Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Way back when formal networking events were just getting started here in Israel, and I was a lowly technical writer, I attended an event of the Israel Technical Writers' Association. I remember a bit of tension there, where we were talking about business objectives and why we needed to boost membership, and at one point, Mark Levinson, the head of the organization at the time said "There's nothing wrong with just wanting to make friends." The tension disappeared.
I do a lot of networking. I recently identified networking as one of my most leveraged activities, in terms of the long-term results I get in my life. It also turns out that one of my long-term (and short-term) goals is to have lots of friends, so that's not a surprise, but even if taken just in business terms, networking is up there near the top. It's not surprising. Business is about people. Getting anything done is about people. Knowing, helping, and having good relations with people is how things work. I think of networking as the oil that keeps the machinery of the world going.
I do so much networking that this blog is almost all about networking.
So if I tell you that I went to the best networking event of my life last weekend, you know it was something special.
I spent my weekend at the Kellogg Connect International EMBA event in Eilat. This was a weekend event at a nice hotel, and I was pretty sure I was going to have to wear the hot-shot pose all weekend long and "do the networking thing". To my complete delight, the event was totally casual, the people were warm and caring, and no poses were attempted.
We are talking about some of the most successful business people in Israel, and a few very successful ones from Europe and Canada here. The Kellogg International Executive MBA is the top ranked program in the world. We could easily have pulled out poses -- we've got lots of them. It just didn't happen.
The weekend started off with the obligatory fascinating lecture on Thursday night, but from there on in, it was all leisure. Boat rides, water sports, lots of eating, a fair amount of drinking, and just the right balance of organized activities versus free time. Unlike most networking events, there was no need to "work the room" since we spent a whole weekend together, and there was a natural flow of people and a natural flow of conversation.
OK, so some of our conversation might seem a little weird to normal people. When we talked about movies, we talked about box office numbers and marketing campaigns, and when we talked about restaurants we talked about the challenges of the food business. For us that was the most interesting and comfortable way to address those topics. YMMV.
The bottom line, as with any networking event, was the people. I could talk about how they were all top executives and smart people and how we all made concrete business connections, because all of that's true, but it would be missing the point.
You know, most of us have limited vacation time without the kids and limited vacation funds. You don't normally take a day off from work, ditch the kids for the weekend, and spend time in a resort town with a bunch of strangers.
I can't express in words how easygoing, open, fun, and caring each and every person was on that weekend. There wasn't a moment I felt out of place -- it was just a great weekend with people I was happy to spend my vacation with. Not a shark in the bunch. I don't even think the scuba divers saw a shark the whole time.
Note: This is an exclusive annual or semi-annual event only for EMBA Kellogg or Kellogg IEMBA graduates. It's a great model to copy if you have the right kind of group, but I can't get you an invite. Unless you become my boyfriend, and I do have an opening for that position at this time. If you are a Kellogg EMBA grad, feel free to contact me and we'll get you on the mailing list for the next event in March.