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What's This Networking Thing?

By Mark Alexander

In our recent MCA-I chapter survey of media professionals we asked you what the most important benefits you hoped to get through your association with this organization were.  It shouldn’t be too surprising that the vast majority—86%— said networking. But what is this networking thing anyway?

 Back when I first heard the word networking I conjured up images of greasy haired, gold chained salesmen tossing their business cards at me and saying “let’s do lunch baby”. Not something I was interested in. Since then my idea of networking has matured somewhat.

To me, networking is really more about relationships and building a community. You can’t just pass out business cards at a meeting and expect to get calls with offers of work. I’m surprised at how many people want immediate results like this without taking the time to develop relationships. In his book “Never Eat Alone”, Keith Ferrazzi points out that effective networking isn’t something you do when you need a job or some other benefit. You must be willing to reach out to others long before you need anything at all.

At our meetings lately, we’ve started to do some fun little exercises in networking. For example, during a break in the presentations we are encouraged to meet the people around us and to talk with them to find out a little about each other. Then afterwards some of us will tell the group a little about those people we met. As a motivator there are often prizes involved!  It really changes the way you listen to people when you might have to tell others about them. Most importantly, you have actually established the very beginnings of a relationship. It’s simple and fun. The next step is to follow through with an email or a phone call. This really is not too far outside most people’s comfort zone when done in the spirit that we do this.

One of the best ways to connect with people is to become involved in the groups and organizations that you have in common. Whether it’s in a professional group or a volunteer organization it doesn’t really matter. What matters is to step away from the sidelines, take a little risk, and start to get to know the people around you. As time goes on they will get to know you as well. It was pointed out to me that people work with people they like. That isn’t going to happen with a cursory handshake and exchange of business cards. These are relationships we’re talking about.

As for being involved in the MCA-I chapter, I would like to strongly encourage you to consider taking even just a bit more active role. We are a family and sometimes when the family comes to dinner you may be asked to set the table. Basically it’s the same here. Something as easy as coming to the meeting a few minutes early and helping to set up or being willing to help sign people in at the door. You don’t have to be a chapter board member or meeting organizer to do these types of things. Everyone is welcome. In fact I think it would be something that you should seriously think about. After all, you never know when you’ll meet someone while setting up a chair who might become a future client, supplier or business partner!

We have plenty of opportunities for you. Just ask and we’ll be more than happy to have you become actively involved with us in whatever way you can.

See you at the next meeting! -- Mark

Mark Alexander,

MCA-I LA/OC Chapter President 2010-11

President, Alexander Video Productions