30 November 2009

Press Release - Succesful launch of book 'Friends with Benefits'

PRESS RELEASE 30/11/2009

Diest, Belgium – Very successful launch of book ‘Friends with Benefits - Networking in a new economy’

Saturday 21/11/2009 Geert Conard’s new book ‘Friends with Benefits’ was launched during a special Booklaunch event in the Cultural Centre of his hometown, Diest.

From all over Belgium and even some neighbouring countries, 70 people had found their way to the historical beguinage of Diest. This great group of people enjoyed a unique booklaunch event in three parts :

- Red Carpet Photoshoot
- Official part in the Auditorium with speeches and presentations
- Networking Event + Book signing

The event started with a promo-movie, produced by Cineworks :

Photos of the event, including the Red Carpet photoshoot :

Press page including Press Releases and Press Pictures :

This book is available through the official website or through webshops such as Amazon.com

23 November 2009

Promo Movie Friends with Benefits

Dear friends,
As many of you know in the past weeks I have been setting up a booklaunch event for the official release of my second book
'Friends" with Benefits'.
One of my contacts (
Erwin De Laat) brought me in touch with Johnny and Nick of Cineworks, who produced a very nice promo movie for my book.

I can HIGHLY recommend their services as excellent, tailor made, personal and very professional.
Here is the result of what they have put together for me in just a few days :
(We shot the footage on 18/11 and had the movie in Premiere at the event on 21/11)

(Click on the movie to go to YouTube and watch in original size !)

12 November 2009

Network with your target audience

Networking is not about direct transactions, it's about getting to know people. Nevertheless it might be a good idea to network with people who have access to your target market. This could be the key factor in deciding which platforms to keep on using, after trying out a bunch of them.

On Ecademy you will find lots of small business owners, while Xing seems to have more production companies on board. The corporates are present on LinkedIn while you'll easily find the younger generation on Netlog. On Facebook you'll discover a nice sample of the total community, perfect for launching new products or ideas.

If your professional activities are aimed at a small and very specific piece of the market (e.g. lawyers), you might want to be part of a niche network for that target audience too.

Of course each network also has a strong memberbase from it's own origin. Ecademy was founded in the UK and still has a large percentage of UK members. Xing was launched in Germany and still has a huge amount of German members. This also gives you the opportunity to have a quick and easy access to the market in that country.

Some time ago I was helping one of my contacts to find a high-tech company in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh (Scotland), ready to accept an internship from a highschool in Belgium.
Because I knew Ecademy was probably the network with the strongest UK memberbase, I posted a cry for help on their blog and two days later the problem was solved.

If you want to do international business with a certain country, it's always a good idea to locate the top networkers in that country and meet up with them. They probably have all the contacts you need to get started.

Of course the best way to use online networking is to make the perfect combination of multiple networks, covering all your needs. More about this coming soon !

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.

30 October 2009

How to launch a book on a shoestring budget (3)

This is a series of blogposts with a view behind the scenes of the official booklaunch event for my new book 'Friends with Benefits'.
If you
haven't read
part 1 and part 2, just follow the links.

Tomorrow we are exactly 3 weeks before the official booklaunch event.
In the past few weeks I have ordered the furniture and props for the event, contacted some friends to lend me a hand during the evening of the event, started to prepare for the main presentation and spend LOTS of time in contacting potential sponsors and inviting guests.
By now already +90 people have registered. There are max. 120 seats available in the auditorium.

Because of the financial crisis which has been going on for this entire year, finding sponsors was a very hard job. A first round of mailings and cold calling had zero result.
I created a complete new offer and started all over again ... today we have 6 sponsors who will cover the overhead costs of rent, insurance and logistics. With a minor extra cost I will also be able to offer a free first drink at the networking event, which takes place right after the official part in the auditorium. Of course additional sponsors are still very welcome ;-)

I have seen networking events drop down from +100 attendees to 30 or 40 in the last year, so I already knew it wouldn't be easy to fill up the room. A few weeks ago I started to invite guests, contacts, VIP's and Journalists. I opened meetingpages on my website, on Ecademy and on Facebook. To my surprise the journalists were almost the very first to respond and I'm already sure of some press coverage.

So these are the final 3 weeks before the event. The new book is already available on the Ecademy Press Webshop, on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

My BlackStar colleagues started to spread some noise on Twitter, Facebook and other networks to promote my book and event ... Thank you guys !
Now it's fingers crossed ... and maybe I'll see you on Nov. 21 in Diest. I'll be the short guy on stage doing the main presentation ;-)

27 October 2009

The new features of Ecademy v4

Monday evening I did a short presentation on the new features of Ecademy v4 at the regional networking event of Ecademy Limburg.
I thought it might be interesting to share the slides on my blog.

