Hanging out at Social Capital Ottawa

This past weekend I had a great opportunity to network  while meeting some of Ottawa’s social media minds by attending Social Capital Ottawa. It was a great time.

Social Capital Ottawa, an all day social media workshop, explored through presentations, roundtable discussions, and case studies, what local PR, marketing, graphic designers, mommy bloggers and other professionals are doing in social media. My favourite part was probably the one on one conversation, since I could finally talk to those who I follow on Twitter…in real life! Unfortunately, I can’t rehash everything that was said (your attention span, not my writing ability) so I’ll just dive into 3 areas I want to highlight as my key takeaways from the conference.: the big message, the underlying message, and quotes.

The big message

Something that I gathered from all the speakers is they took action in social media to make things happen. They brought  their expertise to the conversation going on in social media and added value. Sometimes it was a success, other times it was a challenge. Whatever the case, the message is you have to be willing to take action. You can wait on the sidelines thinking about what to do or jump into the fray. For me this hits home when looking at the small things (finishing the multitude of half done blog drafts) to the big things (working on an e-book).

The underlying message

We have a large social media community in Ottawa. I guessed 200 people attending. I was off by 10, as there were 190 people who attended. In the opening keynote, when Glen Gower (@Glengower) asked the audience what social media networks are you on (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn), 99% of hands went up. This was the same when Glen asked who had a blog. Apparently we aren’t a sleepy, government town! People are writing, sharing their thoughts, and pushing change in the community. When Glen asked: “What can we do to get more people participating in social media in Ottawa?”, it made me think. We have a community that is connected online (social media networks), sharing (blogs), but this is only in this small sample of 190 people. Ottawa is over 1 million people. We can’t have success with social media just in this vacuum. There is indeed much more work to be done in the community at large.

Favourite quotes from the conference

The following is a couple of my favourite quotes I collected from the sessions:

Shannon Smith (@cafenoiredesign) on why she writes her blog:

“A blog is a toolbox of support that can be shared to the next person.”

Craig Fitzgerald (Craig_fitz) on measuring social media:

“Its all about experimentation – there is no single formula, measurement is the eyes and ears of the marketer.”

Kneale Mann (@Knealemann) on teamwork:

“Teamwork is about finding who is the strongest for a particular area, not about everyone pitching in.”

on an organizations structure:

“Lower the walls in your organizations and start to share.”

And a favourite of many who attended the conference from Stacey Diffin-Lafleur (@TheStacey) on her social media strategy:

“Proceed until apprehended.”

Two in One

April was a good month. Went to Toronto twice in one month, coincidentally on the first and last days of the monthapache burgers. On the first of April I went to the Blue Jays home opener and this past week I went to see a Swedish DJ (@Avicii on Twitter). That was a crazy performance, and now I know what a rave is like. Every time I go to Toronto I seem to have more and more fun in this great city. So let me walk you through what went down.

Ping Pong

I’ve written here before in this space on my rekindled love of ping pong versus one of my best friends. Well I got my revenge over him, on his home turf too.  We played our first series on Friday night and I won the best of 7, 4-3. The next day on Saturday I wasn’t so lucky, as I dropped the best of 7 (5-2 or 4-3 I don’t remember). Always such a great workout ping pong is for me, I also influenced by my fitness freak of a friend to do a tiny workout after our games on Friday, my first workout in a month. I should thank him as it did end up feeling quite good. We can only hope the summer gym membership follows.

Networking

I treat every opportunity interacting with others as an opportunity to network. Love doing it. I enjoy asking a lot of questions to find out more about people or things which I have little previous knowledge or experience in. At a party on Friday, I was able to run into a very charming girl who was a grad of the advertising program at  the same college I went to. Instantly we hooked up (professionally people) exchanged information on my Blackberry and it was done. A connection in Toronto to help start to pry open the doors to being a big city PR hotshot.

When I got back home, I sent her my resume and she sent me hers. It was created with InDesign, blowing my resume away. I should have taken design class more seriously because hers definitely has what it takes to get noticed. Something to think about as I gear up for the job search in the next year or so.

Other Stuff

On my visit I was also able to play the new Mortal Kombat game on the PS3. Craziness ensued with 4 of us guys, along with a girl watching in horror, to try and pull off the sickening finishing fatality moves. My best friend was able to get it off a couple times, more than any of us. Man are they gruesome. Check out this video real quick if you don’t believe me.

I know I’ll be back in Toronto at some point this summer. One of my close friends is moving there (today actually) to take summer classes, so I now have another reason to make the easy trip down there. Plus, the city is growing on me, especially the food.

