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We are a social media strategy, digital marketing consultancy in Nashville. Our goal is to teach you inbound marketing, social media best practices, and everything you need to succeed with content marketing including your blog, email newsletter, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other favorite social networking platforms. 

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The Futureforth Blog

Helpful tips and articles about social media strategy, content marketing, and business networking. 

Filtering by Category: Networking

Secrets to Breaking the Ice

Dave Delaney

 10 Must Know Conference Networking Tips.  Free download here .

10 Must Know Conference Networking Tips. Free download here.

Networking at conferences is not always easy. Have you ever arrived at a networking event or conference alone? It can be daunting to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. What do you talk about? How can you break the ice?

The first step to meeting new people at a conference or networking event is to understand that you are not alone in being alone. Look around the room and note the other people who are standing by themselves, too. This is your opportunity to ease the tension by introducing yourself.

The badges are your invites

If there is one thing every attendee has in common at a conference, it is that they are wearing a badge. That lanyard is your invitation to approach and introduce yourself. Every person wearing one has likely already experienced something similar to you, like perusing the exhibit hall, eating the lunch buffet or attending a keynote presentation.

Use the person's name from their badge when you introduce yourself. Shake their hand and look them in the eye. Your smile and use of their name will be most welcomed. If they have an unusual name, ask how they pronounce it and then repeat it multiple times to help you remember it and to earn their respect.

Triangulation

Kio Stark, author of "When Strangers Meet," uses the term "triangulation" to define finding a common point of interest to discuss. For example, if you are meeting someone exiting the lecture area, you can ask her what she thought of the keynote speaker. If you are leaving the leaving the lunch buffet, you can ask her what she thought of the salmon.

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Picture a triangle. You are on one point. The person you are speaking with is on the other point. And something you both have shared is the third point. This makes breaking the ice much easier. Look around the room for other ideas on something you can talk about, like a piece of art or a view from the window.

F.O.R.D.

As you speak with someone, consider the ice-breaking acronym F.O.R.D. Each letter represents a different topic you can discuss. F is for family, O is for occupation, R is for relaxation and recreation, and D is for dreams and aspirations.

I don't recommend necessarily asking these questions in order. Instead, begin by asking about their occupation since this is more of a general topic. You may learn that the person moved to a different city because their spouse has a new position there. This gets into the topic of family, where you can ask about children, how long they have been married and where they met their spouse.

You can follow up by asking them what they do for fun in their new city. This will lead the conversation into how the person relaxes or finds recreational activities on the weekends. And finally, you might get into talking about career goals and where they would like to retire to or what their summer travel plans are. I don't know about you, but when I think of travel and retirement, I definitely think of relaxation and recreation.

So the next time you arrive alone at a conference, remember that nobody goes to remain alone. People want to talk with you.

Break the ice, ask the questions, listen carefully to their answers, and remember to ask for a business card if you enjoy the conversation. Don't forget to follow up when you return to the office. Following up is the second most important step in networking after showing up.

For more conference networking tips visit: 10tips.networkingfornicepeople.com.

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Tis the Season to Connect!

Dave Delaney

8 Holidays Networking Tips

The holiday season is the best time to get out to local networking events to meet new people and see old friends. Get started by reviewing your inbox (and spam folders) for invites you might have missed. Follow this by checking Facebook facebook.com/events for invites and ideas. RSVP and get out there.

8 Holiday Networking Tips

1. Smiles are contagious. Even if you are nervous, your smile will tell people you are friendly and happy to meet new people.  

2. Be nice. Avoid gossip or trashing talking anyone. Look for ways you can help the people you meet. Maybe you can provide an introduction during the event you are attending.

3. Set goals. Think about why you are attending the event. You aren't just attending for the free h'orderves and cocktails. What do you hope to gain by attending? Who do you wish to meet? What would you like the outcome to be?

4. Avoid too many h'orderves and cocktails. This is pretty obvious, but we all know that guy who misses the memo each year. Should you have one too many take a cab or Uber home. Better yet… don't drive to the event in the first place.  

