Recently I attended a UAV event in my area (watch for the July issue of xyHt for more) that got me thinking about the role of networking in our profession. Not RTK, CORS, or even WANs or LANs, but person-to-person networking.
Networking for fun. Meeting new people in the geospatial profession (and especially those interested in the profession) is both fun and educational. Surveying (and writing about surveying) can be a lonely job, and it’s a pleasure to rub elbows with others in the field. It’s educational to compare notes and pick other professionals’ brains on the challenges geospatial professionals face.
Networking for profit. Not every person you meet at a networking event is going to instantly become a client, but aside from the educational value, think of it in the long-run as planting seeds and creating awareness of yourself and your firm. In my own business I’ve observed that it can take years for these seeds to mature into actual working relationships. Abraham Lincoln once observed, “The best time to make friends is before you need them.”
Where to find opportunities for networking? Certainly your state’s—as well as national and regional— geospatial associations like NSPS and MAPPS are a good place to start, especially for fun and educational networking opportunities. Look around in your local business community for possibilities. Moving out from that base, I’ve had good luck using www.Meetup.com to locate local events that are of interest.
Online networking. Do you have a LinkedIn profile? Most folks I meet do, but if you don’t, consider it. Then go beyond the basics by joining a relevant group, like “Professional Land Surveyor,” “GIS,” “Unmanned Systems Network,” and don’t forget “xyHt”!
Networking tips. Have a supply of business cards with you. It may seem anachronistic in this digital world to carry business cards, but they do come in handy. Don’t expect others to memorize your name and your company; instead, exchange cards and make a more tangible connection. PMA (Positive Mental Attitude): remember your goal is to make connections and plant seeds, not to put on a hard sell. Be friendly and helpful, offer advice, and/or ask for it. If someone needs a service that you don’t provide, make a referral. That said, when someone asks what you do, have your elevator speech memorized. An elevator speech is a short summary used to quickly and simply describe your company and its value proposition. It’s called an elevator speech because it should be short enough, 20 to 60 seconds, to be delivered on an elevator ride. Keep it real with facts, not fluff.