21 October 2009

Has networking changed in the last 4 years ?

This week my new book 'Friends with Benefits' was launched onto the virtual shelves of the Ecademy Press webshop and Amazon.co.uk.
Next month, 21/11/2009, the official Booklaunch-event will take place in my hometown Diest (B).

Because this new book is launched exactly 4 years after my first book, 'A Girlfriend in Every City', it also shows the change (or not ?) that happened in social networking during this period.

This gave me the idea to pour the complete text of both books into Word-clouds, to spot some major differences and similarities.

A Girlfriend in Every City (2005)

Friends with Benefits (2009)

It seems that after 4 years the focus has shifted a little bit from business networking to social networking which got much broader and 'part of the furniture'.
In general not much has changed. Networking still isn't about business, but about people. Networking is still about building a reputation and gaining trust.
Following people on networks like Twitter is still pretty new but became a natural habbit in a very short time.

I'm absolutely shure that if I had written this book 6 months later, one of the buzz-words would have been 'Real-time' because that's the technology all online social media are now implementing.

It's interesting to see that networking actually didn't change that much over the last 4 years, it did however get accepted by a much broader audience. More and more people feel the need to start networking because today's world is demanding it !

15 October 2009

Linkedin hits 50 million users today

My very first experiences with online networking were already in early 2004. The very first online network I discovered was LinkedIn, which started up one year earlier in May 2003 as a very formal online directory for business people.
In those very early days LinkedIn already had about 20.000 users in Belgium and 1,6 million members worldwide. Among those early adopters I stayed on top of the ranking in Belgium for almost two years.

Today LinkedIn has hit the 50 Million users marker ... 50 million business people worldwide can now be found on one large network.

From the very start LinkedIn always had one outstanding feature. Whenever you are looking to get in touch with someone, you will search for his or her profile and immediately you will also see which people you have in common in your networks. An introduction by someone you know is just a small step away.

Of course LinkedIn also changed over the years. I saw them introduce paid accounts, offering much more options which can be very useful for some users (e.g. headhunters !).
More recently they also introduced applications which can help you to build your credibility.
The best example for this is the SlideShare application which enables you to add Powerpoint presentations to your profile.

Even today LinkedIn is still known as the "Yellow Pages" for business people, the second spot (after Google) where people are going to search on your name. They became the reference website for business networking. This should already be reason enough for everyone to have a profile on this platform and keep it up to date.

Excellent tips on the use of LinkedIn can be found in Jan Vermeiren's great book 'How to REALLY use LinkedIn'.

13 October 2009

How to launch a book on a shoestring budget (2)

This is a series of blogposts with a view behind the scenes of the booklaunch event for my new book 'Friends with Benefits'.
If you haven't read part 1, you'll find it

The next step in organizing my event was ordering the necessary props for dressing up the venue. I had the bookcover designed by a professional graphics studio and I asked them to also create a rollup banner, picturing me and my books. This rollup banner wouldn't be just for this event, but can also be used on all the speaking opportunities following the launch of this book. This rollup banner will be on stage to bring some colour next to the obvious projection screen and microphone stand.

I have always loved glamorous opening-events where people are having their pictures taken when entering the event, against a background with a logo-wall. Because my budget was nearly non existing, I started looking for the most budget-friendly way to get such a promowall. After receiving a few tips I ended up in the Netherlands, buying something totally different from a large printing company. They indeed could print a large format fabric banner for me, but still it wouldn't be easy to install this at the venue. But then I saw their "promo of the month" for rollup banners which were extremely cheap.
I decided to buy two of these banners and just put them next to each other to form the logo-wall I needed.

Even if this was already 'mission accomplished' for me, I kept thinking on how to maximize the profit from these banners. I decided to have someone move the banners toward the room for the networking event, during the official part with speeches and presentations. The banners will be separated again and they will be placed on each side of the book-stand, completing this stand in a very professional way.
I wanted to share this with you because I think it's a cheap and genius way to use props two times on the same evening, for totally different uses and with a stunning effect.
In the next episode of this series I will share more on how I invited guests and sponsors to the event ...

[to be continued]

9 October 2009

How to launch a book on a shoestring budget

I was a complete novice when I launched my first book 'A Girlfriend in Every City' in November 2005. Except from sending a press release to the couple of journalists I knew, I didn't do much to launch the book.

