Building Networks: A Conversation with J. Kelly Hoey


When you choose to invest your time, energy, and dollars by attending a professional event, you want it to be a good use of your time. Your definition of “worthwhile” may vary from event to event, making it difficult to discern which to prioritize, especially with an increasing variance in the number of channels through which events are delivered. Intuitively, though, we have learned that opportunities – business, professional, personal – almost always come through our network, which makes your selection of events even more important.

The 3rd Annual Accelerate Business Development Summit will be held on June 25 – 27 in Cary, North Carolina. This year, we have invited you—the practitioners leading the evolution of marketing and business development—to play an even larger role in the conference as panelists during the breakout sessions. Together with carefully selected main stage sessions, I believe this summit will provide an opportunity to network and learn in a meaningful way that maximizes your time and the face-to-face experience.

The summit will kick off, notably, with J. Kelly Hoey, a networking expert and the author of Build Your Dream Network. We sat down with Hoey in advance of the conference to learn more about her and how she’s helping people to leverage their social networks.

What was the inspiration for your most recent book: Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World?

My network is the inspiration to write and to share my ideas. Sometimes we’re so busy rushing around that we forget to pay attention to what is happening in our immediate vicinity. We’re all guilty of this— myself included! In late 2014, when I finally paused to take a close, hard look at what my network was seeking from me and lined that up against the work-related activities I found personally fulfilling, I suddenly realized I wanted to write a book.

When you’re not at speaking engagements or talking about your book, what do you do for fun?

What! Work isn’t considered fun? I truly love what I do and being an author is an exciting new career journey for me. When the hardcover edition of Build Your Dream Network was published in 2017, it was a wonderfully frantic year of speaking and promoting the book. Today, I have more time for reflection and the opportunity to work on new creative content, from working on an upcoming online course based on the book to new marketing initiatives to collaborations with thought leaders in my network.

How has the digital world changed the way we network today versus 20 years ago?

I love what digital has done for network-building but I’m going to state it up front: Digital has also exacerbated bad social habits. The schmoozing sales-type you attempt to avoid at every industry event now has the ability to be in your face on email, LinkedIn, and Instagram. For those who understand how to make personal connections, however, digital is a powerful relationship-building tool. Your ideas and word-of-mouth reputation can travel faster and further. The relationships that used to disappear or weaken over time can now be maintained by using digital tools and platforms effectively. Digital has most importantly democratized access, providing direct access to decision-makers that many of us never had before.

If you were limited to only using three tools to build your “dream network,” what would they be?

Annoying as it can be sometimes, email is not disappearing anytime soon. Twitter because it is the best 24/7 cocktail party I have ever attended. Meetup because I don’t want to limit my circles of relationships and it’s a wonderful tool for discovering IRL communities of interest.

That being said, I just purchased new stationery and have taken up sending handwritten notes.


What are some common mistakes people make when trying to build their professional network?

The biggest mistake is that they start building their network right when they need it. When you’re impatient (or perhaps anxious or desperate for results) it is highly unlikely that you will make the kinds of connections you need to grow professionally. It’s best practice to build your network before you ever imagine needing it. Strong relationships are still built on trust (not number of Twitter followers) and trust can only be earned over time (not a single round of drinks).

Is there a golden ratio for how much time someone should spend on “In Real Life” networking versus digital outreach?

Depends on the circumstances and what you consider IRL (In Real Life) vs Digital! Is Skype digital or IRL? Generosity in networking means you always think about the value you can give to the other person. Every golden ratio will be different because we are all unique and individually our needs are changing. This is what makes networking a challenge: it’s about people, and people have complicated, messy lives. At the end of the day, digital and IRL should always work in tandem, complementing and enhancing each other. If you always put the other person first in all the ways you connect, you’ll quickly discover the golden ratio for that particular person.

What is the most innovative networking strategy you’ve seen someone use lately?

Being authentic and deliberately considerate wherever (and whenever) you are networking. I know this hardly sounds innovative, but in a crowded, noisy, hyper-connected world, those people stand out. People are constantly trying to hack new ways to do things faster. The fact is you can’t hack relationships. The people who understand this are winning when it comes to networking strategy.

Do you find that millennials are more open to modern networking techniques than other generations?

If by modern networking you mean social platforms, according to Pew Research Center, usage by Americans has grown to be more reflective of the broader population. Younger generations may be the early adopters but 13 years in (Pew began tracking social media usage in 2005), we’re all pretty much on board. Yes, a Millennial may be more inclined to default to digital when networking but let’s keep in mind that this generation is driving the rise of co-working spaces, the DIY movement, and IRL networking opportunities (plus the digital detox conversation).

The real issue is that we’re all struggling to find ways to communicate more effectively with each other. I’m hopeful that we’ll reach a point of realization that whether it’s a text or tweet or coffee date, these are all human activities and equally well suited for building strong relationships.

What is the best way to use networking to influence and support business development efforts?

Make sure all your relationship-building activities are operating in unison, otherwise your efforts will rapidly diminish in value (or worse, be a complete waste of time). An email marketing campaign or client social event has little value without an effective follow-up strategy. Leverage technology. But keep in mind, the critical insights data provides is based entirely on the information people using the technology put into it. Human experiences and creativity are essential to enhance the data and make it truly actionable.

What is the one thing you want attendees to take away from your keynote address at the 2018 Accelerate Business Development Summit hosted by LexisNexis® InterAction®?

Be a decent human being. The little things we do each day (micro-networking actions, as I refer to them) matter more than grand once-in-a-while gestures.


About J. Kelly Hoey

hoeu-thumbJ. Kelly Hoey is a networking expert, acclaimed business columnist, and angel investor who has been hailed as “1 of 5 Women Changing the World of VC/Entrepreneurship” (Forbes) and one of the “25 Smartest Women on Twitter” (Fast Company). A frequent speaker at leadership conferences, Hoey helps businesses and professionals leverage their formal and informal social networks. Get connected with her at, on Twitter @jkhoey, and on LinkedIn.

Accelerate attendees will receive their own complimentary copy of Build Your Dream Network by J. Kelly Hoey