April 11, 2013 by Jeff Hurt
Every first quarter I receive a string of emails from my undergraduate school inviting me to annual Homecoming and reunion.
A couple months later, I start receiving emails from my high school inviting me back for my annual reunion.
I decided a long time ago that I really didn’t want to relive my high school days. Eighth through tenth grades were very difficult for me. I experienced a lot of bullying, name calling and unfortunate circumstances. College life was different than high school and while I was very successful, my life took a very different direction than most of my friends would have imagined. I don’t connect with most of those people today.
However, I had some very interesting events happen in the past month. One of my closest friends from almost 30 years ago popped back into my life.
This friend was like a younger brother to me and was one of about 50 people that I grew to dearly love. They were work friends and we had deep bonds.
Unfortunately, our connections came to an abrupt halt 30 years ago. Some very unfortunate circumstances resulted in my leaving a job and moving overnight to another city unannounced, quietly and without saying goodbye to any of my friends. It was a drastic transition in order to protect myself and my friends.
My friend and I met for lunch and it lead to a four hour conversation. We picked right back up where we left off and it was if we had never stopped communicating. Later, I wept because I truly believed I would never see this person again and I thought our friendship had been spoiled. I was wrong.
Reunions and homecomings are just like speed networking to me. It all feels like the usual mix of high-octane connections in a short time without any real value. Most of the time we walk away from networking sessions with a handful of business cards thinking about who we can pounce on to get our next business. It really is self-serving without much value.
For me, speed networking over appetizers and drinks is shallow. It’s spin-schmoozing for personal gain. I dislike it and it leaves a bad taste in my heart like spoiled milk in my mouth.
Homecomings, reunions and old friends gathering are important to me. I’m not into brag-athons, discussing how we wish things had gone better and sharing the surprises in our lives. I have no desire to reminisce, discuss the good ‘ole days, groove to the oldies, remember when and parade whatever we feel we should parade. This type of connection seems shallow and a waste of my time.
Personally, I like to delve deeper with people. I want to connect on a deep, intimate level about what’s next in our lives and where the journey is taking us. I want to learn together and challenge each other to be the best we can be.
Why? Because today is a day of planting and tomorrow is a day of yield.
I believe that most of us yearn for true connections that grow and develop real community. We crave connexity.
Many of us are in between–between what had mattered and what now doesn’t matter. We are between old skills and new insights leading to new callings. We are between our old selves doing things a prescribed traditional way and our new selves with leanings to reinvention.
In this awkward time, it makes no sense to reminisce or invest in shallow speed networking. It makes no sense to yearn for the way things used to be, to long for certainties that we now know don’t really exist. It’s foolish to believe that the past was better or that speed networking is innocent and leads to hope.
Instead, I believe that connexity matters. That these are times we should celebrate together as we see a convergence of everything we try to do professionally and personally. There is no reason to compete with others. Or even compete with yourself.
We don’t need a return to basics. Or a crash course on networking fundamentals.
We need true connexity. We need those watering holes where we go and replenish ourselves as we all discuss, “What’s next?”
What attracts us to homecomings, reunions and speed networking? How can we transition traditional networking into something with more depth and meaning?
Filed Under: Conference Education, Conference Networking
I enjoy the comparison of speed networking to shallow reunions. The truth is too many people do not understand that meeting someone does NOT make them part of your network… it makes them someone you have met. There is a big gap between someone you have met, and a person with whom you have developed a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.
I find it is easier to re-kindle a meaningful connection with someone from your past if there was a true sense of love and respect. If it was a fake or shallow relationship, then it will still be the same thing.
Having that mutually-beneficial thing going is what a network is all about, but in our business world too many people think it is about collecting cards of people who you can sell to or who might toss business your way. It has to be more than that if there is to be value for all involved.
You do this instinctively (or maybe you have learned this through the school of hard knocks)…. but you have a big platform and I hope you keep up on this topic….. as more people need to hear the message.
“I believe that most of us yearn for true connections that grow and develop real community.” Amen, amen, amen.
Traditional speed networking fails because its process is rigid and shallow. You get to “meet” many people (a good intention) in a short amount of time that invariably doesn’t give you a chance for a meaningful conversation. The roundtable/three questions approach I’ve been using for many years works better because everyone hears everyone else’s answers to fundamental and interesting questions about each individual.
I’m thinking about the 2010 EventCamp East Coast in Philadelphia. Almost everyone who attended that event is still connected today, and when I meet someone who attended but I haven’t seen for a year or two there is a connection between us that was fostered by going through that conference experience together. By “together” I mean that we were interacting throughout the event rather than just occupying the same room or two for a session. Conferences designed like these provide the watering holes we all need.
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