RIMS advice from a pro: Know how to network

By Erin Ayers on April 26, 2014

Attendees of the RIMS conference have the opportunity to build their careers in major ways – if they’re proactive in making connections and getting involved.

According to Thom Singer, “The Conference Catalyst” who spoke at the event’s First-Time Attendees Reception, it is easy to fall into hanging out with friends or colleagues from home, but that is a sure way to miss out on networking.

“Your odds of meeting new people will plummet. Attendees come to network and then they make very few connections,” he said.

Planning ahead by evaluating the educational opportunities at any convention avoids “scrambling around,” according to Singer.

He also recommended determining the types of connections conference-goers hope to make. Trade shows offer excellent chances of speaking with exhibitors and vendors who cross industry lines. They talk to all companies, Singer observed.

“Including your competitors,” he noted. “You can build relationships.”

Making connections in an increasingly digital world can feel challenging, Singer said. However, while the networking tools have changed “drastically” in the last few years, the rules of interaction remain the same.

“How we’re wired as people – who we trust, how we feel about them – hasn’t really changed,” he said in an interview. “Are we building meaningful, two-way relationships? It’s not about what we need, it’s about long-term connections. Whether we’re in person, on Skype, using Pony Express or smoke signals, it’s about connecting.”

While business may be conducted extensively on Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube, just signing up and having an account isn’t going to net you contacts, Singer said.

“They’re just tools – how do you use the tools?” he added.” Just having a hammer isn’t going to build you a fence.”

Any “grownup with a job” needs a LinkedIn profile, Singer asserted. Allowing possible business connections to look you up, and vice versa, provides a short cut to developing a relationship. Some people don’t want to encourage “stalkers,” he noted.

“But we live in a busy world. We need to find the short cuts,” Singer said. “If we have a mutual friend, I can now fast-forward that conversation.”

Singer agreed that presenting information online can also blur the line between personal and professional ­– opening the door to reputational risk.

“It’s something that everyone needs to be conscious of, especially the younger generation,” he said. “There are no silos between personal and work life. What you say or do online stays forever. You can’t trust that anything’s really locked down.”

He added, “If it’s online, it’s accessible.”

Singer recalled the old conversational recommendation – “don’t talk religion or politics” ‑ and quoted an old saying, “Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of the New York Times. Now it’s not the New York Times, it’s someone’s Facebook page.”

“If you go online and say something controversial, not necessarily bad, but controversial, that will make people jump to a conclusion about you,” he said. “It’s such a competitive world that people are looking for reasons to say no, not yes. You just have to be careful. It doesn’t mean you can’t have opinions or beliefs, just be careful how you wear them publicly.”

For RIMS attendees, Singer had one primary message.

“RIMS is an amazing opportunity for every single person who attends – you’ll be part of a little mini-society that will be created in Denver. Big things can happen when people gather. In order to find success, you have to be engaged,” he said. “The more engaged attendees are, the more opportunity they will have for reward when they go home”

eayers@advisen.com'

Erin is an editor at Advisen. She has 15 years of journalism experience. Prior to Advisen, Erin covered property-casualty insurance for 13 years as editor-in-chief of The Standard, New England’s Insurance Weekly. Erin is based in Boston, Mass. Contact Erin at [email protected].