.

I have always approached meeting folks at these events with a long-term perspective. Primarily, to learn more about them and explore whether or not we could contribute to each other’s community. However, they end up being a big waste of time more often than not.

The main reason for this, I believe, is these events have evolved in a similar fashion to nightclubs. As the awesome David Siteman Garland of “The Rise To The Top” would say, everyone attending is looking for a professional one night stand. They may be looking to meet a new client, acquire a job or get some free wine. Regardless, their mindset of “How can I benefit immediately from this?” is not aligned with someone who is looking to develop mutually beneficial professional relationships. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, like nightclubs, these events mostly attract short-sighted people and I don’t think any of us can change this dynamic.

Why is it then that most of the books and articles I have read about networking offer advice centered around how to successfully develop relationships with other top professionals by attending these events?

By comparison, most dating books and experts that focus on how to meet an ideal partner do not suggest that you frequent nightclubs on a regular basis. If you are looking for a committed personal relationship you probably should not go to bars every night, since you are not likely to meet many people who are there for that reason. Everyone gets that! So it should be no surprise that the best dating advice (correctly) ignores the part of the equation that you are not likely to change and encourages you to avoid the clubs altogether. Instead, it is suggested that you leverage your friendships and expose yourself to environments that are more conducive to finding a mate, such as getting personal introductions from friends or hosting dinner parties.

Why should we learn how to navigate these professional meat markets when we can identify more ideal ways to network? The next time you are assessing your networking options, I encourage you to consider skipping the big networking event and get creative. Some things that have worked well for me include hosting roundtable lunches and wine tasting events. Dinner parties are another great option and Michelle Welsch of Project Exponential wrote a great e-book on the topic. And if you identify a larger event that seems ideal, why not offer to bring a few of your clients or strategic partners? At least then you will be spending time with your valuable relationships, regardless of who else is attending.

Do you meet the types of professionals you want to meet at networking events? What effective networking endeavors have you participated in or hosted? I would love to hear your thoughts.

You can read Part II here.

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I Don’t See Why We Have To Meet For Lunch

April 14, 2014

I Don’t See Why We Have To Meet For Lunch

For a long time, if someone showed even the slightest interest in my wealth management practice, Washington Financial Group (or just seemed like a potential client), I would ask them if they wanted to grab lunch so we could learn more about each other. I always thought it made sense. There was no better way to spend my time than meeting face-to-face with a potential client or strategic partner, right?

As cadre has picked up steam, we have been extremely fortunate to receive more introductions to prospective members than we could keep up with. This is obviously a great problem to have, but we literally could not keep up. Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking “Cry me a river!”, but I’m not here to brag about how many referrals we’re getting. Rather, I’d like to tell you about the time management challenges we faced, and what we did about them. (This is a broad topic, so for the purpose of this blog, I’m limiting it to meeting with people who think they might be interested in your business, but don’t know much about you.)

The problem we had was that most of the folks who were referred to us, by default, wanted to meet for lunch. This has become THE way for a lot of us to learn more about a business or service, and cadre was no exception. They would say something like, “Hey, John told me about you guys and it sounds pretty cool. Want to grab lunch to tell me more about it?” That seemed reasonable enough. I had been suggesting this for years, and I’m sure most of you do (or have done) the same. The problem was there simply was not enough time in my day. And now, with all of the ways we have to communicate, I’m not sure it’s the best use of my time, or yours.

As with any business, a good portion of the referrals we received were not likely to result in our doing business together (or in the case of cadre, becoming a member). I also knew we had a great description of our model on our website, and that we had intentionally used language to help weed out our prospects. So we told anyone who was interested in joining cadre to read the details on our website prior to our call. This way they would have a good overview of our business and we could have a productive call.

Shockingly, not everyone complied. I had three or four calls a day – intended to be 15-minute discussions – that were turning into hour-long conversations because the prospective member knew nothing about our model. I was being asked the most basic questions, which our website (had they read it) already answered.

One day, I had 45-minute conversation with a person that was going great until they asked how much we charge. They thought it was too much, and the conversation ended. That was it. Something had to change! If I had required this person to review our content prior to the call, there never would have been one (which is fine when you’re meeting enough people who think what you charge is a bargain).

