Imagine being invited to stay at a really nice hotel for free. All your business colleagues are going to be there. This lovely hotel has additional options you can pay for but all the basics are provided. How you take advantage is up to you.
I’ve been engaged in a lively online debate lately with the representative of an organization where I’ll be speaking later this year. He believes the technical membership of the group is highly skeptical and just doesn’t believe in this whole connecting thing on LinkedIn and that it’s a sales and marketing folk thing. He told me “sales and marketing folks get the connections thing — engineers and other professionals don’t. It is a deep cultural issue — the aversion that people with skills and expertise have to feeling like a desperate Willy Loman.” In talking with him (he’s a techie himself) here we were building this connection thing all online. But it did get me thinking about an analogy for the beginning of my talk and it grew into this piece.
The invitation to stay (your invitation to connect on LinkedIn)
You can choose to not accept the invitation and stay home (i.e. not have a LinkedIn profile at all or not use LinkedIn.) Of course you will miss the connections, the business opportunities and did I mention the partying? But you’ll be safely at home in your jammies watching soap operas where you’ll be safe and fine. After all, you don’t need to build your business relationships and you have plenty of business.
The name on the marquee of the hotel (your LinkedIn professional headline)
I’ve been working with/providing training for technical folk in Silicon Valley for over 30 years and I find them really smart and wonderfully open to meaningful conversations. In general they may not like being self-promotional but they are confident in who they are and their personal brand (that’s what your headline is.)
How you dress for the hotel (your photo)
Didn’t the invitation say “come as you are”? “How you are” is comfortable with a bad haircut, and wearing a T-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap. But wait! Maybe it actually said come in business attire. Okay – so maybe business attire for you is generally in sweats but the dress code here is to go dressed for a business meeting. Come looking like you on a good day – look like someone others would want to do business with.
The lobby (your summary)
This is the meet and greet of your hosts and other guests. Tell them a little something about yourself – not too much – you don’t want to be a bore and you want to be sure to give them a chance to talk too. Make sure you let them know enough about you that they know if they want to do business with you or how to refer others to you.
There are lots of people there you know already – stop and chat and catch up a bit. Let them introduce you to some of their colleagues. Walk up to someone who’s wearing a name tag that says he’s working for the same company you used to and stick your hand out and say hello. Be sure to tell them how your paths might have crossed or why you’d like to talk with them (a personalized invitation to connect.)
Break-out sessions (groups)
If you’re a techie who’d rather be off in one of the special sessions for others like you, there’s a break-out session just for you. There are thousands of groups to choose from. You’re almost guaranteed to find someone who can help you solve that engineering glitch you’ve been fighting with for weeks. If you’re a home mortgage lender, there’s a group for you too – or maybe you’d like to visit the group of new home buyers who are looking for your services.
Someone’s got to pay, right? (Premium services and advertising)
Remember that you were invited to this party at no charge. Entertainment, a buffet, and beer and wine are provided. If you want something special, you can get it at an additional charge. But somehow this event has got to be paid for and the constant offers to buy something are just the sometimes irritating price we have to pay.
I don’t know anyone at this party or how to find the bar (Help Center and free webinars and trainers)
Even people who are not at all shy at parties or other social gatherings may find it awkward to initiate interactions on LinkedIn but it’s actually a great tool for anyone – socially reluctant or otherwise – to make new connections and deepen existing relationships. You may need a little help to get started but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Yes, LinkedIn is frequently confusing. The powers that be make changes constantly – often without telling anyone in advance or explaining them. I make my living helping people develop great profiles on LinkedIn and how to use its many features. They’re successful and busy professionals who can’t justify the time spent on figuring out all the ins and outs of this tool. But they know this is a party they can’t miss.
I’ve been having a little fun with this analogy. What about you? What parts of this lovely hotel relate to other sections of LinkedIn? Do you think the promotions and up-selling you have to endure are worth it for all the free stuff?
I would love to talk with you about the benefits to you of having a great profile on LinkedIn, how to use it without driving yourself crazy and how I could help you with your professional goals. Please schedule a free 30-minute strategy consultation to see how I might be able to assist you.