Published on January 31st, 2017 | by Jeff M.
The Power of (New) Networking
Band geeks unite!
Networking used to suck. Put on a suit you don’t want to wear. Go to the Ramada, and mill about in bad lighting, nibbling stale crackers and handing out your business card. Talk to people you don’t want to talk to about stuff you don’t want to talk about to sell stuff you don’t believe in. Sexy.
I had my “come to Jesus” moment recently (which is funny for an atheist living in Israel) and realized that networking isn’t like that anymore! Networking has come to mean wearing whatever you want (I saw flip flops and Crocs at a conference last week, I kid you not) and hanging out with like minded bloggers, techies, digital marketers and entrepreneurs learning about stuff that you are actually interested in. Nobody is selling anything. You hand out your business card (people ask for it!) so your fellow geeks can read your blog, get to know you, find out how they can help you. Everybody is tweeting throughout the day – identifying and disseminating soundbites from the best speakers, posting 140 characters worth of muffin reviews from the coffee breaks, relaying how impressed they are by the knowledge they’re gaining. We were all discovering new people, new technology and a new community. I raked in 50 new followers in four hours! The feeling of community skyrocketed, and it’s inspiring.
The opportunity to attend two vastly different conferences in the span of 48 hours is mind-boggling. Just as I was recovering from (read: connecting on LinkedIn with everybody from) Conference #1, I suited up for Conference #2. It was actually at the Ramada, and I was gearing up for a long day of bad lectures, but given my success the previous day, I did retain hope.
The best piece of the day (besides the broccoli quiche, don’t even get me started) was the elevator pitch networking session. We all go to conferences to learn, right? Wrong. We go to see and be seen. We go to meet others who can teach us, help us, move us along in our careers. To make our connections and to help others make theirs. I went to recruit new superstars to my team. It’s easy – attend the networking session and watch who everybody pays attention to. Who has the best pitch? Who can keep everybody’s attention for 3 solid minutes? THAT’S the one I want to hire.
It was loud in the room – picture 400 religious Jewish women trying to talk over each other. Ok, now breathe again.
I facilitated the networking session and, as such, was tasked with introducing the concept of an elevator pitch to 50 budding entrepreneurs. People don’t want to know who you are, they want to know what you can do for them. What problem are you solving? Get that across, and do it fast, without jargon, in a compelling and direct fashion. I gave some examples, delivered my own pitch, and then sat down to watch the fireworks. Pitcher #12 started with “It’s too loud in here – you can’t hear me – I’m doing something about that.” She jumped onto a chair, Tom Cruise on Oprah style, and belted out who she was, what she did, and why she was psyched to be at the conference. I hired her the next day. Dude, this was a Charedi woman who jumped on a chair. How could I not?
After both conferences, and sleeping most of the weekend, I did the most important thing one can do in New Networking. I followed up. And I don’t mean blasting a ConstantContact newsletter to each and every conference attendee saying “We met. Here’s my information. Can I sell you something now?”
I’m talking about sending a personalized email to each of the folks with whom I spent time. To the women I lunched with. To my fellow session-skippers hanging out in the hallway. One needed a recommendation for a salesperson; I happen to know one, so I connected them. Another needed Hebrew-based social media assistance, and there was someone in a session with me that morning who specializes in exactly that – I virtually introduced them. Over said broccoli quiche, someone mentioned that she was looking to have a promotional video done, and I met a guy the day before at the digital marketing conferences who is getting his promotional video business off the ground. Connection number three. I was actively contributing to the community before asking anything from it. I was being genuine and helpful. I am building my reputation as a resource, and one can be sure that when I need something, my fellow band geeks are going to be happy to point me in the right direction.