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Moving on

November 26, 2010

I’ve decided to start a new blog, tying in with my twitter ID,  @Fiona_Go , and reflecting my new role, working with young entrepreneurs (though it tends to be a bit random!).  The new blog is called ‘Go for It! Find it at http://fionago.wordpress.com/

Thanks for your interest,

Fiona

PS. I’ll probably still post the occasional life sciences/marketing article here…

Why tweet?

October 26, 2010

I find twitter very useful for sharing information (both banal and useful) with others. It’s a great way of communicating with like-minded people and I like its immediacy, e.g. if I’m reading an article that I think some of my followers would be interested in, I can post it straight away. I notice that a lot of people use it when they are at conferences, to tell others what is going on, and you can get a sense of the buzz around certain conferences and topics from it. If you follow the conference hashtag you could also identify people from their tweets that you might be interested in talking to, and set up a meeting there and then.
In my opinion, the banal chat is still worthwhile, as it helps you to build up a more personal picture of people and to get to know them better. After all, we usually prefer to do business with people we like!

I’m still not convinced by Facebook from a life sciences business perspective, though it’s great for consumer marketing. I’m looking into how we can use it more effectively at SIE, where our target audience is entrepreneurial students. I thought it would be good for two way communication, which is how I use it socially, but I’m not sure it is as good as it ought to be. For instance, it is really hard to find the pages you are a fan of from your home Facebook page!

Good intentions

October 26, 2010

I’ve just been reading a friend’s blog about slipping onto bad habits mid-week. Like him, I’m guilty of staying up too late watching rubbish on TV, instead of getting a good night’s sleep. My excuse is that I need to unwind after a busy day, but then I wonder why I can’t do all the things I planned to do the next day.

Blogging regularly was one of my other good intentions, and that too has proved to be hard to keep.

So I’m newly resolved, plenty of sleep and plenty of blogging. Hopefully the blogs will be useful, or at least that’s the intention…

A beginner’s guide to LinkedIn

November 23, 2009

My guide to using LinkedIn

I appreciate that there must be hundreds of blogs out there with this title, but its something I get asked about a lot, so I thought I’d add my voice to the choir. I’ve tried to keep to the basics, and to explain some of the benefits.  Please do let me know what you think, and let me know how you use it too.

What is LinkedIn?
In their words “LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 50 million members and growing rapidly. LinkedIn connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals.”
http://learn.linkedin.com/what-is-linkedin
It is very widely used by people in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, and almost everyone I know professionally seems to be listed on it. Academics are using it too; over 300,000 people list their job title as ‘professor’ and a company search for University of Glasgow current employees listed 1,175 people!

Why is it useful?
If you know someone’s name, you can look them up and see their public profile. This can be very useful when you are meeting someone for the first time, as it gives you much more information about someone than their business card does. Although it is possible to put minimal information about yourself on your profile, most people do fill in details of their current job and interests.

You can look people up, not just by name, but by company, location, industry, key words. E.g. a search for key word ‘imaging’ in the pharmaceutical industry came up with 3,131 results. This makes it a very useful tool for finding people with similar interests.

You can join a group, which not only allows you to join in discussions and post questions, but often allows you to make direct contact with another member of the same group. There are thousands of groups in LinkedIn so it’s almost certain that you will find one that is relevant; for example a search for ‘medical imaging’ had 69 results, though molecular imaging had just 3 groups.

You can see what connections your connections have. You may find that you have a lot of contacts in common, even though you may have just met. You may find that they know someone who works for an organisation that you have been trying to get in touch with. You can’t always contact someone directly, but you can ask your contact to make an introduction for you.

Getting started.
The LinkedIn web site has a useful learning centre that provides a lot of information about how to use the different features http://learn.linkedin.com
This basic guide for new users will help you to get started http://learn.linkedin.com/new-users . It’s a good idea to use your personal email when you set up your account so that it is easy to update your profile when you move jobs.

The more detail that you can list in your profile, the better, as people will have a better understanding of what your skills are. However you don’t have to put your entire cv on LinkedIn at once, as it’s easy to add more detail at a later stage.

