I went to a networking event today and my soul hurts. This is all the more impressive when you consider that I don’t have a soul.
You would think that by now I would have learned. Apparently I’m stupider that I think I am. Here is a brief summary of some of today’s occurrences and observations which illustrate why traditional networking is so useless to me. This event was held at a local rent-a-office space which I will call The Void. Here are the highlights.
1. Introductions. My name is (insert name) and I sell (insert product, service or MLM plan). This is how networking always seems to start. Name and elevator speech. As if I’m suppose to care. This is totally backwards from any real relationship I have in the world. In the real world I meet people, talk with them about hobbies, passions, food, the weather, how hot that girl over there is. Then we get around to what we do for money.
If I don’t like you I don’t care what you do for money. If you want me to recommend you to others or buy from you I’m going to need to know you as a person first. As a business second. Traditional networking gets this ass-backwards.
Leading with your elevator speech makes you a corporation not a human.
2. On the subject of elevator speeches – most people are not actors. I’ve got six years experience in theatre and I’ve been on stage. Stage actors have to say the same lines over and over and over while making it sound like they have never said those words before. This is a skill and a talent which most people don’t have.
Your elevator speech sounds like something you repeat 10 times in front of the mirror every morning. Adding to the over-rehearsed delivery which is flat and devoid of emotion from repetition is you excessive use of “um” as a filler word.
In theatre we call this style of delivery “phoning it in”. If you are phoning it in when you talk to me why would I expect anything better from you as your client? Why would I refer one of my friends to you?
3. Indicators you are in the wrong place to interact with real humans. Everyone is sitting around a large table. Some people are in suits with long pieces of cloth tied around their neck to restrict blood flow. Fake leather note pads are open in front of people with $7 ink pens in display. People have stacks of business cards in front of them.
If you don’t know why no one is going to connect at a personal level here I can’t explain it.
4. Picking business cards out of a hat and having coffee with that random person to connect with them. If I wanted to connect with random people I’d sign up for an online dating site. I would rather have coffee with someone I connect with after a natural and organic conversation. I’m not picking a name out of a hat and devoting two hours of my life to hanging out with this person. I chose my friends. I don’t need them chosen for me.
5. Phrases that make me barf.
I help you “get to your core values.” People who talk about “core values” as if they are some mystery scare me. If you don’t know what your core values are then you don’t have any. I assure you that you know exactly what your core values are. I think this phrase really stands for helping people to create a front to hide the person they really are.
Certainly people may have difficulty articulating their core values to other people – but you know damn well what your core values are.
“Facilitate change.” Two complete nonsense words put together to mean even less. Both facilitate and change have dictionary definitions but when used in conversation they have no meaning. If I said to you “I want you to pay me $1000.00 to facilitate change.” would you give me the money?
If so, call now. Our lines are open.
People who say things like this and don’t bust up laughing worry me.
6. Playing games to get to know people. Kindergarten is over. It’s adult time now.
7. “Power Partners.” I’ll be the first to tell you there is great power in having someone to bounce ideas off and someone to hold you accountable. But I will chose that person for myself from people I know. I don’t need this person chosen for me randomly by picking a business card out of a hat.
8. Ulterior motives. To an extent this event was an attempt to recruit for The Void. As someone who has already experienced Coworking in a very different form than The Void I found this to be lame. Traditional networking events always include the sales pitch.
The facilitator mentioned that The Void is working on setting it up so members could schedule meetings online. Wow. Scheduling meetings online. 2001 called. They want to know if you’ve started using their technology yet. How long can it take to set up scheduling meetings online? I have no doubt The Void has been working on this for months.
Angel – the Madam and Curator of Cohere Coworking set up Google Calendar so we Cohereians could schedule the meeting room. I asked her how long that took her and the response was “I dunno, 15 seconds?”
“A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future.”
– General George Patton Jr
9. I think I’ve figured out the difference between executives (as these traditional networkers were identified) and freelancers (as I label myself).
Executives work. Freelancers implement.
When you get paid to create you don’t have time to “work”. You have to implement.