SHORTLY I will be departing on a business trip to the US ... by the time you read this, I will probably already be there!
On this trip I am hoping to meet with some of the leaders in the technology industry over there, as well as Australians who have taken their start-ups over there in the hope of expansion.
I am the type of person who loves to maximise every moment in life and in going, apart from the incredible agenda the company I am going with have put together, I am also staying on an additional week of further inspirational coffee dates and networking functions too.
Once upon a time, arranging a business trip of this nature without the use of technology would have been arduous.
Pre internet, there would have been faxes and phone calls, and quite possible the assistance of a Government trade agency. Then we progressed to having the internet, and to arrange a trip such as this would have involved a lot of Google searching around and a great deal of shooting out generic emails in the hope of connecting with the right person.
Thankfully, due to the emergence of a number of great online networks outlined below, connecting virtually with anyone in the business world is easier than it has ever been.
So here are a few tips on how I have connected, and set up meetings with some extremely high-level entrepreneurs in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley area.
1. Clarity.fm - this is a really cool tool that I have been playing with lately ever since I stumbled on it when looking at Kate Kendall's blog. Kate is an Aussie entrepreneur and Founder and CEO @thefetch.
Immersed in community, start-ups, marketing, publishing, events, tech and geek cities, I love reading her blog as I have a lot of similar interests.
Due to the continuing number of people who were trying to contact her just to meet for a coffee or discuss business synergies, she removed her contact details on her blog and replaced it with her profile for clarity.fm.
On this innovative site, you can list yourself as a consultant and people can request a paid appointment with you via Skype.
In Kate's case the rate was $2.50 which I was more than happy to pay to tap into her amazing brain and network of contacts.
In a 20 minute chat, Kate gave me six contacts that I was able to connect with on LinkedIn, and with her permission, let them know that she had suggested that I contact them - which certainly helped.
She also gave me the heads up on a range in terms of travelling to this location. Naturally, I've since signed up with clarity.fm myself. If you'd like to schedule a chat where I share contacts and any information which might help your business trip or anything else, feel free to connect with me there.
2. Advanced searches on LinkedIn - I have made some of my best business connections using the advanced search tool on LinkedIn.
At this point in time, users are caught in between the legacy (old) view of LinkedIn and the new view. If you're in the old view, the advanced search function features as the word 'advanced' in the top right area once logged you're your LinkedIn profile.
If you are on the newer version, there is a search bar right in the top centre area. Simply type in the name of someone, or some where, and hit 'search'.
From there it will take you to the advanced search area where you filter both existing (first level) contacts and second and third level contacts (if on the free version of LinkedIn) via location industry and a whole lot more.
Using these sorts of filters i.e. location you can also find great people to connect with on any given business trip. The great thing about LinkedIn is you can view a bunch of profiles, thoroughly checking out if you can see an immediate or potential synergy before you connect with them.
If you're keen to connect, make sure you craft a carefully worded initial LinkedIn request stating why you are keen to connect to increase your chances of making the right connections prior to your trip.
3. About.me - This relatively new platform is a way of putting up a presence on the web and featuring key information about yourself such as your name, what you do, a nice image, a quick bio and some social networks.
Naturally you do not put any contact details on there that you don't want to have out there publically and have random people contact you through.
I have found about.me is home to some amazing entrepreneurs in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley area, some of whom have been reaching by following me on about.me prior to my trip. I encourage you to check it out. Here's my profile for inspiration.
4. Online PR Campaign - Another way to connect with the right people before you even leave home, is to write an effective press release if there is an 'angle' as to why you are travelling.
A press release is basically a story that you send out to the media, in the hope they will either run the story as provided, or that it will trigger an interest in contacting you to obtain comments and right their own story.
By submitting a press release like this to both online and offline media, if it is printed, you may find you receive enquiries from people wanting to connect with you while you are in town, saving you even going looking for them! Sites you could try out include prnewswire.com.au, marketwire.com, prweb.com and there are many others too.
It is often being said it's not what you know - it is who you know and in this day and age it is no excuse to be at a disadvantage to do whatever you want to do in business.
I hope the tips above give you some idea how you can connect with the right people to maximise your business trips. As always I would like to hear from you in the comments below.
By Yvette Adams, director of The Creative Collective.
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