Once you have set up your profile, you need to start building your connections. You will probably find that you already know a lot of people that are in LinkedIn. You can import or upload your contacts from Outlook, webmail etc. and those already on LinkedIn will be highlighted. The more contacts you have, the more you will benefit, but make sure you only connect with people you know and are happy to be associated with.

Find some relevant groups and join in their discussions.

Update your status from time to time. By displaying what you’re currently working on, and where you’re planning on travelling to, etc., you invite your network to help you with advice and recommendations. Keep it professional though, it’s not like Facebook!

Make sure you log in regularly, to see what your connections are doing (their statuses and activities are featured on your home page). Get in touch with them if you think you can help them, or just to say ‘well done’. Making occasional informal contact with your connections via LinkedIn will help to strengthen your business relationships.

Above all, remember it is a two way tool. Use it to help you to interact with people, and make sure you become known within your own network as a person whose advice and opinions people trust.

Update: just found this useful article; the slide presentation is a great illustration of how to search LinkedIn effectively.  http://blog.linkedin.com/2009/12/11/linkedin-biotech/

Shortlink for this blog: http://wp.me/pyfi9-2q

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What makes a community?

November 11, 2009

What makes a community?

A group of people with common interests or experience?

True, but the commitment of individuals within this group will range from highly engaged to slightly interested. And the group membership will be fluid, as people dip in and out. That can make it difficult to build the community.

So it’s a group of people with only a little in common?

Perhaps this is not their main community,  the one with which they feel the strongest connection.  But perhaps that does not matter, as long as there are sufficient people that do relate strongly to the group. People’s interests change over time, as circumstances change, so the community will change too. Shared interests will become more apparent when individuals demonstrate a willingness to communicate.

A few people making a lot of noise?

Great if they are people that others respect, whether they are elected leaders or self-chosen by their willingness to participate. Not so good if it is a few individuals who are twisting opinion and creating bias to suit their own interests.

Plus a lot of people lurking quietly in the background?

If they are hanging around, then chances are they are interested in what is being said.  They are probably quite content to stay in the background, but this is where the depth of community knowledge truly lies. The challenge is to captivate this group. Encouraging participation and sharing should be an ongoing activity of good community leaders.

How can a community grow stronger?

People need to experience the benefits of being part of a community. That means that those who are the most engaged need to reach out to others, offering support with no strings and showing what can be achieved. Above all, a community is about sharing and communicating knowledge, so that everyone grows.

The new social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook & Ning,  have one important role to play in community building, and that is to enable people to communicate more easily. All you need is willing participants, its as simple as that!

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me.

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tips for ‘live’ networking

September 9, 2009

So much is being written about the benefits of business networking sites such as LinkedIn that we sometimes forget just how effective & enjoyable real, live, face to face networking can be.

Yes, I said enjoyable.

People are often nervous about attending networking events, but feel obliged to attend as it might be ‘good for business’.  There is no doubt that networking benefits business and, if you are not convinced, here are a couple of articles you might find interesting.

Benefits of business networking – Ezine article

Practical advice for business – Businesslink

So, how do you overcome the feeling of dread that so many people feel when they enter a crowded room? Here are a few basic tips:

  • Remember people are here to network, and want to make new connections.  They actually want to talk to you!
  • Don’t dive straight into what your business does. Start with a bit of gentle conversation; you are sure to find some common ground that will help you to relate to someone.  Chat about holidays, films, books, even the weather (works well in Scotland, and even in California!).  You can start to talk a bit about what you do later.
  • Networking events are not the place for detailed business conversations, so don’t worry about telling your new contacts everything that you can do. If there is common ground, then make sure you exchange cards and follow up later.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol – just don’t!! You might think it gives you confidence, but it can make you memorable for all the wrong reasons.
  • How to join a group – this is something I learnt from a voicebusiness presentation, and it really works (thanks Cordelia & Ruth)!! Look for a group of 3, and stand directly in front of the middle person. Not too close, but close enough for them to see you. They will notice you, and make eye contact, but they may be in the middle of a conversation so just wait a little longer. Keep standing there, and don’t feel self conscious, they will look at you again quite soon (though it might seem like an age to you).  This is your opportunity; either they will ask you to join them, or you can ask them if you can join them.

So take the plunge and start networking!  It may take a while before your business will benefit, but it surely will. And in the meantime, maybe you will have found out about a great new holiday destination, or a good local retaurant.