Loved trying out one of the historic burger joints called Apache Burgers (the picture of the one I went to is above) in Etobicoke. It had former hockey players, mostly Toronto Maple Leafs from the early 90s and earlier (which was hard to stomach) gracing the walls, that gave it that small diner/old school feel. As well sushi is growing on me. I would have never ate it alone, but in the group of guys I was with they “always do sushi” so I tried a bunch of different kinds. It’s such a delicious food. Till we meet again Toronto…

Night of Networking – Part 2

It bears repeating that in networking, like so much in life, you get out of it how much you put in. Mind you, it also helps to have a gameplan. I came into last month’s networking event with a gameplan. I wanted to gather information on my interests, specially in writing, starting my own business, grad school, and French. I know. Very ambitious. And yes, I am a dreamer. Nonetheless, I received great infromation that night pertaining to my interests which I thought it would be worthwilde to share.

Writing

My first stop at the networking event led me to a technical writer at Oracle, one of the largest computer software companies in the world. At the table I sat down and starting talking to our friend at Oracle, we’ll call him Jeff, pestering him with a bunch of questions. However, there were 2 problems. First, the networking session hadn’t started yet. Second, I did not have a notebook and pen. So I retreated back to gather both of those things and begin to write things down.

One of the first things I wrote down and learned from Jeff was that small words really do matter. This really hit me. Especially when looking at this blog. The ideas on what to write as content come out fairly quickly (as evidenced by the number of categories on the home page). But to make everything flow and come out the way I have it in my head to the screen requries editing, which to be honest, I hate.

A big part of editing is about finding the right words, usually the small ones, that make things flow perfectly. Jeff’s job as a technical writer, is all about having the small words in place and being having a good deal of consitency to what you write, the same lay out and look all the time, as key requirements for his job.  Thsese two things, paying attention to the small words and being consitent in my writing, are things I definitely want to transfer here at my blog and in other creative writing endeavours…

Business

I have been reading a lot of business books lately. Just finished The Knack, will have a review on it in some point on the blog. I am convinced of 3 major things regarding business, specifically owning your own business. One, it gives you the opportunity to define your career more in your own terms. Instead of your career focssing soley on your day job, you can put time into a business which may be more suited to your true passion and what you want to do. Two, having a business provides a tax benefit. The ability to write things off as business expenses is beneficial to growing your business. Three, and probably most important is having a successful business, gives you control over your freedom. I like to think of myself as a creative person. Being able to use my creativity and talent to provide a service to others for money is awesome. Think Facebook. Zuckerberg is a billionaire because of an idea, being a computer wizard, and being a bit sneaky (if you believe how things played out in The Social Network). Who wouldn’t want to be like that? Those gears for having my own business, that already had been moving, are cranking up a little faster now…

Grad school

Some people can really sell things well. They are the types of people who are able to make you leave with the product even if you thought it was too expensive in the first place. On my networking evening, this person was  one of my communication professors, who did a great sell job on me in regards to grad school. I always had the idea of contiuning my education to further expand my learning as well as to delay “real life”  as much as possible. I find school fun, even though this last semester sucked, and the things you can get in school (building new relationships with diverse people, the academic challegenge/grind, and campus life) really make it a unique and well worth life experience to go through.

So with all that in mind, my professor talked a good game. She asked me a question that I would explore in a master’s environment. I answered with the effect that Facebook is having on people in terms of them wanting to do what they saw their friends doing. For example, your friend posts pics on Facebook of a trip to Cuba. Now you think you should go to Cuba since it looked so amazing. She said that is the sort of research question that you could explore and possibly people are exploring, social media and its effects on people. Cool. Grad school. Another avenue to keep open…

French

Living in Ottawa and working in the government are two things that just seemingly go hand in hand. A third thing that completes this picture is being able to speak French. As a bilingual city, it is a necessity that for many government jobs you can speak French or your going to get screeened out. So at one of the tables I got some really good tips on taking steps on how to learn French.

First, I learned that I should try and emerse myself in the French environment. What that means is to not be shy, ask a lot of questions and try and conversate with French people. Taking it a step further, I do know of people who would go to a French universtiy in the summer to study French or to go to a small town in Quebec and live with a family to learn French. Probably a bit too much for me at this point but perhaps something to consider as a last resort if this tip and these other two don’t work.

Secondly, she said to teach English to a French person. This was interesting. I had to repeat what she said to make sure she actually meant this. I’m figuring that what she meant is by me teaching them a language that they are not familiar with they could in turn teach me a language I’m not familar with, that being French. That would be interesting. Have to test it out.

