Like many people, I frequently eat my lunch at my desk. I at least try to use that time to catch up on online reading. However, I am guaranteed at least two lunches outside the office each month.
It’s a professional goal I established for myself many years ago – namely, to connect with colleagues at my workplace and with colleagues within my profession. Each month I schedule lunch with a colleague where I work. It’s a time to take a break and to get to know each other better. We also usually share work-related information. One colleague, for example, has helped me develop a better understanding of the budget process. Another colleague and I discuss leadership and team building. Mainly it allows for the connecting to happen that often doesn’t in the office because we’ll all too busy.
I also connect with peers. It’s a great way to learn what others are doing. We share frustrations, and I find it’s always good to know I’m not alone. Even better, we work to find solutions. We also share best practices and bounce ideas around. I always return from these lunches reinvigorated.
Turns out this a great tool. In his book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says that social settings are a great way to reach out to colleagues and future contacts. Ferrazzi is founder and CEO of the training and consulting firm Ferrazzi Greenlight and a contributor to Inc., the Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review.
Some months I’m able to get a few extra lunches onto my schedule. And sometimes I find breakfast to be the perfect time to reconnect because it’s usually a shorter time since we’re both ready to get to the office and because it’s the start of the day, we usually have lots of ideas.
How do you connect?
The NFPW Education Fund awarded several grants to cover the NFPW conference registration fee for first-timers. Whether you are a first-timer or attending your twentieth conference, here are a few tips for getting the most out of a conference:
Participate in POWER Networking. This event is held on the first day of the conference and is an easy way to meet about a dozen members. Then you can follow-up with them throughout the conference and afterwards. Even if you are an introvert, you’ll enjoy this event.
Bring plenty of business cards. You’ll want to share them as part of POWER Networking. You’ll also want to share them throughout the conference. When you do meet someone and exchange business cards, make a note on the back of the person’s card so you’ll recall the encounter and will have a reason to follow-up.
Highlighters are handy to have with you to mark what sessions you want to attend at a conference.
Review the schedule. The conference is jam-packed with workshop sessions, banquets and networking opportunities. Take a moment when you first arrive to highlight or circle the activities you must want to do. This will help prevent you from overlooking an activity.
Talk to someone you don’t know. Who knows, they may not know anyone either and you will each have a new acquaintance. I look forward to conferences now because I have made so many friends from across the United States.
Schedule time to explore. One of the best parts of NFPW conferences are the pre- and post-tours, as well as the day tours. Even if you weren’t able to participate in those, take a few hours to check out the neighborhood. This year’s conference is in Scottsdale, known for its breathtaking landscape, upscale shopping and ArtWalks. You’ll also want to check out the hotel, a former Hollywood hideaway. Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner wed at the hotel.
One of the challenges of attending a conference is finding a way to meet people at more than just a surface level.
Last year at the NFPW conference, we held a POWER Networking, a structured networking event that breaks away from the model of speeding from one person to the next and instead focuses on truly connecting with others.
We gathered in small groups and provided information about ourselves to those at the table. Each person had a turn (a timer kept us on track). At the end of the session, we had all become acquainted with other members.
What I like about the approach is that I meet a lot of members quickly, and in a setting that doesn’t feel forced. More importantly I learn about the person as both an individual and as a professional.
Others who participated agreed.
“The networking session was a fun and fast way to get to know other members at the start of the conference,” said Cathy Jett of Virginia Press Women. “While short, there was still time for several people at one of the tables where I sat to get suggestions about books or other projects they were working on.”
First-timer Sylvia Dickey Smith of Press Women of Texas said, “As a result of the POWER Networking session, I no longer felt like a newcomer. I had friends!”
If you are attending the NFPW conference, you will have the opportunity to build relationships by tapping into new resources, making fresh discoveries and uncovering prospects and leads. Bring plenty of business cards and promotional materials and get ready to seize the moment!
Earlier this week I met a colleague, Katherine O’Donnell, director of marketing for Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau for lunch. The last time we saw each other was at the fall meeting of Virginia Press Women. And before that it had been at least a year.
Much had happened in that time. She had a baby – who is now one! I changed jobs. We both took on new roles with VPW and NFPW.
As part of my professional health dashboard, I made a commitment to network once a month over lunch with a colleague. Besides the obvious of getting to catch up with someone I genuinely like, the time was well spent.
Getting outside of the office and talking with someone in the communications field but who does something a bit different from your job description allows ideas to spring forth. I finally had to pull out a notebook to keep up with everything.
By the time the lunch was finished, I had a blog entry (you’re reading it), Richmond items for international colleagues visiting in March, lots of ideas for moving NFPW forward and input on some professional decisions. I offered to share some social media policies with Katherine and provided her with some feedback, too.
Lunch went quickly and as I returned to the office, I was more energized than ever. All it took was a quick power lunch of networking. Beats pasta any day!
Are you searching for a job? Do you have a question you need answered but don’t have a contact in that field?
Then try LinkedIn, a business networking site that enables you to network, hire, post jobs, get business advice and share your expertise.
You can also join various groups and share information. NFPW has a group on the site. It’s a great way to get others interested in NFPW. If they see you are a member of the group and are in the communications field, they’ll ask you about it and then you can have a conversation about the benefits of joining NFPW.
So if you aren’t already, join the NFPW LinkedIn group. And if you aren’t on LinkedIn, why not take the plunge into this business networking site? It’s a great way to polish your resume, learn about social media and define your brand.
Once you are on the site you will create a free account and then you will create a profile. Use a professional photograph and share highlights of your professional experience. Then begin adding contacts. Expand your network over time.
If you are feeling ambitious ask for recommendations. If you disagree with what the person wrote, you can reject that recommendation. You also can recommend people. Add your Web site or your Twitter account. Again, it’s all about connecting.
I’ve used LinkedIn to post jobs, to find out more about candidates, to ask professional questions and get answers from those with more expertise.
Are we LinkedIn? If not, let’s connect!
I’ve been a member of NFPW now for a bit more than 20 years, which is hard to believe. I’m thankful for that relationship.
As you consider whether to renew your membership, recruit new members or join us, here are some reasons why NFPW is worth it and why I am so thankful for it —
1) Professional development: The national and state conferences and workshops expose me to the latest in communications and put me in touch with some of the best in the business.
2) Networking: As noted above, I’m meeting people from all aspects of the communications field. When I reach out later to them for advice, they’re always happy to help.
3) Friendships: I don’t know of any other professional group where I have developed such close friendships. I look forward to catching up each year at conferences. And now through Facebook, we’re communicating more regularly. How fun!
4) Pre- and post-tours: Each year the NFPW conference is hosted by a different state affiliate. It’s a great way to see the country because the affiliate always offers tours. I enjoy learning about a state as told by someone who knows where to visit.
I could keep going, but I won’t because I’ve got to start cooking for the big day. Just know that I will be saying thanks for NFPW!