I’ve always hated ‘networking’. I’m not very good at it, I despise meaningless small talk, I’m introverted (not shy), I have social anxiety in large crowds, and by definition there’s always an agenda. That doesn’t mean I don’t do it when I have to, it just means I hate it.
I also have a really shitty memory so chances are if we just fleetingly met one another I’ve forgotten your name within five minutes. While I’m smiling, and listening, and nodding my head a part of my lizard brain is yelling at me to look for the nearest exit sign. It’s hard to concentrate (I have a really loud, obnoxious lizard brain), it’s nothing personal.
That said, I do like making new, real connections. I like intimacy, and I like taking agendas off the table. To that end, whenever possible I try and setup opportunities to create a deep memory with a small number of people instead of a shallow network with a large number of people.
Typically that involves an amazing meal, more recently that involved going to a drag queen dive bar for karaoke night (think about it, you’ve got to be a pretty fun person to accept THAT invitation). But it’s these experiences that create memories for me, and hopefully for the people that attend. I barely remember all the conferences, or even the cities I’ve attended, much less the people I passed in the hallway who stuffed their business card into my hand and gave their pitch.
- I remember an amazing meeting of minds and hearts at a small restaurant outside of Vegas
- I remember the sexiest meal in history being served to us on a giant bed while performers surrounded us and a leather clad contortionist descended from the ceiling
- I remember truffled cotton candy with gold flake (namely because Mitch Joel won’t let me forget it)
- I remember vietnamese style crawfish being served in a plastic bag
- I remember a picnic table overlooking Tomales Bay as we shucked our own oysters
- I remember rooftops with perfect weather
- I remember a night of beating ridiculous odds at blackjack and hiring a limo to drive us two blocks
- I remember a walk through a redwood forest
- I most certainly remember inappropriate posing with a drag queen and getting onto a karaoke stage for the first time.
Going to a OneRepublic concert with 5000 other people while at a conference is definitely a memory, and I’m not suggesting it’s not worthwhile. What I *am* suggesting is that it seems to me that what a lot of marketers and gung ho networkers sometimes miss is that it’s the experiences that we carry forward with us. And when it comes to making true connections with people, there’s an intimacy required to get beyond the veneer. I personally cannot do that in a crowded bar where I’m being jostled about and having to yell at my neighbor to be heard.
Maybe you can. Maybe you can do the followup call and convince the person to have lunch with you, and MAYBE they’ll see you as something other than someone who wants something from them and let their guard down. Who knows.
This is my way of making friends, we create shared memorable experiences. That may not be a ‘sales network’ but those friends, and friends of friends have introduced me to more amazing people than I ever could have ‘networked’ my way into. Surely there’s a lesson in there for the mass networkers and marketers no?
Just a thought.
Matt Ridings - @techguerilla