I was at a social event the other day for volunteers for the TEDxOrangeCoast and it was eye opening. I have been to many of these types of events – as probably all the readers have – and usually you find some people to talk with and possibly bond with. After the meeting you go home with business cards and put them in your contact manager and follow-up with those people most relevant to your personal or business goals.
I always thought I was a good networker and met lots of people. And frankly, I did exactly what I mentioned above. But it was very “me centric.” Now, there is nothing really wrong with being “me centric” but in the context of the conference I tried a different approach. I did not have a goal to collect a certain number of cards or meet the “right” people. Rather, I wanted to understand what was important to people and therefore learn about them and their causes. And it was amazing. I learned about new ventures and the drivers for those ventures. Some were clearly monetary but others were more altruistic and cause related, like helping homeless people, volunteering for doctors without borders, or helping other people in despair.
Last week, I attended a San Diego Venture Group summer party- a networking event- and tried my newfound method of networking. I did not set a goal for the number of cards I collected at this event either. I asked questions of people I met. For example, how did you come up with the idea? What was the spark of creativity? How did you get others interested in your work? What are some of the key issues that can make your idea successful? How can I help?
There was one gentleman that I met named Mike Haynes. Mike is an interesting person because he is a Football Hall of Fame Inductee. And most people would probably ask football questions. Mike, being such a cordial and gracious person, would politely answer them and engage them in discussion.
What was more interesting though was his passion of curing pancreatic cancer. And when you engaged him with discussions around the subject and why he got involved, and how he is involved, you get a different perspective of the man and the cause. It was not the issue of another person trying to raise funds for curing cancer. People do that all the time. It was the fact that by asking different questions, you get a different perspective on an individual. I don’t think of Mike only as a Hall of Famer. I was so impressed with his beautiful mind because of what he wanted to do and how he was trying to do it.
When you go to TEDX Orange Coast later this month, you will have an opportunity to listen to speakers who will thrill you and challenge you with stories of how they built a business or overcame a challenge. And these beautiful minds will stimulate your own thoughts. But don’t forget to talk with other attendees, ask a different set of questions to explore their beautiful minds. You may not collect a raft of business cards but you will collect something much more valuable- a deeper understanding of other individuals, and a perspective that may challenge your own.