In reflection, there was one trend that I noticed quite a lot during the conference. Many people were not being present in their conversations with others. I saw this in hallways between sessions, during mealtimes, and at the various parties. I wasn’t immune either, as I caught myself a couple times as well. There is always a lot going on at conferences, and that makes it especially hard to stay focused on the current engagement. This is one of the best times to either start building or further reinforce a connection with other like-minded folks in the industry. Some call it networking, although I prefer the word connecting because I feel that ‘networking’ doesn’t convey the right meaning.
Networking is when you go to an evening mixer party with a stack of business cards hoping that the numbers will work for you. The larger the number of people that have you card, the more likely you are to get contacted about something. That something might be a sales lead, a job opportunity, or even a free meal. This is not a bad thing.
Connecting is when you spend time to get to know a person. The key difference is how you engage. You focus on the one or few people in the circle and you pay attention to those people. You listen to the conversation and interact.
Some focus points to be present:
- Keep your phone in your pocket, purse or bag
- Turn your phone alerts off if you are too easily distracted
- Look at the person talking, not behind or beside
- Point your feet at the person (or group) to help keep your body engaged
Some points to help others be present:
- In a networking/connecting event, don’t latch onto one person and prevent them from being able to make other connections
- If you notice another person drifting away from you, politely bring it into conversation to either lock in attention or give the opportunity to disengage
- Pay attention to your own behavior to ensure you aren’t causing someone to drift
- Respect other people’s conversations - don’t barge in and take over
Any other tips you have to be present?
There is nothing more frustrating to a person than to feel like the other person doesn’t value the discussion. Although some people do love to talk for hours regardless of anyone actually listening, I will hold off that discussion for another time. If you don’t want to be there, respectfully disengage. If you want to be there, be there.