Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Short & Sweet for me Anyway

I just recently attended the national conference for NACDEP (National Association for Community Development Extension Professionals) in beautiful uptown Park City, Utah.  There I got to see old friends, try new restaurants, meet new people, network and learn new ways to do my job. 

At one of the sessions, a thought hit me that I am constantly telling my clients to do - work the room. I mean it - I tell them to start pressing the flesh and making contacts.  So what was I doing - sitting there like a lump on a log at this table and not networking.  This realization kinda crept up on me. People would come over and we chit chat and do the conversational pleasantries but never did we network. Talk about what is happening, get to know each other or better how could we help each other.  We did not do that. 

Then this attendee from Trinidad came over and sat down and started talking to me.  At first I was uncomfortable since he had invaded my space (cultural difference) but he was very polite and very quickly drew me out of my shell.  We started talking about why they were here, what they hoped to get out of the conference and then bingo - out came the question. He asked me about a problem they were having in community economic development in his home country and wanted to know my take on the situation.  Man he had me hook line and sinker (lol - inside joke that some of you will get). 

We started talking about possible methods to implement change, the culture and other opportunities. I even hooked him up with some other conference attendees that I knew had experience in his questions.  We got to know each other, really talk and share about our fields of work. 

As we wrapped up the conversation and parted, it hit me like a lead balloon. I was not practicing what I had been preaching to my clients. I was sitting there, avoiding talking to people and checking emails or whatever I could do on my blackberry to appear busy.  I was so disappointed in me. 

Our conversation prompted me to start networking and getting out from under my shell.  I also watched him during the convention and man he was good. He knew how to work a crowd and I saw him doing more network trades than the NYSE floor traders.

The next time I counsel my clients on networking, I am going to think back to this instance and remember.  I can't get lax on this because networking is one of the best ways I get leads for clients or referrals. 

So the next time you are at a meeting, put down the phone, get up and shake a few hands and start asking questions.  You will never know what will come of it.