This is part two of three on reflections from the 2011 PMI North American National Congress held in Dallas, Texas, USA October 22 through October 25. Part one provided information from workshops I attended. Part three will focus on presenting, my observations as a participant and as a presenter.
There are a lot of resources out there that talk about networking. Just today I saw a note in Twitter recommending 4 Networking Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making on Forbes.com. The purpose of this article is not to restate all the great advice available through the Internet, books, and people, but rather I want to focus on some surprise benefits that may result.
Asking for Advice: The REAL sincerest form of flattery
I was having lunch with a friend in the exhibition center when she spotted a speaker from a previous session that she admired and wanted to ask more questions of. His topic, Agile, was something she had recently taken on in a new job. She mentioned that she hoped to get a chance to talk to him at some point and I suggested that she go over now. In a conference of 3,000 people, there is no guarantee that she would see him again and she should take the opportunity. She was reluctant to interrupt his lunch and conversation. I continued to encourage her to make the connection pointing out that it is flattering to be approached by someone who values your work and that he would likely appreciate the contact. Still seeing her reluctance I suggested that she simply go to the table with business card in hand and say “I don’t want to interrupt your lunch, but I have some follow up questions from your presentation”. Having a plan that she was comfortable with, she headed off toward his table.
I watched from afar suspecting that she would end up sitting down and talking to him. She did a wide circle around the table, gathering her courage, finally approaching him with card in hand, and finally, as predicted, she sits down. I went about my business at this point knowing she was in good hands and we would catch up later.
Their conversation continued by email after the conference. He has offered to help her get training and certification in Scrum with assistance from his own network, since training dollars are not available where she works. I believe a long term professional relationship is formed.
Pleasant Surprises: Stumbling Across Valuable Resources
I made it a point to personally introduce myself to every person that I am connected with through LinkedIn or Twitter, as well as presenters I enjoyed and learned from. I had two main motivators for this. One was to be able to mutually put names to faces and strengthen the connection, and also to show my appreciation and respect for their work.
In one such case I stayed back after a presentation in order spend a few moments with a LinkedIn connection, Samad Aidane. Although Samad is located within 60 miles of me and we had corresponded on a number of occasions, I had not met him in person until the presentation.
Samad introduced me to another of his connections, Todd Williams. As it turns out, Todd is another relatively local area consultant, principal of eCameron, Inc., specializing in project audit and recovery services. Having just taken over managing a project in trouble, I was very interested in his expertise. He discussed his strategy of auditing a project to uncover the organizational root causes. Our conversation resulted in a new book for me to read and an offer for an initial consultation with my company. Todd and I have a tentative appointment for coffee next time he is in the area. I look forward to the opportunity to gain additional insights on organizational changes that will improve project success in the future.
The Stuff Friendships Are Made Of
This last story actually started a year earlier. I stayed at an offsite hotel for the 2010 Congress in Washington, DC. There was a shuttle between the hotel and the conference center. This is where I met Jeff Furman. We chatted in the van about my aspirations for speaking and his role in training on presentation skills. In the van he made the assessment that I have what it takes to be a trainer, instructor, and presenter. This being that I have a strong voice, confidence, and am articulate. I appreciated this insight and we connected on LinkedIn following the conference. A few months later I received an email from Jeff with a referral for someone who was looking for a virtual instructor for an upcoming program. While this opportunity did not pan out, I truly appreciated the thought and referral.
I contacted Jeff prior to the trip to Dallas and we agreed to meet up to catch up. We did this, talking about his book, The Project Management Answer Book, and my upcoming presentation. Jeff said he planned on attending the presentation. I was glad to hear this as I knew his insight would be extremely valuable. The presentation went well and Jeff’s contributions as an audience member were great.
Even better are the things that have happened since. First, Jeff was interviewed by Elizabeth Harrin for her video diary where he talks about my presentation; first commenting on the subject, sponsorship, and then publically admires my style in engaging the audience. (Note to self, get copy of video for testimonial). The second thing that has happened is that Jeff and I have teamed to help build traffic to our respective blogs reflecting on the Congress through links and Tweets. (Jeff Furman’s Blog: Highlights of the PMI North American Congress 2011).
I know I have an ally in Jeff and can say he has one in me as well. As I begin to focus on building the next steps of my career through writing and presenting, I know I have a mentor and supporter. I just hope I can return as much in the friendship. It amazes me what conversation and exchange of business cards on a shuttle can do.
You don’t have to be actively seeking a job or clients to get significant value from networking. You never know where the benefits will present themselves. Don’t be shy in establishing connections. Your interest in the person should be a welcomed gift. If it isn’t, it will be their loss.
Finally, I want to thank those that took the time to show an interest in me. My sincerest thanks to Jeff Furman, Samad Aidane, Todd Williams, Peter Taylor, Rick Morris, Bill Fournet, Alfonso Bucero, and Ricardo Vargas. I look forward to seeing you at future events. Please let me know if there is anything I can ever do for you.
Chandra, thanks for having my back, I will always have yours.