After arriving at an event and noticing a few people you know – and hundreds that you don’t – what is your first inclination?
a) To make a bee-line to those you know?
b) To introduce yourself to those you don’t?
c) None of the above?
Sadly, more people are choosing none of the above.
In the olden days, this usually meant heading to the bar to get a drink, picking over a few hors d’oeuvres, and then standing at the side of the room, concentrating intently and importantly at your food, all the while noticing others doing the same. When the food (or drink) was finished, you would then start looking for at least one person you knew. People choose the comfortable, especially when networking.
Today, none of the above means something completely different. Today, when confronted with the uncomfortable, a large number of people whip out their smartphone and start checking their email, checking Twitter, checking Facebook and so on. To the outside observer, this “networker” does not want to be disturbed: they are seemingly engaged in an activity far more important than the real-life interactions at the networking event itself.
The reality is that the smartphone has become no more than a crutch – an addictive snack filled with empty calories. And ironically, Social Networking has become an obstacle to real world connections, especially when used during networking events.
This week’s action plan: Don’t let yourself miss the opportunity to engage fully with each and every person at your next networking event. Before you begin, put your phone in Airplane Mode. The texts can wait, and voice-mail will take care of any missed calls.
Bonus idea #1: If you know that you will be seeing a few specific people at the event, use your smartphone before the meeting to check out their status, blog posts, latest Tweets etc. This intelligence gathering can provide some interesting background to your conversation. Just put your smartphone away before the event itself.
Bonus idea #2: If you really feel the need to hold your smartphone the entire time, take a picture of yourself with each person you network with; later send it to them, and post online.
Bonus idea #3: Attendees at meetings also will retreat into their smartphones. An airplane-mode meeting will be more productive and engaging.