3 November 2009

Adding extra value to a successful concept

As a passionate and proactive networker, I'm always trying to have a good balance in online networking and meeting people face-to-face at networking events. I'm also trying to find a good mix in target groups, which are often to be found in different online communities.
Large corporates are mainly on LinkedIn, small businesses are on Ecademy, production companies seem to like Xing and a broad market to test your new products is of course to be found on Facebook. If your target audience are teenagers, have a look at Netlog.
One of the most established organisations which originated in my country is Managers 4 Managers, organizing offline networking events in several large cities in Europe. I discovered these meetings already in 2005, when I was testing multiple concepts for a chapter in my first book. For several months I was even part of the local team which was running the events in Leuven.
Recently I made a new change in my professional life and put myself on the market as a Public Speaker, Writer, Trainer and Consultant on Social Media and Social Networking.
The team of Managers 4 Managers almost immediately contacted me and asked me to accept the role of M4M International Ambassador, promoting their events and helping them with their online presence on Xing, LinkedIn, Ecademy and Facebook. I also offered them to bring extra value to their events by adding a slight change to their proven meeting concept. Let's take a look at their concept as it was before :

- In the first part of the event a guestspeaker is being interviewed by a professional host. Speakers are successful entrepreneurs, politicians or other high profile people.
- In the second part of the event the attendees are divided into small groups of 8-10 people, with a moderator at each table. All participants have the opportunity to present themselves and their professional activities in a 5 minute timeslot.
This is already a very strong and valuable concept and during the booming years of 2005-2006 this concept attracted hundreds of businessowners to these meetings. Of course it's not possible to have 50% new people present every month and sometimes it happens that the same people are at your table again. This is also excellent because you get to know them even better, but you automatically distract from the original concept.

This is where I wanted to add the slight change. After all, my good friend Jan Vermeiren writes in his books that you should be able to give your 'elevator pitch' in no more than 20 seconds.
To be honest, I couldn't do it myself in 20 seconds, but I can do it in 2,5 to 3 minutes ... which leaves me another 2 free minutes within the M4M concept.
In these 2 minutes we should focus on the 'now' : What are you doing right now ? Which are the projects you are working on right now ? What are you looking for right now ? How can we help you right now ?

When any of these questions can be addressed by the people at your table you will receive tremendous value from this one single session.
Even more, this will give you a totally different experience at each networking event, because people aren't always looking for the same things. A company might be looking for a new salesagent this month ... and next month they are looking for a company to put publicity on the new car of the new salesagent ...

I think this is an excellent example of how a slight change to a concept can add big value, without damaging the original concept.
This is not an earthshaking change to the original concept .. just a little twist ;-)

The new and improved M4M concept was launched at the M4M Beveren networking event in October 2009 and is now introduced to all other chapters of the organisation. If you want to experience this yourself, visit their website and register for one of the next events.

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