5. Talk to strangers. Get away from the usual crowd to meet new people. The people standing alone don't wish to be alone. If they wanted to be alone they would have stayed home. Go introduce yourself and ask them what brings them to the event. 

6.  Ask questions and listen. When you ask someone a question, be sure to look them in the eyes as they are answering. Make them feel like they are the only person in the room. Ask a follow-up question like, "How did that make you feel?" or "What happened next?"

7.  Don't be a Las Vegas blackjack dealer with your business cards. Ask for someone's business card after you have talked and a connection has been made. Just because you asked where the bathroom is, is not an opportunity to ask for a card. Save some trees by refraining from handing out your cards, unless you are asked for one. Someone else's card is far more valuable because you have their information to follow-up. Otherwise, you are left hoping they follow-up with you.

8.  Follow up. I wrote a post here recently about the importance of following up. Following up is the second most important part of networking after showing up. The longer you leave it, the less likely you will reconnect with the person. This is a wasted opportunity to help them and build a new relationship.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

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Are You Missing The Second Most Important Step In Networking?

Dave Delaney

What is the second most important step in networking?

In my book, New Business Networking, I remind my readers how showing up is the most important part of professional networking. When you don't take the time to attend the event you miss out. You have to brush off the fear and excuses and get out to meet new people. If you aren't meeting new people you aren't networking effectively.

The second most important step in networking is the follow-up. I'm willing to bet there is a pile of business cards on your desk that you have been neglecting since the last event you attended. Am I right?  

In order to get the most return on your time spent networking you must follow up. When I speak with colleagues about this step they often admit they skip it. Here are some ways to improve your follow up.

Follow-up while you are fresh.

After every conference or networking event allocate time to following up. Set fifteen minutes on your calendar per day to email the people you met. Doing so as soon as possible will help the recipient remember you. The longer you leave it, the less fresh you are in their minds.

Jar their memory.

Attendees at my networking workshops know they must take notes on business cards to help them remember how they should follow-up. When they write that email, they refer back to the note, so they can jar the recipient's memory on what they talked about. For example, perhaps they spoke about a recent hockey game. The sender can include a link to a related story or video from YouTube. This will help the recipient remember them.

Include a call to action.

When you follow-up think of a call to action. What do you want the recipient to do after your email? I like to write a summary blog post about my experiences at a conference. I include the link to the blog post in my follow-up. Perhaps you took photos at the event. You could upload the images to your Facebook page and send a link to the album. This will get the recipient one step closer to liking your page or visiting your blog. Another call to action is an invitation to speak over the phone, or meet for a "no agenda" coffee. Always put yourself in the recipient's shoes when answering the question, "What's in it for me?"

Connect on LinkedIn.

I am a big fan of LinkedIn because it is the most powerful social network for professional networking. Instead of sending the recipient a connection request right away, use email to let them know. Not everyone checks LinkedIn frequently. Mention in your follow-up email that you are going to send them a connection request on LinkedIn, so you can offer an introduction to someone in your network (should they need it). This offers value to the recipient. In your subsequent LinkedIn connection request remind the person how you met, so they are more likely to accept your request.

Following up is a crucial part of networking that is too often overlooked or ignored. Become a better networker by following these steps. Read on for more tips about networking.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

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Psst, Blog Strategy Ahead...

Dave Delaney

Super secret blogging strategy

Psst, want to hear a secret? I have come up with a blogging strategy for businesses who wish to connect with their local communities. This is a simple way you can use your blog to network with fellow small business owners. Using this technique will also promote your people, which is essential in employee retention and growing a sound company culture. 

How does this sound to you?

Are you ready to have my secret strategy revealed? There is no cost to you. All you need is about twenty minutes. You can watch this video during your lunch break, in fact, I encourage it because it will leave you hungry. Ok, enough teasing from me. 

Check out my super secret five-step blog strategy

When you use this, please leave a comment. I would love to hear how it works for you.

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7 Super Bowl Sunday Networking Tips

Dave Delaney

7 Super Bowl Sunday Networking Tips

Today is Super Bowl 50. It's the perfect day to relax with friends and make some new ones. Super Bowl Sunday isn't necessarily a day you'd consider ideal for growing your professional network, but it is. Let's look at a few facts.

