March 1, 2011


Donna Messer
You're only as valuable as the people you share. — Donna
Have you seen Donna Messer, the queen of networking? I've had the opportunity three times in recent weeks.

Donna spoke to graduate university students at MITACS, at International Networking Day, and at the Association of Independent Consultants. Each event was surprisingly interactive and unique (like a Springsteen concert).

Where the audience size allows, Donna asks each attendee who they want to meet. She may make an instant suggestion from her vast network or connect one attendee with another. Her remarkable memory makes watching her a treat.

Here are three networking nuggets from watching Donna:
  1. Ask how you can help
  2. Know what you want
  3. Measure what matters

Ask How Can You Help

Tell me what you need and I'll tell you who I know. — Donna
Your value comes from what you can do for others. Venture beyond what you sell into the realm of who you know. Jeffery Gitomer says your network is your most important asset.

If you don't maintain contact, when you need help, don't count on getting any. You need to plant and nurture your orchard well before you harvest the fruits.

The only way we discover what others want is from them. Even if you don't have an answer, your value increases because you asked. Maybe you know someone (or someone who knows someone) who can help.

Know What You Want

"We don't share because we don't know what's of value to others." — Donna
You can't achieve a goal you don't have. Imagine if a fairy offered to grant you a wish ... and you didn't have one.

There's nothing wrong with having what Jim Collins calls a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). You might just meet someone who move you forward by a little or a lot. Frodo and Sam did.

Asking isn't a sign of weakness. Remaining silent is. You can overcome shyness and other fears like speaking in public.

Measure What Matters

You don't get anything out of anything you don't put anything into. — Donna
Donna believes in setting meaningful goals and measuring progress. If you make connections but don't follow up, what have you achieved? Collecting business cards isn't enough.

In earlier posts, we discussed giving unsolicited feedback and making your views public to stand out. Donna does both by asking uncomfortable questions.
Example: Say you met an ideal contact. What did you say? How did you follow up? How did you help them?
You might find this approach aggressive. However, her questions are probing and well-intentioned. Entering uncomfortable territory creates an opportunity for growth.

Donna won't leave you squirming, but she makes a point. She especially wanted us to share what we learned and blogs are ideal.

If you have a chance to see Donna, do.


PS Before making an introduction, get permission.

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