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Networking tips: Bring your own nametag

| connecting, social

I bought myself a pack of inkjet/laser self-adhesive name tags, which
turned out to be a remarkably good idea. Before heading to Dave
Forde’s networking get-together last Friday, I printed out a nametag
that not only gave my name but also included an experimental tagline:
“Tech evangelist, storyteller, conversationalist, geekette”.

Dave Forde’s networking get-together was a very informal one, just a
bunch of people standing around in a pub sipping beverages while
chatting. I was the only one with a nametag – a printed nametag, at
that! – and that garnered me quite a number of compliments for my
foresight. Despite the lack of nametags, I was generally good at
keeping everyone’s names sorted in my head. Having a printed nametag
on made it easier for people to remember my name in conversation,
though. Having felt the embarrassment of forgetting someone’s name
right after an introduction too many times, I’m glad I could make
things smoother for other people by wearing a nametag.

The nametag was also handy at the second networking event I went to on
the invitation of someone I’d just met at Dave Forde’s get-together.
At that event, people wore nametags of masking tape. Again, my large
printed nametag stood out, and the keywords on it prompted

I think that bringing a prepared nametag to events is a terrific idea.
Even at events with proper nametags, preparing a nametag allows you to
pay more attention to design and to stand out from the crowd.

Clip-on nametags may be even more effective because then I don’t have
to worry about what material I’m wearing. They also allow other tricks.
I remember Richard Boardman’s nifty lifehack for
nametags. The CHI 2006 nametag holders were top-loading plastic, so he
put business cards behind his nametag. He also put business cards he
received into the nametag case. Very accessible location – no
shuffling around for a business card case.

Note to self: I should always carry masking tape and a marker to these
events. To help even more, perhaps I should always carry self-adhesive
nametags. Hmm…

Preparing a nametag was definitely a good idea. You should try it at
your next networking event!

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How to proactively network

| connecting, social

Whether you have a business card collection that fills a bookshelf or
you’re trying to become comfortable with meeting new people, one way
to get much more value and happiness out of networking is to
proactively make things happen instead of waiting for them to occur.
Here’s how:

  1. Find out what people want. Ask people, “What can I do to help you succeed?” Keep asking until you get a good sense of what they’re looking for. The practice is good for them, too!
  2. Get out there and meet people. Too shy to talk to people at a networking event? Ask on behalf of a friend and you may find yourself more comfortable. Find conversation difficult? Think of it as an opportunity to discover ways to connect people to other people. You’ll find that good conversation isn’t really about you having something in common with others. It’s easier than that! All you need is at least one of your friends having at least one thing in common with others.
  3. Look for the connections. With every conversation and with every person you meet, think of connections you can make. Introduce people to other people and you’ll create lots of opportunities – and learn about people, too!

Make things happen. Find out what people around you want or need, and
look for ways you can help them grow. Life is a lot more fun that way!

For backstory, check out The power of proactively networking

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The power of proactively networking

| connecting, social

I’ve reached another turning point in my life, another coming of age.
I’ve realized the power of proactive networking, and I have a feeling
that it’s going to change my life.

You see, I used to shy away from networking because I couldn’t think
of how I could add value to the conversation or what I could take
away. I went to a few networking events before I got tired of being
given the once-over by schmoozers who moved on when they realized that
I couldn’t give them any deals or opportunities. As a student, what
could I offer? And what could I ask them for? I didn’t want to waste
their time, didn’t want to prevent them from meeting other people they
could deal with.

I was insecure. That was exactly how I felt when I moved to Canada
from the Philippines, torn away from *my* network and suddenly back at
the bottom of the totem pole. I didn’t believe I could offer any
value, and so I couldn’t.

Over the past year and after so many conversations and books, though,
I think I’ve finally found myself—and I can’t believe that I hadn’t
realized this earlier.

