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8 tips for more efficient business networking offline

Business networking offline is more nuanced than on the web, and many waste a considerable amount of effort at networking events – here’s how to make good use of your time and make better connections.

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Becoming more efficient at business networking

Most of us go to networking events with an end goal in mind, which is to expand our network and look for referrals for our businesses. As my businesses grow, I’ve found unique challenges that commonly arise at networking events and here are some helpful tips so that you can learn to be more efficient and effective with networking and referrals.

1. Have a business card on you at all times.

You never know when a business opportunity may arise. There was a time where I was attending a conference called SIGGRAPH in San Diego, CA and I found myself sitting next to the President of a World Wide Organization on a Charter bus. Opportunities happen all the time, not just at networking conferences. Make sure you have a business card on you.

We aren’t at the digital age yet where exchanging contact info through our phones is common place, so make sure to bring some way to capture their contact information quickly as well as a way for you to give a potential contact your info or else you may never see that contact again.

2. Develop a plan of what you want to accomplish the day before an event.

Develop a short mission statement for yourself containing details about what you want to accomplish at your networking event. Also figure out why do you want to accomplish this and what you can do to accomplish this goal. Then write down three things you want to accomplish at your event that will make it a successful event for you.

When you go to an event, focus on completing one objective at a time starting out with the highest priority networking goal. For example, if you are looking for funding, when you arrive, you will need find out where Venture Captialists are networking and stay in that area until you’ve met all of them that you can. After that, you can move to your other objectives for the evening.

3. Research all aspects of the event you’re attending beforehand.

Research where the networking event is if you haven’t been there before. Knowing where the venue is can help you arrive on time and plan for traffic and parking ahead of time. Often times, there are public RSVP lists to these events where you can see who is attending and what their backgrounds are.

Make sure to seek out these lists if they are available and make a list of people you must talk to before attending the event. Researching the networking event’s history can also make you appear knowledgeable and it can even make you the ‘go to’ person or experienced networker in certain situations.

4. Bring your marketing and presentation materials with you.

Always bring at very least, a pen, a permanent marker, and something to write on. One thing that happens to me quite often when I’m networking is I will hand someone my glossy double-sided business card, I will say something meaningful to my new networking contact, and they are unable to write a note to themselves on my business card. If you bring extra pens and the right kind of pens, your new contact will be impressed by your thoughtfulness and will be able to write down valuable information immediately about you.

If you have a manufacturing based business, bring a prototype. If your prototype is too large, then keep an image with you on your smart phone. Remember to keep your phone charged and bring backup batteries if needed. Put videos of your product or service on your phone so you can show people what you do quickly. All of your presentation materials assist people to understand what you do and what you need from them quickly. Remember that not everyone learns primarily by hearing what you have to say, you have people that learn by visual or tactile queues or a combination. So it’s best to prepare a quick pitch about what you do, tell them about it, show them what it is, then leave them with something tactile behind so that you’re catering to all of their senses.

5. Dress for the people you want to attract.

Austin, for example, can be pretty laid back so sometimes it’s usual to wear a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops when you’re at a business networking event. Just remember that if your goal is to network with and hang around people in suits all evening, you should be wearing similar clothing as those people you want to attract. Doing this will make them feel more comfortable around you.

6. Know how to speed network like a pro.

When networking, I usually come into a group of people, say hi, and let the group finish their discussion before I start leading the conversation to ‘So what do you do? Why are you here?’ After I’ve spoken with the person for some time to discover how I can help them or add value to their business, I ask them based on what they know about me so far, how they feel they could add value to my business. It’s a tricky art, because although it is reasonable to offer solutions to their problems, it cannot feel contrived – legitimately find ways to connect them with others or solve their pain points, and explore whether or not they have a value to offer in return (they may or may not).

If I figure out that there is no synergy, I will excuse myself from the conversation and leave the group. You should learn to politely excuse yourself from conversations quickly so that you can maximize the limited time you have to network.

I usually have a sorting system at any networking event that gives me an ability to quickly file contacts according to how relevant they are to my business. If I get a great and useful contact, I put my new networking contact’s business card in my front left pocket. If I have no immediately apparent use for a new contact’s business card, their card goes in my back pocket. When I get home, I have all my high priority contacts already sorted.

If you find someone that you have synergy with, get their contact info and schedule a future based physical meet up with them. Setting a date in the future to meet up shows to your new contact that they are important to you. In-person meetings usually have a higher sales closing rate and can create a greater sense of connection between yourself and your new contact than just connecting over LinkedIn or email after an event.

7. Follow up.

So by the end of the night, I usually come home with more business cards than I can count. From my experience, you have about 48 hours to reach out to these contacts you just met or else they may forget that they ever met you. So make sure to sort through all of your most important connections and leads for your business and contact those first. I recommend connecting with all of your new connections on LinkedIn.

