Speed networking has been off my radar for a while now. It’s just not enough anymore. The five to ten minutes of uber-high level pleasantries, quick questions focused on what you do, who you know and why you’re there just don’t cut it anymore. These quick conversations, usually positioned before or in between presentations, speakers, breakfast, lunch or happy hour are meant to foster quick hits, new introductions, and potentially a follow-up, not an in-depth conversation that creates a meaningful connection and potential relationship.
I’ve noticed this for a while; however, I’ve racked it up to my focus on our new membership site, in:side, travel, training and working with clients. When I step back and give it some thought, I realize, I’ve paused only a particular kind of networking. In fact, most of my days, weeks, months and years add up to one enormous, powerful networking event.
The best networking I do is when I have the opportunity to spend two or three hours with a group of open-minded people who seek to grow their businesses and themselves through continually learning ways to think about their businesses. I am privileged to work with CEOs and senior leaders through Vistage, TAB, LXCouncil and other organizations.
Just last week I spent three hours working with eight CEOs and senior leaders from various companies throughout the U.S. They gathered to collaborate, challenge and learn. Spend three hours with leaders of companies, and you leave having made a connection.
Through their nonverbal, their questions, their senses of humor, and their willingness to dive in and do the work, you begin to understand what drives them, how they think, what they see as essential, and how open they are to the rapidly changing world around them.
And, it’s mutual. After a couple of hours, you’ll determine if I know what I am talking about, engaging enough to hold the conversation, and likable. Most leaders say they determine someone is a good fit for their company as an employee or outside consultant if they decide they could spend 24 hours with that person. A good way to slice the deck, in fact.
It is through these and other focused exchanges that we spark new connections. I gave up rapid-fire coffee meetings long ago since they quickly became “pick your brain session.” If you look carefully, you can see my entire body cringe when someone asks if they can “pick my brain.” The term is uninspired and sounds pretty nasty and invasive to me. I’m happy to provide a nugget or two, that’s not the point. However, have a few of those in a week you realize you’re diminishing your worth.
Now I focus on a less is more approach. Some of my discovery calls and meetings are spent talking with people about their vision for themselves, their families and their business, not how we can work together. I learn about their family, what makes them tick, how they’ve come to this place, why they do the work they do. The stories are fascinating. And, I find they are good with sharing as it provides the context if we eventually work together.
There is a resurgence, I believe, in actually knowing people. If knowing where your food comes from is important to you (most people have adopted this interest) then I would assume knowing people is important to you. Knowing people is powerful. It connects you to a greater sense of community, intentionality, and purpose. It enables you to make a difference.
And, from what I hear when I talk and interview others, helping others is what motivates them to do whatever it is they do. To help someone, you need first to know them.
Your call to action this week is to nurture a connection you’ve already met. Give them a ring, send them a text or message, and invite them to have a distraction-free conversation over coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner. And, then when you meet them, turn off your phone and enjoy getting to know someone with no agenda other than the one that brews up over being interested in someone else.