From a public school teacher in Chicago, to being named by Forbes as one of The Top 25 Networkers to Follow in 2015, Susan RoAne has an impressive resume that spans the gamut. But, what she’s best known for is being a keynote speaker with expertise in helping her audiences through connecting and and communicating in today’s complicated business world.
Her bestselling book How to Work a Room® was groundbreaking when it was published 25 years ago and has sold over a million copies since then. She is also the author of half a dozen other books on networking including What Do I Say Next? and Face To Face: How To Reclaim The Personal Touch in A Digital World. Susan’s been hailed as an expert in face-to-face communications and you can find her tips and suggestions all over the media and web, but we were lucky enough to snag her for some personalized tips from her on all things networking and building relationships.
Biggest takeaway? Don’t discredit the art of in-person networking, and certainly don’t skimp out on being as personalized and conversational as you can be when you reach out to new connections or follow-up with your current network. Read on to glean the expertise from the Mingling Mastermind herself
Contactually Influencer Interview with Susan RoAne…
Interview with Susan RoAne:
Contactually: You have a pretty busy event calendar, how do you make sure you stay connected with everyone you meet and network with?
Susan: I’m a big ‘to do’ list maker. That keeps me organized and on target. When I don’t write it down…I forget. I follow up as soon as possible when there has been a “connection.” Sometimes I drop the ball. When I do and later realize it, I immediately send an email or message. I’ll apologize for late follow through and move to the message (Good to meet you, Interesting ideas on ______, Fun to find out you worked with my college roommate at_____) These examples reflect the conversation to help people remember who I am.
I also scroll through old emails and decide it’s time to touch base and will send a “how are you” email. Now with the smart phone I’ll find a photo that is relevant and include it in my note. It can be a photo of the two of us, or one I’ve taken while driving across Golden Gate Bridge (not the safest of photojournalism) or of something I will have learned is dear to the other person.
If I meet someone and decide it’s appropriate, I’ll ask to take a selfie and send it to them with the followup note (love selfies for that reason). And for those who want a program to help them with their contact base, I recommend Contactually.
Contactually: Your bestselling book How to Work a Room, is focused on building relationships that increase business growth, and you advocate that ‘networking is necessary’ for this, what’s the first networking step you would advise for people looking to build those relationships?
Susan: Let’s differentiate, Working a Room is really socializing, mingling, making that contact. Networking is the process and range of actions that constitute ‘following-up’ and some people are wonderful networkers but the thought of walking into an event, meeting, or party is daunting. Others are fabulous “minglers” but have no follow-up and are not interested in connecting so they are not networkers and generally don’t have an extensive support system.
Step 1. Commit to building your support team knowing that you’re a part of others support teams.
Step 2. Understand that networking is not a science…it’s an art…of communication and connection.
Step 3. Prepare your own 7-9 second self-introduction before you enter any room.
Step 4. Read a news curator or newspaper…and have 3- 5 newsworthy conversation topics as a backup.
Step 5. LISTEN, listen, listen because people tell you what they want to talk about.
Contactually: What role has networking and building relationships played in your career and success?
Susan: Knowing how to work a room, mix and mingle and believing in the lifelong process of networking has a starring role in my career and success and the joys that I‘ve experienced in my personal life. Networking and building close heartfelt relationships are my lifeblood, they are the foundation, cornerstone and the growth hormone of my speaking business and personal life.
Being a ‘matchmaker” (a long time iconic song from Fiddler On The Roof) is the essence of networking. Bringing people together for the betterment of both is the elixir of my life. (Of course, I have always loved “fixing people up” and networking is the business extension of the Yenta, The Matchmaker Syndrome).
Contactually: You are the Mingling Mastermind, can you offer one major suggestion for anyone who may be struggling with networking in person or at crowded events with a lot of people?
