In offering the Networking Naturally Program, I'm realizing it's become a case study for A Bigger Voice. I'm seeing how the model works "in the field." Some thoughts:
- Crystallize: It was difficult for me to develop this program, to help others learn to network better and realize the benefits of networking, until I could get to the essence of what would make this program different. Ahhh...the sweet feeling of innovation--a new solution to an old problem! When I hit upon the idea that there are underlying principles that successful networkers use, independent of their personality and style, I tapped into my own wisdom. That led me to the name of the program, "Networking Naturally," and marketing copy that described what it is that I was offering. The stunning result has just emerged from recent activity on the participant-only blog: A Community of Givers. Participants were asked to answer the question, "What do you want help with?" It wasn't too long after the answers came in on the blog (as comments) that I could see participants giving first before asking for anything. This one of the principles of Networking Naturally.
- Build Community: There are three primary tools for building community, Marketing, Networking, and Technology. In addition, communities are built around a central question, one that is expansive enough to keep everyone engaged for a long time. The central question for the community forming around the Networking Naturally Program is, "How do I network more naturally and more effectively at the same time?" A great question to explore as there's no quick answer. Marketing this program has shown me the wide range of tools that are now available--from email announcements to my ezine list to talking about the program on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, to postings on three blogs (all my own.) Networking has played a large part in getting the word out--via my connection to the Northwestern University Alumni Association. This is a relationship that started several years ago when I did a series of interviews with Northwestern alums for a Northwestern-sponsored career podcast. I'm learning that networking with groups that have a large distribution list can accelerate the path of a wisdom entrepreneur, by delivering a critical mass that becomes the core of the community. Technology has been the final piece of the puzzle, creating a sense of community from people coming together all over the world (literally!) to learn about networking. I set up a participant-only blog, thinking it was just a central repository for information. It's been that and more, one of the great success stories of the Networking Naturally Program. To give you a sense of the activity, in the first week alone, there were over 3000 hits on the blog. You can use Marketing, Networking, and Technolgy well and still not have a community. My colleague on A Bigger Voice, Ellen Ingraham, who served as the networking consultant during the pilot last year, has a been a wonderful partner in creating a culture of giving and role-modeling community-building skills. She's a natural at both.
- Sustain. Efforts are underway to look at how to sustain this Community of Givers, after the program ends on April 29. I purposely did not monetize as much as I could have from this first go-around on Networking Naturally Program, when community-building and giving back was really the intention. The fee for the public is $37 for all four teleseminars. 100% of the fee from those registering through Northwestern University (as a partner in marketing this program) is being donated back to Northwestern, to fund future career programs for alumni. Monetizing, to create sustainability, will come afterwards.
There's still time to be join in--to get an inside view of community-building, as well as learn some valuable networking skills, and to connect with a community of givers. All sessions (MID-DAY and EVENING) are recorded and replays are available through May 31, 2009. Go to www.naturalway2network.com to register.