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Making the most of conferences

August 26, 2009

Escape the virtual world for a while
Despite the rise of hi-tech conferencing methods such as web seminars, nothing beats the real live experience of attending a conference. Whether you are a recent post-doc presenting a poster for the first time at an international conference, or a seasoned delegate, speaker or exhibitor, attending the right conference will bring you tremendous benefits.

Why attend a conference?
There are many reasons that you will benefit from attending a conference; learning about the latest scientific developments, hearing influential keynote speakers and finding out about new equipment or technologies  are some of the obvious benefits. The single most important reason for attending a conference, however, is to meet people who will benefit both your business and your future career. Why should you bother about meeting people? After all, modern communications technology makes it possible to develop good working relationships with people we have never met.  However good a virtual relationship may be, connections made in person will always be stronger.  And a conference venue full of like-minded people is a great way to start.

Choosing the Right Conference
Attending a big international conference can be exhilarating, but you may find that a smaller, more focussed event will be more useful. Think about the people you want to meet, and whether the conference will facilitate these meetings. Annual conferences of scientific societies are usually worth attending, but commercially organised conferences can also be very good, especially if your interests cross scientific disciplines e.g. drug discovery. You may find that there are scores of meetings that look relevant to your field, so ask colleagues or customers for their recommendations of meetings they have attended.

Finding the ‘right’ people
Meeting the right people at a conference should not be left to chance; you need to do a bit of homework before you go. Contact the people you would like to meet at least a week before you go, and ask if you can get together with them at the conference. If you are lucky, you will have access to a delegate list beforehand. If not, then you will at least be able to see who is speaking and presenting posters.  Its not all about meeting new people either, it can be a great opportunity to get to know existing contacts better, so tell people you know that you are attending the conference. Ask your contacts to make introductions to new people for you too.

Presenting a Poster
It’s worth submitting a paper or abstract, as there is a good chance that your submission will be accepted as a poster presentation and you may even get accepted for an oral presentation. Whether an individual or a company, this is a great way of getting published and promoting your work. You will have to pay a registration fee for attending the meeting, even if you are presenting a poster, but you can usually submit your abstract first and register once it is accepted. Make sure that you have a few copies of your poster to give out as people often ask for a copy.

At the Conference
Check out the programme to make sure you know which talks are most relevant, especially if the conference has several tracks. If you don’t want to raise your hand during the formal Q&A, do approach the speaker later on, as they are always willing to talk about their work and may be able to give you some expert advice on your own research too. Exhibiting companies can also be a great source of information and help, so make time to have a look around and talk to some of them – don’t just think of the exhibition as a place to grab a free pen!

Networking
Don’t be scared of the networking events. The clue is in the name, people attend because they want to meet new people and the person you chat to over a glass of wine could be a useful contact in the future. This is an opportunity to chat to people in a more social setting, and the conversation should be more social than business. If having a social chat in this environment seems more daunting than giving a presentation to an audience of hundreds, then don’t worry, you are not alone in thinking like that. Good topics to start with could be travel and places, as most people will have travelled from different places to attend the conference! You should still be able to chat a little bit about your work and what you are looking for, but keep it light and organise to contact them later if you want to discuss something in more detail.

If You are Exhibiting
Don’t take too much literature, as you will only have to ship it all back again! It’s better to take a few sample copies of catalogues etc. and mail them out after the meeting, though a small company overview brochure is useful to take in bulk. A prize draw is a good way of encouraging people to stop at your booth and it needn’t be expensive. A bottle of malt whisky is always popular, and makes a good talking point too as you shouldn’t always jump straight to the hard sell! Work out a booth schedule so that everyone has a chance to go to talks or look round the exhibition. If you are on your own, ask a neighbouring exhibitor to keep an eye on your stand for a while. Don’t just rely on people coming to your stand; make sure you attend all the networking events to maximise your chances of meeting the right people. Finally, never take your stand down until the official break-down!

Home Again
Returning home, make sure that you follow up on all the contacts you have made and send out the posters you promised. And if you didn’t get a chance to speak to the keynote speaker, it’s not too late to send them an email with your question.

This is an extended version of an article published in Nexxusnews, Autumn 2006

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