Susan: Know that research indicates 90% of American adults self identify as shy. So if you’re shy or an introvert…you are NOT alone! Do not fall into the trap of badmouthing networking. Most likely, it’s the thought of walking into the room full of strangers that makes people uncomfortable and not the “networking” follow-up the connects us to others after the event.
Best advice is to reframe the event. Realize that most people are nice, helpful, interesting. Attend every event with the attitude of “Wow…I’m going to get to meet some incredible people.” And you will.
Contactually: You are incredibly active on social media, specifically Twitter, how have you leveraged your social media accounts for your business growth?
Susan: I’m an awful techie but an early adopter of social media; a blogger for 12 years, on Linked for over 11 years, 8 years on Twitter and getting Snapchat lessons. I’m sure to share important info, ideas, suggestions (based on my books), interesting articles via their URL, and yes selfies, photos and…an occasional meal! Social media is a perfect way to augment, but not supplant, personal connecting. So I like, post, comment.
Thanks to a Tweet, retweeting Dorie Clark, sent by Daniel Pink, who I follow, I met Dorie. We started exchanges on Twitter because she was writing her 1st book. I offered to support her effort. I was updating How To Work a Room and included that anecdote.
That summer she was here in San Francisco and we met and felt we were with lifelong friends. And now we are! We support each other’s endeavors, share them via social media and are celebrate each other’s milestones.
Contactually: How do you continue to manage your relationships, clients, and network at such a large scale?
Susan: It’s easy…I don’t waste my time cooking, baking, doing crafts or gardening or vacuuming. I have a sign on my door, Martha Stewart Doesn’t Live here. So, my time is spent on my speaking business, staying in touch with my networks. I have a large number of people in my personal life who started as clients, colleagues, biz pals. In fact I’m Auntie Susan to two families and take those relationships seriously and have babysat for my little ones.
There are many people that focus on ‘networking up’ or connecting with influencers to solidify their value. But, the focus on the influencers makes me queasy as it comes off so sleazy. My advice, be nice to everyone! Why? You never know! The person you decide is not that important today and breeze past them in any room could be the decision-maker and “Big Kahuna” next year. People will not forget if you have bypassed or snubbed them. And sometimes the influencer who can make intros are not who you think they are. They may be an assistant, a barber, or a dry cleaner who has other customers you may want to meet.
Contactually: How have you personalized your own brand within your network?
Susan: Luckily my brand is me and how I live my life. It’s about mixing, mingling, sharing laughter and ideas, leads, recommendations for restaurants, movies, mechanics and connection, conversation, support, matchmaking. How To Work a Room® is my registered trademark in three categories and I’ve also trademarked The Mingling Maven® over a decade before Malcolm Gladwell used the term maven in The Tipping Point.
So I stay in touch for biz and personal issues. I make “how are you” phone calls, send notes and cards. (birthdays, holidays, sympathy cards etc.) The US Post Office should sponsor my presentations!
Contactually: Do you have any tips or tricks for email communications that almost always get a response?
Susan: This is question is one we all contemplate. I wish I had a magic potion or solution! Write something that relates to the receiver’s area of interest. Make sure you write grammatically correct emails that sound and read conversational and add a personal touch.
Contactually: What’s your advice for someone looking to build up their personal and professional network?
Susan: RSVP to events. Show Up. Prepare a 7-9 second self intro. Read a newspaper or content curator. Talk to “strangers”. Follow-up within 2-3 days with a LinkedIn, or Facebook invite and/or email. Don’t just add people to a subscriber list, instead connect one-to-one and stay in touch! If you hear or read something of interest, share it with them.
Keep personalized notepaper, a good pen and stamps in your reach. People will always remember the person who sent them something of interest! It’s thoughtful.
Start mingling now!
Notice a theme? With Susan, it’s all about going into an event with a positive attitude and creating the most personalized experience with your connections and network. Be ready to have a real conversation and yes, that means doing a little research and prep work but showing up ready to chat and make worthwhile connections is a great first step to eliminating a lot of the nerves that go along with networking.