I’ve been in the local b2b networking space for about a decade now – probably a bit longer, it’s a bit of a blur some days.
And during that time I’ve seen many fad networking models come and go. With each new approach there’s the requisite protestations about it reinventing the way we connect with each other, and then there’s the happy buzz and furor before the inevitable dying off as people realize the problems of the past still exist.
And what of the newest networking wunderkind: #LinkedInLocal ?They claim to connect people on a more personal level. I like the sound of that … no clue what it means though, sounds like marketing speak – but hey, if the shoe fits.
They say their concept is founded on authenticity, respect and collaboration. Again, nice. But flawed and I’ll explain.
There’s no agenda … um, ok? They want you to leave the job title at home. THIS I agree with. It’s about people connecting with people .. I am not a title, and frankly a title does little to explain or express who I am.
But they also want you to leave business cards at home too? File that under WTF? This is a prime example of hubris. People have the attention span of a hamster on meth (???) and as such will NOT recall you or your pertinent details the next morning – let alone later that night if they think to connect via email!
Moving on … LinkedInLocal wants quality over quantity. Again, sounds good but it’s problematic for a few reasons. They say that the most interactive and personal groups have fewer than 40 people attending. Hmm … there is some truth in this however it’s not a function of group size, it’s a function of cerebral cortex and evolution.
Without boring you to tears with the science, there’s evidence we “max out at around 6 people.” This means we will probably only get to speak with (in any meaningful way) with about 6 people at the event. The 40 limit has less to do with engagement and more to do with noise.
Groups over 40 people tend to be very noisy and make networking harder for the more timid or introverted. It forces you to get closer to people so you can be heard and so on … uncomfortable for many. So groups of 40 or less are easier to move around and speak at simply because they’re quieter.
Finally there’s the no selling and no pitching part. Really? You honestly think people are going to go to a b2b networking event and not tell you what they do? Can you honestly imagine people talking to each other for a couple of hours about their hobbies and their families?
Frankly, and I’m not alone here … I don’t really care. At least not yet. I care about those things with my close friends, but strangers telling me about their passion for basket weaving or how little Mary made the swim team … kill me now!
I attend b2b networking events to find people to do business with. Sure I want to get to know people over time, but turning the idea upside down (which is what the LinkedInLocal approach is suggesting) is flawed and will fail because of one simple thing.
And here’s why you are to blame (wink)
You are human and you are “selfish.”
It’s ok. I am too. I want what I want.
You want what you want. It’s the nature of things.
We might ‘pretend’ that the LinkedInLocal is a great idea but secretly we will attend those events and ‘forget’ that should not have worn that badge we created with our name, title and catch-phrase emblazoned on it.
We will forget that we should not bring cards … ok, some folks actually will forget their cards! But most will bring them and beg forgiveness as they hand them out.
We will fall back on comfy sales rhetoric and assuage our guilt by telling ourselves our personal lives are personal and no one really wants to know about your ant farm or kids new dental retainer … and you’d be right on this one!
But basically the LinkedInLocal idea will fail (eventually) because we’re all human and like it or not, we’re in this game of life for ourselves first and foremost.
By the way, I think people are awesome. I’ve built many groups and enjoy helping businesses connect however I have no allusions as to who and what we are at the core. And if you doubt me, read a few books on psychology and what makes us tick. It’s pretty dark at times but that’s the nature of the beast.
And I’m ok with that. Just not when we pretend we’re something other than we are.
Oh, and don’t get me started about all those “gender exclusive” groups or “heart centred” clubs. The idea of networking is to connect with more people – not less. And the idea one sex is better than another or networks better than another is silly. And claiming that “only good people” are allowed in some group is offensive. I’m no angel but I am no a**hole either. Oh wait …