If you don’t have the time to follow up with all of these people yourself, outsource it to your assistant, family members, intern, or anyone else you feel you trust with this task.

8. File your contacts properly.

A lot of people I know don’t keep an archive of all of their contacts. You never know the day that one of your previously less useful contacts may become exactly what you need in the future. I usually assign a keyword or phrase to all my “useless” contacts and put all of that data into one master spreadsheet (or you can do so in your CRM). That way in the future, I can search for resources if I ever need something in the future. Having this system ensures you will almost never have a crisis when you are looking for resources on demand.

Matthew Winters is the owner of Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio , a Full-Service 2D & 3D animation studio, advertising agency, and video production studio. As one of Austin's movers and shakers, he also founded Speed Friending Events which produces networking mixers and social events in over 14 cities nationally. Matthew is dedicated to providing solutions to social and technology related issues in the industry.

Business News

DMCA and Twitch streaming, aka a mess of copyright

(BUSINESS NEWS) As live-streaming is booming in popularity, DMCA claims are becoming an existential problem for Twitch. And it’s streamers who bear the burden.

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Twitch streamer in front of gaming PC, likely to face DMCA claims.

Last month hundreds of content creators on the streaming platform Twitch received DMCA takedown notices from their host at the same time, telling them that content on their channel was potentially in violation of copyright law.

Twitch has since summed up the incident in their own words on their blog. Typically, DMCA notices are supposed to provide the recipient with information about their options for submitting a counter-claim or seeking retraction. But, as the post admits, “the only option provided [to streamers] was a mass deletion tool for [their] clips, [and] we only gave [them] three days notice to use this tool.”

If they didn’t, they would risk losing their channel (and in many cases, their full time income.)

The videos in question could span thousands of hours of content, which could not realistically be deleted in the time allowed.

 

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So, what you’re saying is all potentially copywritten music clips/VODS on my channel have already been identified and deleted, so I don’t need to delete anything right now?I need clarification because I don’t have the time to go through 4 years of clips.

Twitch has pretty much looked the other way from the unlicensed use of music on its user channels throughout its history. That’s generated more than a little resentment from groups like the Recording Industry Association of America in the past, and as the site only continues to grow, a massive wave of pressure from the labels has forced the site’s hand

The music industry wants Twitch to arrange for their streamers to use audio under the terms that websites like YouTube use. That includes a diligent Content ID system.

But instead, Twitch has built an in-house solution to this whole mess: Soundtrack, which offers a “rights-cleared music” from “independent artists.”

A spokesperson from Twitch supplied this statement to The Verge: “The music from Soundtrack is put into live streams and does not end up in VODs, and therefore we and our partners agree that sync licenses are not needed for Soundtrack.”

(The music industry doesn’t see it that way though.)

Not only that, but streamers still have a lot of questions about the new expectations on the site. In one case, a streamer had to completely stop their feed because their video was picking up music from an unrelated source.

Someone can even be flagged for playing a game that uses copyrighted music on-stream. Even playing a Star Wars game that makes use of the movie’s copyrighted soundtrack is a risky move. (After all, nobody wants to take any chances with Disney’s infamously aggressive legal team.)

In their apology, they expressed a desire to explore “potential approaches to additional licenses,” but said that “the current constructs for licenses that the record labels have with other services […] make less sense for Twitch.”

Securing a given song’s licensing rights is a pretty implausible task for a young streamer, since major copyright holders don’t generally negotiate on small-scale terms. Twitch, on the other hand, has been owned by Amazon since 2014. Amazon just happens to already be one of the biggest copyright holders in the world, and obtaining the rights to the songs that are in high demand shouldn’t be a prohibitive issue for one of their companies.

But ultimately this debacle isn’t solely their fault. The DMCA is an old law— old enough to drink, even. The people who wrote it could not have possibly accounted for the rapidly expanding new media industry. Under pressures like these, something has to give.

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Business News

There, and back again? Working remotely now, and in a post-vaccine world

(BUSINESS NEWS) Working remotely is now a subject openly discussed in the business world, and is affecting every employee in organizations. Companies should adapt while remaining careful to avoid common pitfalls.

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Mother working remotely with a child jumping on the couch next to her working.

I’m not even sure it’s up for debate anymore – working remotely is not lowering productivity. Several employers (90%!) are saying this (perhaps surprised with the findings). There was a lot of concern and hand wringing about this in the first part of the 2020 decade, but the experiments have bore out data that largely suggests it’s a viable option.

Working remotely has not been without its issues. Communication remains a concern and always will be, whether that is with coworkers or management, parents have more to deal with, and virtual meetings carry their own set of logistics that we’re all still navigating. But productivity has – surprisingly – been upheld despite the massive shift.