So that’s exactly what we did: We started telling prospective members to take 10 minutes to learn about our business, and if it resonated with them, we would set up a 15-minute phone call to answer any specific questions they had. This has worked very well. Several referrals have not bothered to get back to us, which means less time wasted for me. Those who do schedule a call are extremely interested and almost always become members.

I was recently turned on to Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Six Pixels of Separation. Marcus was struggling to keep his pool installation business afloat in 2008, and was spending a lot of time meeting potential customers at their homes to discuss his services. He kept getting the same questions over and over, and as we experienced with cadre, many of these prospects did not end up being candidates for his business. He was spending too much time traveling to, and meeting with, people who could have been ruled out as customers in five minutes, had there been a way for their questions to be answered ahead of time.

Marcus wised up. He created a blog for his business, and many of his articles provide ready answers to frequently asked questions. When someone thought they wanted to buy a pool, he began directing them to his website, where he provides a ton of useful information. Any general questions people have are answered there, and his website serves as a great qualifier of potential customers. (Incidentally, it has since become the most visited pool website in the world!) In his excellent blog post titled “Assignment Selling,” Marcus shares how he now assigns prospective customers homework before agreeing to meet with them. During the aforementioned podcast, Marcus said that he now tells people that if he’s coming to their house, it’s to sell them a pool. He admits that this sounds audacious, but the point he makes is meritorious: Businesses with great content have rights that other businesses do not.

The next time you’re thinking about meeting a potential client and neither of you knows much about the other, I encourage you to consider the alternatives. If you have a great website, an eBook, or have authored articles, send your prospect there before having a meeting. If you don’t have the content, consider scheduling a Skype call so you can at least save yourself the travel time. Still, I hope you’ll consider the time investment of developing some strong content, so that prospective clients can easily learn more about your business without having to take up so much of your time.

I can only speak from my own experience, but making this shift has freed up a lot of my time, and made me much more productive and efficient. Do you typically suggest meeting someone in person before learning more about their business? Do you agree to meet others when they make this request of you?


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Do you offer to help…or help to offer?

April 14, 2014

I have come across a number of professionals recently who complain that their efforts to help others have not been “paying off” – that, despite their willingness to help, those on the receiving end do not seem appreciative.

Upon learning more, it appears their idea of “help” is to give a prospective client free advice or a referral, for example, in the hopes that said prospect will hire them as a result. This is not help. It’s a sales strategy.

I’m not saying that giving free advice for the purpose of business development is a bad idea. It can be effective when done properly. If your real goal is to generate business, you should set clear expectations upfront. Let the potential client know that you will help them address part of their problem, and discuss how your help might be mutually beneficial, rather than making any assumptions. My good friend Ian Altman of Grow My Revenue touches on this here.

My point is that there is an important difference between offering to help as a business strategy and helping out of pure altruism. You truly help someone, whether by offering feedback or making a mutually beneficial connection, when you provide assistance that is intended to further that person’s professional or personal advancement (and likely someone else’s) – without expecting anything in return. A “payoff” is not the primary motivation.

Acting out of generosity should result in a more positive and/or productive outcome for the recipient than if you had not acted. People who approach helping in this way tend to attract one another, and almost always see their generosity repaid, even though this is not their intent.

When you help someone with the expectation of getting something in return, you may not see a return on your investment for a variety of reasons. The recipient might realize that your offer comes with strings attached and simply be put off. However, I believe the main reason for a lack of reciprocity in these situations is that people who expect something in return when they give are, ironically, not really open to reciprocity. They are naturally skeptical when someone offers to help them, assuming that accepting a favor will put them in debt to this person (since this is what they expect when they are “helping”).

Being in a position to truly help people is a great spot to be in, and your ability to deliver is invaluable. I just hope that anyone out there who thinks they’re helping and not getting the results they’re hoping for does not give up on helping altogether. Anytime you want to offer help, think about the true definition of this word, and make sure your approach – and your expectations – are in line with it.

What are your thoughts on this?

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