You will be watching the Super Bowl.

You will likely watch the game at a Super Bowl party.

New relationships are born everywhere. Networking rules apply in every group situation.

You must be in it to win it!

I am about to write something blasphemous but stick with me. I don’t care for football. Does this mean I will miss an opportunity to watch the Super Bowl with a group? Heck no. The Super Bowl is yet another opportunity to meet new people and to grow your network. The following are the rules of networking during Super Bowl parties. Put these to good use.

1. Don’t arrive empty handed

When you arrive at the Super Bowl party, be sure to bring something for the group. If you want to make friends, bring chili. If you want to make more friends, bring regular chili and vegetarian chili. Bring along a bottle of hot sauce to please everyone's palates. Make even more friends by bringing chicken wings. According to the National Chicken Council, Americans will eat 1.3 billion, or 162.5 million pounds, of wings during the game!

2. Break the ice with, “Broncos or Panthers?”

Introduce yourself to the roaring football fanatics. Repeat names a few times in your initial conversations, so you remember them. Ask them who they are supporting, the Carolina Panthers or Denver Broncos. Ask them why they are supporting the team. This opens up the opportunity for your new acquaintance to tell you more. Ask follow-up questions. Remember to let them do the bulk of the talking.

3. Keep it business casual

Don’t be the person only talking about business, but understand we all do business. Ask the person what they do for a living. Where do they work? What is their role? What challenges have they been facing this year? Listen carefully to learn of opportunities where you can help them. Perhaps you can offer an introduction to someone in your network who is looking for a job, or to a vendor of a product or service that could help their company. Networking is about helping others first. Find ways to help them.

4. Shh, I'm watching the commercials

We all know that the Super Bowl commercials are the cream of the crop. This year a 30-second spot costs $5 million. That is a hefty price tag and worth talking about. The ads are definitely part of the whole Super Bowl experience, so be sure to keep quiet during the commercials and share your favorites with your new friends. If you want to cheat, you can watch most of the commercials before game time on YouTube.

5. Chat about the halftime show

Coldplay and Beyonce will be rocking out during the halftime show. Ask which act is their favorite. Ask what their all-time favorite halftime performance was. Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of every act that has performed during the halftime show over the years.

6. Go easy on the beverages

Let’s face it, beer is the official drink of the Super Bowl. Just like any networking event, limit yourself. Water is delicious and should be consumed liberally.

In 2015, there were more than 4,000 alcohol-related traffic crashes in Tennessee. The Auto Club of Southern California conducted a study last year that found a 77 percent increase of alcohol-related crashes during Super Bowl Sunday.

Be responsible and call a cab, or use Uber or Lyft instead of driving.

Here's $50 free credit from Lyft or $15 off your first Uber ride.

7. Follow-up

Aside from meeting new people, following up is the most important part of networking. When you share an experience like watching the Super Bowl together, you have a great opportunity to follow up.

Give your new friend a call or send them an email. Provide them with something helpful like a link to the best commercial you watched together, an introduction to someone in your network or just to schedule a coffee or lunch.

Follow these Super Bowl Sunday networking tips and you will be sure to score a touchdown for your business or career. I apologize for that pun, I couldn't resist.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

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6 Tips To Create A Killer Networking Group

Dave Delaney

Create Your Networking Group

One of the best ways to grow your professional network is to host your own networking group. A few months after moving to Nashville, I created Geek Breakfast as a way to keep our growing technology community together. Five years ago, I launched Nashcocktail, to connect local social media professionals. You can create a group too, if you follow these five simple steps.

1. Begin with your goals. What do you hope to gain from creating a networking group?

My intention with the groups I created was to connect people and build community. I could measure this by reviewing membership and attendee numbers each month to be sure we were growing.

2. Find an available or underserved niche.

Do a simple Google search to find events in your city related to your niche. Don’t be discouraged if you find groups already exist. You should attend the events to understand how they are run. Ask yourself how your group would be different.