With my first box of 50 books, I went to an Ecademy networking event in Mechelen and sold them to the attendees.

A nice side-effect of launching a book is that people are starting to see you as someone who knows what he's talking about. Almost immediately I was asked to attend events, congresses and seminars and get up on stage to talk about the topic of my book, Social Networking. Speaking in public and sharing my story became a passion and even today, 4 yours later, I still love to do it.

In just 6 weeks, on Saturday evening 21 November, I will launch my new book 'Friends with Benefits', focusing on networking in the new and changed economy in which we live and work today. By that time the book will already be available on Amazon and other webshops.
This time I planned from the start to have a 'real' launch event, but it wasn't going to be easy ...
My professional activities have been hit very hard by the recession and I don't exactly have a mega-budget available to promote my new book. So I had to organize a launch event on a shoestring budget. In an earlier blogpost I already explained why I worked with Ecademy Press, a cooperative publisher based in Cornwall, UK. Working with them had the advantage that I could buy a 'pack' of services for a very interesting price. This initial cost, together with my first order of books would be more or less the unavoidable cost to start this adventure.
If I want to organize a booklaunch event, I need a venue. And if I want journalists to show up at the event I don't want a backroom of a sleazy pub or a very remote location. No, I need a top-class location which is easy to reach from the center of the city. I decided to go for the 'Cultural Center' in my hometown, located in one of the nicest parts of the city : The medieval beguinage of Diest, registered as a Unesco protected site.
Before I contacted them I learned through their website that they have reduced rates for 'Cultural organisations' who are officially registered at the town hall. I decided to organize my booklaunch together with one of these clubs, Curieus Diest, which enabled me to book the rooms at the lowest price. After setting this up, I contacted the manager of the Cultural Center and agreed on renting the auditorium and a large room for the networking-reception. A few weeks later we visited the venue to discuss details on sound and light for the official part in the auditorium.
The next thing to do is invite people to show up ...

[to be continued]

5 October 2009

Why you should Twitter

Whenever I talk about Twitter to Social Media novices, they never seem to really get the point of why they should be active on Twitter. And answering them the obvious "Because that's where the conversations are taking place" doesn't really seem to hit the spot.
This morning, after reading an interesting roundup on Twitter by @LouisGray, it suddenly came to me.
The best way to prove to novices that this thing is not going to go away, that it's definitely here to stay ... is the fact that it already found it's way into our everyday dictionary of words. And yes, I'm guilty too. Whenever I want to change my status updates, whether it's on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media website ... I also say "I'm going to Twitter this"
Whenever a brand reaches that stage that everyone starts using it to name a product or an action, it's solid gold. From my childhood years I still remember everyone using the word 'bic' for any ballpoint pen. It was almost like Bic owned the rights to the name of any ballpoint pen in the world.
In more recent years we have all started using "I'm going to Google this" whenever we wanted to search for something on the Internet. And because everyone already started using "to Google" in their everyday language, competitors don't have a serious chance anymore.
Congratulations Twitter ... You have made it to our everyday language too !
Let's Twitter this ;-)

30 September 2009

Customer/Supplier Relationships

One of the results of the financial crisis is the fact that some people are making the move from being employees to becoming suppliers. In times when jobs are hard to find some people take the leap to self employment, follow their dreams and start their own business.

For those people it's often also the first time they are facing customer/supplier relationships, which sometimes can be a shock.
Customers and suppliers usually have different interests and each of them is trying to get the most out of the deal. This animation movie is a good example on how a typical demand from a customer to a graphical designer could be like. If you are easily offended please skip to the next part.

As this may come as a shock to some of you and you will think this is very much 'over the top', it's actually typical for a lot of the conversations you will experience when interacting with customers. Sometimes it will be even worse and customers might even demand to deliver your services for free. In this second movie I found some more 'over the top' examples, which are VERY recognizable.

Of course I don't want to scare you out of a possible adventure in chasing your own self employed dream, I just think it's better if you know upfront that these are actually common situations.
Using Social Media and Social Networks can improve the relationships between the users.
You wouldn't even think of having such a conversation with any of your friends, do you ?
When you really know each other, you are much less likely to start digging to the bottom like in the examples of these movieclips. Networking will help you to build your reputation and to build trust between people. When people come to you through a referral based on your reputation they will be less likely to start a 'flea market trade'. In those cases they will probably ask you to make a honest calculation and then they will decide to take it or not.