How did I go about it? I credit two books with sparking a particularly
large number of aha! moments: Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone” and
Tim Sanders’ “Love is the Killer App.” Both books taught me that my
love of reading and learning could be valuable to other people, so I
had something to start with. My interest in other people helps them
discover more about life and themselves—another reason why people
enjoy sharing their insights with me. I give people an opportunity to
help, and in so doing, they grow as well. All I need to do is ask.

As I practiced the suggestions in these books, I found it easier and
easier – and more and more fun. I discovered that by consciously
reaching out, I could enrich my life and the lives of people around

I don’t think of it as my “network”, not in the cold and calculating
sense of just wanting to add more nodes to a graph. No, these are
people whom I want to help grow and who care about my growth.

And last night, I realized something amazing: the power of
proactivity, of making things happen instead of waiting for things to

After a wonderful conversation about all sorts of topics including the
meaning of life, the challenges of entrepreneurship, and the joy of
networking, I asked my seven guests point-blank what they wanted and
how I could help them succeed. They told me—and my mind kicked into
high gear, thinking of whom I could introduce to them and what I could
help them with.

*This* is one of the things I’m not only good at, but I love doing.
Perhaps this is one of the things that I am meant to do. I’ve jokingly
described how I enjoy stuffing large amounts of information into my
brain in order to bring out one or two relevant items when people need
them. I’ve applied it in geeky contexts before: familiarizing myself with a list of open source
packages (all of Debian, at one point) helped me recommend just the right package for Jijo Sevilla when he was working on a point-of-sale system, while my background in computer science helped me tell Simon exactly which keywords he should use to find a good algorithm for a feature he wants to include in his product.

I want to do it with people, too. I want to keep people’s wants and
haves in mind. I *love* making those connections.

This was one of Sam Watkins‘ brilliant ideas,
some years ago: write down your wants and haves on your card, and
exchange this with others. OpenBC is a social networking site that’s playing around with the idea, too, which is why I like OpenBC a lot. The key point is: proactively find out what people want / have, and make those connections happen!

One of the difficulties I had was figuring out how to keep in touch
with people, how to do followup. Followup is incredibly important.
Proactively choosing to make things happen makes it really easy to
follow up and exercise those networking muscles. Every person I meet
and every conversation I have has the potential to reactivate old
connections, and I want to review old connections to find out what I
can help them with now. If they’re in my network, it’s because I think
they’re cool and I want them to succeed – and we’ll keep growing

That gives me even more confidence when it comes to meeting other
people. I now bring *lots* of value to the conversation. Sure, I’m not
a CEO or even someone with decision-making power. Even as a student,
though, I can help people succeed. I’ve been told I have interesting
ideas and that I’m a good listener. I love asking questions and having
conversations. And I know lots of really cool people. I want to know
more peopl because the more people I know, the more interconnections I
can make and the more stories I can tell.

“Your network is your net worth,” said Tim Sanders – and mine is growing. I care about the people in it. I want them to succeed. I want to learn from all these interesting people – strangers, acquaintances, friends. That gives me the chutzpah I need to walk up to someone I’ve never met – the power of proactive networking.

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Why I love OpenBC – a new business networking site

| connecting, social

Okay, I’m sold. Yes, LinkedIn has a slicker interface and *way* more people, but OpenBC has just a few extra features that I really, really like.

  • Wants / Haves. *Totally* cool. I do this in real life, and the connections you can bring out are amazing. Just last night, for example – seven people, and I can think of good connections for every single one of them. You know what would be the killerest? A summary view of people’s wants/haves, optionally sortable by update date. I want an RSS feed of people’s updates so that I can keep all those things in mind all the time. Any service that makes it easier for me to proactively create value for other people totally rocks, and it would be good to make it easier for people to browse through my contacts and make those connections themselves. ’cause face it – job descriptions don’t say much, and they don’t talk about what we want.
  • Pictures. Great for reminding other people what I look like. ;) If I could just convince everyone else…
  • Private memos. I can easily do that with my personal contact management database, but OpenBC makes it convenient for other people to keep private datestamped notes.
  • Tagging. Again, something I can do with my personal contact management database, but not everyone can be so lucky – and OpenBC’s tagging + events = cool.
  • Groups. I got into OpenBC because of the Greater IBM Initiative. They rock.
  • Events. I wonder if I can use this for my parties. You can use tags to invite people to events! Whee. =)
  • And they blog. Plus points.

