Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You don't believe in networking!?!

Friend of Washington Gardener Magazine, Chip Py of Global Worming will be on Channel 4 (WRC-NBC) at 5:00 pm today as part of Wendy Rieger's ongoing "Going Green" series of reports. I think the segment will be repeated a few times in the next few days and should also be posted on their site soon.

I first met Chip at an event at Brookside Gardens last year. Then again at the GreenFest and at various other green/garden events in the DC area. He donated bottles of his worm tea for Washington Gardener Seed Exchange and will be bringing more by for me to use as a booth giveaway at an upcoming garden show where we'll be exhibiting. We are both of the Guerilla Marketing mindset and always looking out for cross-promotional ideas.

Which brings me to a subject near and dear to me: networking. Last week a small business person I know said, "I don't believe in networking," when I asked for his business card as I way of explaining why he had known. Barring the fact that is no excuse for no biz cards (get them FREE at http://www.vistaprint.com/), this remark really irked me. I wanted to bonk him on the forehead and yell, "Wake up!" IMHO, without unlimited cash-flow resources, networking is the ONLY way to get anything accomplished in this world.

Believe me, when I graduated college and took business seminars extolling the virtues of networking. It went in one ear and right out the other. Despite outward appearances, I'm an introvert and am a writer for a reason. But I quickly learned over the years working for various professional and trade associations that there was a reason people paid hundreds of dollars a year to be members of these group. The smart ones join up as soon as they can, attend every event possible, and chat up everyone.

When starting this magazine I had to overcome my discomfort and put myself out there as well. And guess what? The more I do it, the easier it becomes. Sure, it is not fun to walk into a room of strangers and just walk up to someone and introduce myself. Ten years ago I'd rather get a splinter in the eye than attempt something like that. As you mature and become more comfortable with your self, the less effort it takes. And if you believe in your product, networking comes almost naturally.

One member of an association I worked for years ago wrote on her event evaluation that is was "poor," while it got high marks from everyone else. Her reason, "No one talked to me or introduced themselves." Mind you this person paid over $1,000 to fly to this location, get a hotel room, join the group, and sign up for the event. What a moron! Everyone at this event had a name badge and was there to meet new contacts, why was it anybody else's responsibility to make the first move with her? So you are shy? Get over it! If you made a serious investment in your time and money to attend a business event, make sure you at least get some valid contacts out of it. It helps to keep in mind as well that you are certainly not the only one at any given event who wants to crawl into a hole. Just plaster a smile on and pretend your confident -- and you soon will be for real.

At the opening reception for our Washington Gardener Photo Contest Exhibit last Friday, I was pleased to see a great turnout and how the conservation flowed along with the wine. I had asked all the winning photographers to bring their business cards/brochures. Many made special ones just for the exhibit and others had wonderful brochures on hand. One winner, Yoma Ullman, commented afterwards, "I did a huge amount of networking and thoroughly enjoyed myself into the bargain. Great idea, and splendidly carried out." One of our regular contributing photographers, Dan Weil, said, "I think the reception went exceedingly well. I don't know if anyone will sell anything, but it sure got photographers and your mag some good attention, and it was enjoyable. Good networking, too. You must be real proud of it."

I am proud of it and of the caliber of photographs on display there. I hope it inspires a whole new crop of entries into next year's competition as well. Moreover, I know the connections the photographers and all those who attended the event made will pay off in untold and myriad ways in years to come.

Chip's on air segment is now uploaded at: http://video.nbc4.com/player/?id=85823

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