It's possible that the stressful life we live these days is sometimes pushing us over the edge and makes us dig for the bottom. But from time to time we have to stand still and look at ourselves in the mirror. Everyone needs to make a living and also those people at your service are earning a honest paycheck to feed their families. Maybe the new generations are lacking a bit of the politeness of our grandparents ... not all progress is an improvement.

28 September 2009

Writing a book

As you probably have picked up from my earlier posts, on Nov. 21 I'm launching a new book 'Friends with Benefits'. This is my second book on Social Media and a follow-up on my first book 'A Girlfriend in Every City', published exactly 4 years ago. On both occasions I have made the choice to work with Ecademy Press as my publisher, based in Cornwall, UK.
I often get questions about this choice to work with a publisher which is based in another country, so I'll try to explain a bit more about this.
In general there are two options for publishing a book : Making a bookdeal with a mainstream publisher or self-publishing. For me both these options don't really work. Getting a bookdeal with a mainstream publishing brand is close to winning the lottery. The odds are against you unless your name is Dan Brown and you have already published a million-selling book before.
If you go for self-publishing, you are choosing for publishing without any backup at all. In fact you have to become a publisher yourself to get your book on the market.
I have chosen for Ecademy Press which is a cooperative publisher, offering packages of services which makes you land somewhere in between both choices I mentioned before. When I wrote my first book in the summer of 2005, I didn't even have a clue about the processes that were needed to transform my manuscript into a nice paperback book.
For a fixed fee I now get help with every service I need, after I have finished writing the manuscript in my wordprocessor. Processes like pagesetting, layout, coverdesign, ISBN Barcode, printing setup, proofs, distribution, ... everything is taken care of while they keep a constant dialog to ensure you agree with every step.
While I still sell most of my books through my website and at the events where I'm hired as a speaker, my publisher is also taking care of websales through their own webshop and also through other webshops like those of market leader Amazon.
Another plus for me is the fact that all books are digitally printed on demand. Stocks are no longer necessary and I can survive with just a small box of books to take along to speaking engagements.
When anyone orders a book online it's printed on demand.
How long does it take to produce a new book ? Writing a book takes me more or less 3 months and the processes to produce the paperback books will take more or less the same time, unless you are hard to reach for feedback.
For me this option still works the best, but I think every writer/author should decide for themselves which option to choose.

24 September 2009

The value of networking is to get top of mind

I'm almost finished reading Penny Power's new book "Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me". Yesterday evening I read this quote about a question Penny was struggling with in preparation for a conference in Bali in 2005 : "How do you measure the value in your network ?"
This was Penny's answer : "Your network value is based on what people say about you when you are not there". Indeed, networking is about being talked about when you are not in the room. That sentence really sums it all up, doesn't it ? Gaining trust and reputation from your network should be the only thing on your mind. I also have been asked the obvious question 'What's the real value of all your networking efforts ?' a number of times. My answer was this simple statement :
The single value you really want as a result of your networking efforts is to become TOP-OF-MIND for the people in your network.

I'll add an example to make this more clear :
Imagine meeting me at a networking event in Brussels. We get to know a little bit more about each other while having a drink at the bar. You are telling me about your professional activities and I'm also telling you something more about my IT company and the fact we are coming onsite to solve your computer problems. Three months later you are visiting a friend and he complains about his computer. He needs someone to take a look at his problems, but he really doesn't want to take his PC to the shop.
If my name is on top of your mind at that very moment ... I succeeded in my networking efforts.

How to achieve this ?
The best advise I can give you for this rule to work, is adding something to your story which will stick. Something that isn't average and what will make people remember you. Otherwise you will just be one of the 1000 other business coaches or IT technicians in my network. Make sure you stand out and have a special twist when you present yourself !

23 September 2009

The Health club story

Since the launch of my first book in Nov. 2005, people often book me as a speaker for their event. I love talking about social networking and social media and I have experienced that people like it most when I add lots of little stories to my presentation.

Already some time ago I was thinking about creating a story on the fact that just 'being a member' of a networking group won't do much for your business. That's when I thought of the similar experience you could have joining a health club. I created a little story around this and put it in my presentation. People seemed to like it and the story started it's journey going from mouth to mouth.
Today I'm happy to notice that even other social media writers are using this same example in their presentations and books. It's never better than the original, so here we go :

In my presentation I use this example to describe one of the five networking types : The Passive Networker. I call this type “The guy from the fitnessclub”.
Imagine it would be early January. You have been partying all through Christmas and New Year and you don’t feel in the best shape ever. One of your New Year’s resolutions is to work on your health and to become a member of a fitnessclub. In the second week of January you walk into a local fitnessclub, pay up for a full year of “better health and exercise” and you start working out 3 evenings each week. After the first month you drop back to 2 evenings each week because you just have too many meetings lined up. A little later even more fitness evenings are cancelled due to other appointments and before you know it you haven’t been inside the fitness club for months. At the end of the year you meet a friend who has been partying too much during the Christmas holidays and who says he wants to work on his health. You show him your membership card of the fitnessclub and say “I’ve tried it … it doesn’t work !!!”.

