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Stephen Rosenberg: Celebrate Biz
'Networking Is A Party - Have Fun'
"Promote other people three times before you even think of promoting yourself, and karma will have its way." - Stephen Rosenberg
By Kelley Buttrick
Voice Actor & VOXtra Staff Writer
Stephen Rosenberg’s passion for networking sparked an unconventional event that became one of the biggest, most talked about social gatherings in the Athens, GA business community.
Much can be learned from his vision on how to successfully network.
As an MBA student at the University of Georgia, Rosenberg witnessed the power of Twitter. He recognized that if an influencer tweeted about a brand, that message was experienced by tens of thousands of people.
Inspired by the power of social media, he wanted to create a platform where businesses could connect, learn and grow.
"How can I throw a party and have that concept be its theme?” asked Rosenberg, who founded Network Athens on the principal of celebrating local business.
With a business owner offering free space, a collection of sponsors, buzz on social media and attendance by Mike Mills of the Athens-based band R.E.M., Rosenberg got his answer.
The first event was attended by 150 people, and the third, a Cinco de Mayo celebration, drew participants in the hundreds, with hot hors d’oeuvres, live music and a red-carpet entrance.
"There’s plenty of business to be done," says Rosenberg, who is also co-owner of Turnkey Website Designers, based in Athens. 
"You just need to connect the right people. If you put them all in a room, hopefully they will connect their own dots.”
But attendees also have fun.
"One thing that made this event so valuable is that it was purely social. People didn’t feel so pressured to sell themselves or to be sold to, but instead it provided a great way for people just to get to know each other,” says Matt Chastain, whose Chastain Creative is a creative consultant to small businesses.
"It sure warms up a cold call later on when you figure out that the marketing director or business owner you need to meet, you’ve already met socially at an event like this,” he notes. 
"People forget that networking is a party,” explains Rosenberg, who plans to expand Network Athens into other cities.
"If you’re having fun, that’s the best way to meet people. There’s no reason a networking event has to be stuffy.”
For those who are intimidated about walking into a room of 300 people, Rosenberg suggests thinking like an actor who is playing a part, communicating a message.
He once knew a businessperson who actually memorized lines word-for-word that could be used at networking functions.
In addition, Rosenberg says that for networking to be successful, follow-up is vital.
"You might want to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook. Email a nice follow-up note or don’t forget the hand-written thank-you note delivered via good old snail mail,” he advises.
"Depending on how your follow-up is received, you may want to take it a step more personal and make a phone call. But make sure you have clear objectives for that call.”
Whatever is done, Rosenberg suggests doing homework by visiting the company’s website, following on Twitter, reading blogs and searching news feeds.
"Absorb all this valuable information about who you meet, and then try to determine how you can add value to them,” he says.
"Promote them. Promote others, and you’ll also be promoting yourself.”
About the future of networking, Rosenberg visualizes success as being a merger of online and offline efforts.
"While Facebook and Twitter are increasingly indispensable, they’re just modern tools for the ancient art of relationship building, which is a lot of work,” he says.
"The real cutting edge, at least in my humble opinion, is merging both online and offline environments.
"Sure, social medial is important, but there’s no - nor will there ever be - substitute for actual face time.
"At Network Athens, we’re serious when we say, ‘We build successful events one handshake at a time.’”
To contact Stephen Rosenberg:

Author Kelley Buttrick is a versatile15-year voice over talent and staff writer for VoiceOverXtra who also has extensive experience in marketing and on-air roles in broadcast media, newspapers and business. Her work experience on many sides of the microphone gives her a unique 'big picture' perspective for each project.

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Comments (1)
Michael Rosenthal
8/31/2011 at 9:32 PM
Many years ago, when I still had my own small business, I taught the "How to Network" course for the NY Chamber of Commerce before each of their monthly "Business Card Exchange" functions.
so I thoroughly enjoyed the article, and agree with everything Mr. Rosenberg said in it.
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