I attend a lot of events. Many are for business, like the one I attended in San Francisco earlier this week—#BrandStorm. About 200, mostly strangers, gathered in a giant ballroom listening to interesting speakers and then moving to meal functions and breakout sessions over two days.
Just before the second day’s morning session, many people were taking their seats around the room, arranging themselves at the round tables for 10. And I noticed something. I immediately put my things down, grabbed my coffee, and started moving around the room, saying hello to a few industry friends and familiar faces. If I didn’t know someone at a table, I smiled, and then introduced myself and asked them to do the same.
But what I noticed was that no one was doing the same thing. No one.
I realize I am an extrovert, and a morning person, so this kind of thing is kind of in my genes. But it really struck me that not a single other person in a room of about 200 was introducing themselves. Everyone seemed to be checking their email or looking over the program. And this was a marketing conference, so it would make sense that people would be introducing themselves and getting to know others. And that’s when it hit me. “Networking” has almost become a bad word.
It used to mean a way you meet new people, but now it’s become work. Like, it takes a lot of effort and you may have to try really hard. It may not seem natural or authentic. You may appear to be working the room.
My blog post last week, “To Hug or Not to Hug,” received almost 8,000 views on LinkedIn alone, more than three times as many as most of my blogs. I sense that the message of physical touch really resonated with people.
The lack of networking at #BrandStorm and the reaction to that blog have made me realize that in this day of email overload, the need to be available 24/7, and our apparent inability to “unplug,” people really do want connection. Physical connection. Personal connection. Emotional connection. We crave them all.
So, I’ve decided that instead of using the word “networking” and having that visual image of working the room, we should call it “connecting.” Connecting makes you feel differently. It’s not work. It’s personal. It’s satisfying. It’s sincere.
As we move into the holidays and attend many social events, keep in mind that you will be able to connect with people. And hopefully that will bring a smile to your face!