Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Going on a Business Trip? Use the LinkedIn Events Application and Windmill Network!

If you’ve followed my Windmill Networking blog for awhile or read my LinkedIn book, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of the LinkedIn Events Application.  Seriously.  I wrote an April Fools’s post back in 2009 complaining why Events wasn’t considered an application with a blog post rhetorically entitled, “What are LinkedIn Applications?”  I was the first one to ask “What Happened to LinkedIn Events?” when they mysteriously disappeared for a day in October of 2009.  So you can say that I have a personal relationship with Events, and when all of the “social media gurus” talk about Facebook Events, Eventbrite, and Plancast, which are all also great platforms for events, I still think they misunderstand or under appreciate the potential for using the LinkedIn Events application.
I’ve been traveling a lot the last few weeks, speaking on social media as well as attending award ceremonies for my social media book.  As I am an avid Windmill Networker, meaning that I see the value of social networking to be of networking outside of my present network, I am always open to connecting with others on LinkedIn.  There is value in plugging our windmills into the grid that is social media and virtually connecting.  But the deep value and trust that comes out of relationships are when they are developed offline in the real world.  That is why, whenever I travel outside of my native Orange County, California, I try to create a LinkedIn Event and use it as an avenue to not only bring together people that I am connected to on LinkedIn but have never met, but also an opportunity to meet new people that may have similar interests.
Through the advice that I present below, I have been able to meet with between 10 and 30 people apiece at networking events that I created in Portland, Oregon, Jacksonville, Florida, and New York City in the past few weeks…and I had never previously met any of these people!  Once you meet new people at a networking events, there are countless opportunities to learn from others, share information, help others, and maybe find a new business partner or even get a new lead either directly or indirectly from your new contact.  Rather than spending time in your hotel room by yourself, it is a way to enrich your professional life and make new friends.  You never know when your connecting with that person will help you or them out in the future.
So the next time you are on a business trip, follow this procedure to create a way for people to meet you through the LinkedIn Events Application and Windmill Network!
  1. You first need to create a LinkedIn Event. This is not difficult to do, and step-by-step instructions of how to do so are in my LinkedIn book.  The important things that you need to prepare are a title (“networking event” makes sense), a description which should want to bring people out to meet and network, and you need to find a location.  I do this by going to Google Maps, figuring out both where I plan to be on business as well as where my hotel is, and then find an ideal area which makes logistical sense for the time that I plan to hold the event (late afternoons/early evenings seem to be the best time).  I then go to Yelp and find a location that has a bar/large party atmosphere located in the ideal area.  You can find these by using “large party restaurant” or “large group restaurant” in the search terms so that you can be assured that there won’t be an issue if a lot of people come!  Check out the reviews and take your pick of location.
  2. After creating the LinkedIn Event, inform your network. As a LinkedIn Open Networker or LION, I have acquired a lot of LinkedIn connections over time.  When I did a search through my contacts of connections living in Portland, Oregon, I found that I already had more than 130 connections living there that I had never met!  Obviously the larger your network, the more connections you are bound to have in any given city.  Using the InBox feature, send out a blast with a link to the LinkedIn Event to your connections.  You can add 50 connections to the same message for efficiency’s sake.  If your network is smaller…
  3. Invite those who are members of similar LinkedIn Groups. You joined a Group for a reason: you want to obtain or share information with others that have a similar interest.  Why not do an Advanced People Search using a keyword (I used “social media”) and look for people in Groups that you belong to that you may want to meet up with?  If you are a member of the same Group, chances are you will be able to send them a LinkedIn Message regardless of your connectivity status.  Go for it, contact them, but be clear as to why you want to meet with them in the first place.  And, remember, it is a pain, but every Message to a common Group member that you are not connected to must be done separately, one-by-one…
  4. Send out a reminder to those that RSVP to your LinkedIn Event. This is something that I originally did not do, and I regret not doing it because I think that attendance to my networking events could have been greater had I sent out a friendly reminder to all of those that RSVPed “Attending” and “Interested” on the Event page a few days before the event.
  5. Prepare for the LinkedIn Event by checking out the Profiles of those that RSVPed. Better yet, print out their profiles for airplane reading!
  6. Enjoy your time with new friends!  You’re Windmill Networking!

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