You may also discover a dormant group. Reach out to the organizer and ask if you can take it over. That’s what Jeff Dolan did with the Nashville Filmmakers group. Jeff explains how he did it in my interview below, plug in your headphones and enjoy.

3. Connect with and invite local leaders in the your niche.

I’m a big fan of the FollowerWonk tool. You can use this to search Twitter bios in a specific location. For example, you can search “author” and “Nashville” and find anyone on Twitter around the city, who include author in their bio. FollowerWonk will show you who are the most influential based on the number of followers they have and tweets they create.

Use LinkedIn to search for companies who provide products or services related to your niche. For example, if you are creating a networking group for the travel industry, search for travel agents, hotels, and airlines on LinkedIn. Find the people who work for the companies and reach out to invite them to your group. Once you determine the names of the companies you can also see if you have friends who work there using a simple Facebook search.

4. Use a service like MeetUp, Facebook Events, or Eventbrite to create your invitation.

MeetUp.com is a good site to create a group around a reoccurring event. Facebook Events should be used in conjunction with your Facebook Page to organize events. Eventbrite is an alternative to TicketMaster for event organizers to create tickets.

5. Reach out to everyone you know to announce the event.

Use social media, email, and pick up the phone. You want to promote the heck out of your group to get a good turnout. The first event is important because you want group members to return next time.

You may choose to pay to promote your group’s event on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I can help you with this if you need to better understand how to affordably advertise on these platforms.

6. Poll your attendees before the event to learn more about their specific needs, so you can better serve them.

Use SurveyMonkey to create a short, simple survey. Send it to your members to ask them what they hope to gain from attending your event and being a member of your group.

Sending an occasional survey to members can also help you get the pulse of your group to ensure everyone is enjoying their membership.

Creating and running your own networking group isn't difficult. However, it takes time to grow and nurture your group. Be patient and listen to your members, they will ultimately determine if your group is a success.

If you have questions about organizing your own group and events, reach out to me with a comment below or on Twitter @davedelaney.

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Help The Unemployed Back On Their Feet

Dave Delaney

It is hard to miss the unfortunate stories in the news about jobs being cut. According to global outplacement consultancy, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., 50,000 jobs were cut in October alone. This is why it is important to find ways to help your friends get back on their feet.

Friends and acquaintances often email me when they are going through a transition. They write to ask me if I know of any open positions in their field. Since I don't work in recruiting or human resources, open jobs don't come to my mind right away. Most days my head is filled with thoughts on priorities for Futureforth clients and family duties. It's not easy to think of opportunities right away, but I have found a solution.

In addition to the emails about losing work, I also get messages about open positions. In the past, I would get these, but I would forget who was looking for a job. Taking the time to dig back through my emails to find the job seekers was too time consuming. To be honest, sometimes I would forget altogether.

I have come up with a simple process to help connect those seeking work with those who are hiring. You can do this too and help your network. In New Business Networking, I wrote about how networking is all about providing value and helping others before ever asking for anything in return. Helping a friend find a job is a great example of providing such value.

Here is my process for connecting those looking for a job with those seeking to fill a position.

When somebody contacts me who is seeking a job, I reply using the words "I'll keep my eyes open". A reply may read, "I'm sorry to hear you were laid off, Mary. Please know that I will keep my eyes open for opportunities for you."

I always reply using the term "eyes open". I use Gmail, all other email services also have a search function. Regardless of your email service, you can do this too. Whenever I get a message from someone who is hiring, I search "eyes open" in my messages. The results include all emails from people I know who are seeking work. I review them quickly and make the introductions when there is a good fit. This makes remembering who needs a job much faster.

I'll keep my eyes open.

One other thing I do in my initial reply is ask which companies they want to work for. When they reply, I review my LinkedIn connections to see if I know people at the companies. This only takes seconds. If I do, I provide an introduction.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5.5 million job openings in the U.S. (as of the last day of August). New jobs are available and unfilled positions are waiting for the right person. I bet you get similar emails from friends who are hiring and those seeking work. Why not keep your "eyes open" to get friends back on their feet? 

Do you have any techniques for helping your network find employment? Any tips? Leave a comment, please. 

 

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