by Jim Bruce
I found this short piece in today’s crop of electronic newsletters.
It’s a story about how to work a crowd to build relationships.
Home > Online Features > Knowing How to Work a Crowd
Knowing How to Work a Crowd
BY Bil l Piecuch
It’s all about the attitude.
Several months ago, I spent two action-packed days leading a
group of IT professionals at a communications seminar. My job
was to coach this group to become better presenters. As I
entered the building to pick up my badge at the front desk,
two people were talking. When I asked the receptionist for my
badge, one man overheard me, immediately approached and
extended his hand. This was Eric from Denver, a participant in
What followed was a brief, perhaps 30-second interesting
“commercial” about him and his company followed by a quick
overview of Denver’s professional sports teams. Then he paused,
looked me straight in the eye as asked: “Bill, how did you get into
this kind of work?” I was flattered.
The two-minute discussion with me created a favorable impression
of Eric. During the next two days, I noted with interest as Eric
greeted, cajoled, introduced and reintroduced himself to dozens of
corporate people — most outranking him. I also noted genuineness
when others responded to Eric. He was obviously liked and soaking
up plenty of useful information.
I was even more astonished at lunchtime on the second day when
the general manager of a large corporate software group asked Eric
to dine with him. When we met following lunch (Eric was 20 minutes
late), I was frankly curious to find out what he, a manager in a faroff
outpost, had in common with the top person in much a larger
organization. Eric smiled and replied, “He just wanted to know what
was going on.”
“How is it that you know so many people?” I asked. He told me that
he truly works at networking because it helps him do a better job.
“How?” I asked.
“Simple,” he responded. “I’m made aware of new products earlier
than most field people, I get the first shot at any new solutions to
client problems, and probably most importantly, I keep positive
visibility that is useful to my career.”
His prescription for better networking was amazingly simple. He laid
out several ideas that he follows diligently. Before each seminar, he
will list those he might meet. Then he’ll jot brief thoughts that might
help them professionally and politically. “Politically?” I asked with
some surprise. “Yes,” he said. “And I will pass along any noncompetitive
information that can really help. I end the discussion by
asking if there is anything that I might provide to help.”
These remarks usually open the door to Eric passing along his own
unique knowledge and expertise to his acquaintances. Being a
software engineer and dealing with a number of high-profile clients
in Denver provides him with credentials as a person to be listened to.
Eric always remembers to be approachable. Seldom did I see him
with a somber, disinterested air. He always approached others with
genuine enthusiasm that seemed attractive. But, probably most
importantly, he always made an effort to talk about their lives first,
never his. “And,” he told me, “I approach networking as a light, fun
exercise. Don’t get so serious.”
Eric confided that when he returns to Denver he will write a personal
thank-you note to those he has met at the seminar. He’ll use e-mail,
fax or a personal letter. He uses a commemorative stamp when
responding with a personal letter: “People really remember receiving
Eric recommends following through on any commitment. “Without
follow through, you lack believability,” he says. When the workshop
was over, I noticed that while others, including me, were scurrying
around trying to get taxicabs to the airport, there was Eric smiling
and waving to me as he was being driven away as a passenger.
So where does informal power reside in the organization? Next time
you’re tempted to downgrade that cheery, pat-on-the back,
energetic person as perhaps being artificial, think twice. If it’s
genuine and natural, there might be far more to reckon with and it
could work to your advantage. Better yet, follow Eric’s prescription
for achieving greater company visibility and you’ll become a master
of informal power.
Bill Piecuch is the president of Northstar Public Relations , located in
Ocala, FL. He has been the top public relations executive for three
Fortune 500 firms. Additionally, as an avocation, he has instructed
over 3,500 sessions of the Dale Carnegie and Management Courses.
You can reach him at Wmpq@nstarpr.com.