I might even consider paying for the service, which again is quite a
vote considering my grad-student budget. =) It’s not that expensive,
though. I just have to figure out how to create enough value.

Sign up and connect. OpenBC has free basic memberships, and you have a
month of premium membership to try it out. I like it a lot. You should
definitely try OpenBC, particularly if you’re a Connector in the
Tipping Point sense of the word.

Sign up for OpenBC, then add me as a contact!

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Social media for social change

| social, web2.0

This is one of the reasons I love technology.

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More thoughts about what I want to do with my life

| purpose, social

Here’s a sketch of what I want to do:

I want to help people connect with people through social software.

That’s a very broad goal. What does it mean?

What do I want to do?

I want to help people make sense of technology. I want to help them
figure out which tools they should try out and how those tools fit
into their ways of working. I want to help them bring the tools into
their culture and adapt the tools to their needs. I want to help
people look at the big picture and see how everything fits together. I
want to help people look at the leaves on the trees and figure out how
to make the most of each piece.

I’m particularly interested in technology that helps people relate
with people. I’m interested in ways for people to discover other
people and other resources, share their insights with others, and
organize things for themselves.

Why is that a good fit for me?

I’m good at keeping track of technology news, which makes it easy for
me to recommend something that fits a situation. I also like
collecting and sharing productivity tips.

I enjoy speaking, writing, teaching, evangelizing, and all these other
ways to help people learn.

Most of all, I love listening and drawing people out. I love learning
people’s vocabularies and telling them stories about other people’s
successes and failures, helping them imagine their own success. I love
stepping into someone’s shoes and figuring out which tools might be
useful. I love coming up with ways for people to slowly make new tools
part of their lives.

What do I need to learn next?

  • I know about the tools. I need to learn about
    organizational behavior, organizational change, information
    technology diffusion, and technology adoption.
  • I know how to spread enthusiasm. I need to also learn how to
    communicate solid business benefits.
  • I know how to set a few things up. I need to become more familiar
    with the different technologies so that I can prototype them
    quickly and show how everything fits together.
  • I know a few people in different areas. I need to develop a rich,
    wide directory of consultants and companies who can implement
    particular solutions.
What’s my next step?

  • Continue with my research at IBM, which is exactly in line with this anyway.
  • Make another speech at Toastmasters, then another and another.
  • Meet other people who are working in the same or similar area. Talk
    to them, ask them for help figuring out this passion of mine, and
    see if I can do anything to help.
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| purpose, social

Thanks to a conversation earlier about web development and careers, I
think I’ve figured out a little more about what I want to do. =)

I want to support people and communities through social tools.

I want to help people make the most of blogs, wikis, podcasts,
vidcasts, social bookmarking, social networking, community content
management systems, whatever. I want to help them figure out how to
use version control systems and request trackers and mailing lists. I
want to make it easier to use phone and e-mail and little stickies on
the fridge…

What should I learn more about? I need to figure out how to set up a
blog farm, a wiki farm, a social bookmarking site, Drupal, etc. Bryght
does hosted community sites with Drupal, so they’d be good mentors and
models. I’m also interested in the social aspects of it. My research
into innovation diffusion and technology adoption _totally_ makes
sense in that context.

Mmkay. That sounds like a plan. I’m going to need some help figuring
out how to make it happen, but that resonates with me.

I don’t mind working on mind-numbing web stuff if I’m working with fun
people. I don’t mind explaining for the nth time what a blog is and
how people can use blogs for fun and profit, because I learn something
new every time I talk about that. And of course there are so many things
that aren’t even on most people’s radars…

Right. That sounds like what I want to do. Now, how do I go about doing it?

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