So this brings us to the next problem on the horizon – what happens once the pandemic is over, specifically with regard to remote work? Will workers want to return to their offices (assuming they are still available)? Will it affect a company’s entire workforce, or will it be left up to individual employees to decide? Could a hybrid system work?

Hybrid can be horrible,” says Gitlab CEO and co-founder Sid Sijbrandij. Gitlab has functioned as a fully remote company since its inception, and now has over 1,300 employees across 66 countries. They have written an extensive book that covers their processes for maintaining this setup, which has seen an increase in downloads since the beginning of the pandemic.

Sujbrandij explains that, “If you try to do hybrid you will have an A team and a B team, those in the office and those deprived of information and career opportunities.” This will create a disconnection between both groups, and will ultimately result in a breakdown in communication between those who work remotely versus those reporting into the office. This can lead to a number of potentially damaging scenarios – favoritism, knowledge being hidden away and siloed, and creating unfounded myths about productivity and commitment.

In other words, companies – once given the opportunity to return to a centralized workspace – may fall into the incorrect assumption that there can be flexible rules that apply to everyone under the guise of personal preference. This is a great idea in theory, but sounds a lot like the time Jim tried to celebrate everyone’s birthday on the same day. The ultimate joke of the episode is that the plan fails spectacularly – there’s so much unforeseen logistics and opinions and requests that everyone ends up disappointed; Michael comes back and consoles a broken Jim, stating that he’d tried that before.

Prithwiraj Choudhury – a professor at Harvard Business School – weighs in with similar advice, stating that companies need to take this transition seriously, with the potential for several months or years to fully complete the process. A recent article he authored explores this idea, with a huge emphasis on the idea that we will not simply work from home, but from anywhere, embracing a future where employees will be able to choose to live in other cities, states, or countries.

He further elaborates that this will be a necessity to help attract and keep key talent, and that this should be one of the primary motivations. “You really need to be convinced of why you are embracing this model. … This is the way to attract and retain the best talent. There are real estate costs and other benefits, but those are secondary.”

One way to help this is to ensure that everyone is on board – that even the C suite executives need to work remotely, functioning as a “shining example” that emphatically and enthusiastically embrace knowledge sharing. They can utilize Slack channels (or other communication avenues), and pursuing all necessary methods to ensure access is evenly applied across the board and given to all employees.

As we turn into a new year where a vaccine might be available, there will come a time when companies must re-evaluate their approach to working remotely again, making sure to have protocol and process that is definitive.

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Business News

End of unemployment benefits spell disaster without plans to replace them

(BUSINESS NEWS) If Congress doesn’t agree on a stimulus extension, December 31st could be a massive “cliff” for millions of unemployed Americans

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Unemployment documents being handed to employer.

If you’re still employed, chances are you know someone who has been furloughed or laid off as a result of COVID-19. Unemployment benefits from the CARES Act have cushioned the economic fallout from the pandemic for millions of Americans who are currently jobless. As someone who was furloughed from my 9-5 at the beginning of quarantine, I was extremely relieved to discover that the government had a plan for myself and others in my shoes.

However, without an agreed upon plan from Congress, these benefits are set to expire at the end of the year. This inaction would make unemployed Americans exceedingly more vulnerable to poverty and eviction. So, what’s the deal Congress? Why are y’all dragging your feet?

Here’s what you have to know about the current state of things:

  • Since the end of July, when extra unemployment benefits (aka the “extra $600) expired, most unemployed people are only making about half of their wage
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about two unemployed workers for every open job (yikes!)
  • Over 10 million people are collecting pandemic-related unemployment benefits in America – and another 345,000 filed new applications last week – this isn’t “getting better”
  • After December the federal ban on evictions will be lifted, meaning we will most likely see a massive spike in unhoused individuals and families

All of this is happening as the holiday season approaches and a third wave of COVID spikes across America. As it gets colder in many places, many businesses that made it through the first waves are expected to close and, subsequently, their workers are expected to be laid off.

Everything is coming to a head on December 31st. If Congress doesn’t get its act together and agree on what a pandemic relief extension needs to look like, the American people will undoubtedly experience a very dark and depressing winter and spring.

Jean Kimmel, an economics professor at Western Michigan University, states that: “A society that already was becoming increasingly unequal will just become even more unequal [without benefit extensions].” Because COVID-related unemployment disproportionately affected America’s gig and low-wage workers, as well as women and People of Color, the failure to extend benefits would only further exacerbate the economic inequality in our country, which isn’t good for anyone.

Let’s hope our politicians can put aside their differences for the sake of the general public. Fingers crossed.

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