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March 2015

Old-fashioned networking in the digital age

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I recently attended an event that was put on by the Midwest Interactive Marketing Association. It was my first MIMA event in a couple of years, and I was excited to see what they were up to.

I went with two intentions. 1) To learn about “Brand storytelling in the digital age” (which I did). And 2) To do some good old-fashioned networking. What I experienced during the designated 30-minute networking timeslot was something that didn’t sit well with me, but also didn’t surprise me.

There was plenty of chatting going on—whether it was new connections being made, or coworkers gossiping about the latest office politics, is anyone’s guess. But there were also plenty of attendees standing alone in that all-too-familiar stance that we’ve all seen—head down with gaze fixated on a smart phone.

It’s my guess that these poor folks weren’t lucky enough to have coworkers at the event and, therefore, had no place to hide from the uncomfortable act of introducing oneself to a complete stranger (or, worse yet, a group of strangers). So they did what anyone would do—they retreated to their custom-made happy place.

I’ll admit, my first inclination was to do the same after scanning the room and not recognizing one single face. But I somehow managed to resist the urge.

Instead, I approached a group of women chatting in the corner (who all worked together in the same office), introduced myself, gave my elevator speech, and handed each of them my business card. I did the same with another group—who turned out to actually be networking.

Don’t get me wrong…I love my smart phone and would rather give up solid food than live without it. But during that short 30 minutes, which felt more like 3 hours to this textbook introvert, I knew I had to do what I came to do. And that was to network with my colleagues through meaningful, sincere, face-to-face conversations. And I’m happy to say that I did just that. And then I checked my email.