Thirdly, she told me to watch a movie in which you know the plot well and have seen many times in English, but with French subtitles. By following the conversations of the characters in the movie that you know well in English with theFrench subtitles, your ability to undertand what conversational French is like will improve.

Conclusion

Hopefully you were able to learn a bit from my night of networking. It was a great time and these are the types of events that really complement traditional classroom learning. I’m equipped with useful information that I can actually put into action in hopes of improving myself. I’d call that a successful night of networking, wouldn’t you?

Night of Networking

Networking is something I simply love doing. With that said however, when looking back to last year and in particular to last summer, there were a lot of networking events going on but I didn’t end up attending any of them. Very strange for me. Apparently meeting people at a nice lounge that has a patio and drinks wasn’t that appealing for me. Normally though, time and money permitting, I try to attend a handful of networking events a year. Thinking back to last year though, I did attend one in particular that stands out. It was a networking event on social media, the Social Media for Government Conference, and I actually got to go to it for free.

The conference was last March and I won a contest, run by social media guru Joseph Thornley of Thornley Fallis (@Thornley on Twitter) who was giving away  2 free tickets to attend the conference ($400 value) to two students who could demonstrate in a written piece how attending the conference would benefit them. Here was my winning response. After making the cut it was time to enjoy what would turn out to be a great event.

The Social Media for Government Conference was a two day event. I remember being dressed up (wearing a suit on day one as most people were in business casual) honoured to be Mr. Thornley’s guest. I heard many great presentations about how businesses in the private sector such as Royal Bank of Canada and Microsoft Canada as well as those in the public sector such as government organizations like HRSDC and Parks Canada, were using social media to connect with those who use their products and those they serve.Simply put, It was a great experience  to listen to so many passionate speakers from these organizations. Now fast forward to last week, almost a year to the day of the Social Media Conference, I would find myself  getting ready to go back into networking, but this time at my university.

This past Thursday’s at my university I attended a networking event which featured professionals in the areas of writing, publishing, journalism, broadcasting, and public relations. It was a dream bonzana of talented individuals in fields that I have a lot of interest in. However, the way it was set up was a little different from the Social Media Conference. It was set up kinda like speed dating, with 15 minutes at each table, making things move much more quicker than the two day Social Media Conference. Luckily, I was still able to get a lot of great info though, which I will unpack in further detail for Friday’s post. What I really want to talk about are some of my observations of the event in general,  thoughts on networking and finally a couple tips that have worked for me and perhaps could work for you when you’re out networking.

Overall the event was a success. Hard not to be when everyone is looking so good, dressed to impress. But seriously there is more to that of course. The flow of the event, orchestrated by the sound of a bell indicating a table switch, and the excellent billingual moderator kept everything moving efficiently. Speakers were great and very attentive to me personally.  I asked a couple questions and engaged them for information so really made it one on one, just me and them having a conversation, amid a busy table of 6 other students. First quick tip, ask questions. Makes the conversation more personal and you will definitely get more from the experience.

Everyone at the event were students from the university from a variety of different programs. From programs such as Arts, French studies, and a few others I don’t remember. It really is too bad there wasn’t an organized after party, where we could have grabbed drinks and discussed our aspirations among each other. This is something I have to get involved in for future school networking events, being responsibile for the after networking get together.

Now onto what I think are three good tips that will aid you in your networking efforts. Hopefully you’re not like me and have to have a one year gap in between to use them.

Bring a notebook to write in

You are never going to remember what someone says no matter how great your memory is. They had given us a notepad to take notes but I found it too small. I actually don’t mind taking notes, so quickly I was scribbling down information. Came away with 2 full pages after the night was done.

Save the drinks

I always used to grab an alcoholic drink at the bar when everyone else did. Monkey see, monkey do. However, being the mid weight I am  and after a long day of work then settling into a networking event, it probably isn’t the brightest idea. Grab a ginerale or water and focus on who you meet. You can always grab an alcoholic drink after when things get more fun.

Ask for advice, rather than for a job

Networking is all about the exchange of information. What I have found in my experience, is that people are more than willing to give their advice, especially if you show a genuine interest or passion about what your asking them about.  It is your job to make the link as to how to go about getting the job after you’ve obtained the advice. Getting a job is very competitive and most likely these professionals, unless on a recruiting trip, will not be walking around with a list of job openings. So keep that respect in mind and ask for advice rather than pressing for a job.

Conclusion

Networking is fun. As long as you get into it! Listening to someone talk for hours is not your only option. Ask questions that relate to what the speaker is talking about, try and engage them. They will definitely appreciate your genuine interest. The results for you will be even greater as the more you know, the more opportunity you create for yourself.