Just buying a membership card of a fitnessclub is NOT going to improve your health in any way. You will still have to work out and train those muscles to get into shape.
Buying a membership card of a business club or paying a subscription to an online business network is NOT going to improve your business in any way.
If you don’t engage in getting to know people and if you don’t attend business events and meet people face to face … it’s not going to work for you !

Taken from the chapter 'Which Networking Type are you ?' - 'Friends with Benefits', releasing Nov. 21.

22 September 2009

The future is niche

Now social networks like Facebook have reached the stage where almost everyone you know is on it, the next big thing will be niche networks. In my opinion this is an emerging trend which will lead to an incredible amount of very successful but smaller networking websites, each of them serving a very specific niche audience. Some of them are already around for some time, but indicators show their time has come to shine.

These “themed” networks will cater the needs of very specific groups of people, based on their job description, professional activities, lifestyle, hobbies or interests. Any common interest will do to bring people together around a specific topic.
These are the kind of niche networks we will probably see the most :

- Based on a professional selection (e.g. a network only for lawyers)
- Based on a hobby or interest (e.g. a network for fans of sailing)
- Based on a business relation (e.g. network for all the clients of Porsche Belgium)

Those who start these niche networks have 3 options :

- They can start a "group" on a larger network. Being part of a larger structure will give them a head start and they still have more or less autonomy to manage the group.
- They can also choose for a whitelabel offer, which is an exact copy of the infrastructure of a known network, which can be altered to their specific needs.
- Once a network reaches a certain number of members they will feel the need to have their own platform. This is the only way to design a completely tailor-made website catering very specific needs.

In the last months I also read a few articles about the mass dropout of early adopters from the larger social networks. The average age of new members seems to be increasing. Most early adopters were in their late teens or early twenties and used to be very active on these websites. Today more and more members aged +30 are joining these platforms, while we see some of those early adopters leaving again and heading toward the niche networks.

More on niche networks in my upcoming book 'Friends with Benefits', to be released Nov. 21.

21 September 2009

Dirty Little Secrets by Sharon Drew Morgen

As most of you already know, in about nine weeks I'm launching my new book 'Friends with Benefits', during a launch event in my hometown. I'll soon tell more about the event.
This new book also contains articles written by 4 guest-authors, each of them recognized as true experts in their specific expertise.
One of these great people is Sharon Drew Morgen. In my book she talks about her view on sales in a new economy.

I first got in touch with Sharon Drew in 2004 when she was prospecting for new workshop-opportunities in Europe. I convinced her to visit Belgium and be the guest speaker at our national Ecademy event in January 2005.

After meeting face-to-face we kept in touch and this way I was also one of the very first people who heard about her new book coming out :
"Dirty Little Secrets : Why buyers can't buy and sellers can't sell"

Dirty Little Secrets is not a sales book, but a systems guide through change management and decision making. It actually teaches the skills to help buyers make their off-line buying decisions.

As a proof-reader for this book I can give you a first-hand recommendation. Through lots of examples she shows and demonstrates where most sales talks go wrong. Excellent work !

Buy the book on Amazon (Release date Oct. 15)

20 September 2009

17/09/2009 Penny Power Book Launch

Last Thursday, after the Louis Gray Workshop, I also attended the Ecademy event at the same venue, which was a very special evening launching Penny Power's new book : "Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me".

I've already read the first half of the book and can recommend reading this to anyone even remotely interested in social networking. Penny not only shares her view on proper use of social media, but she also shares how she lived through the startup years of Ecademy with all the ups and downs involved. Refreshing to read such an honnest view of the life of startup entrepreneurs.

Buy the book on Amazon

(Picture : Dianna Bonner)

17/09/2009 Louis Gray Workshop in London

Last Thursday I was in London to attend Louis Gray's workshop on Social Media, Hosted by Ecademy at the Grosvenor Victoria Hotel.

Someone in the audience asked him which advice he would give to any small business who wants to start using Social Media for business purposes. His answer was "start by setting up a blog".

I'm already very active in social networking but never took the effort to set up a blog before.

Let's see if we can make this work ...

(Picture : Dianna Bonner)