Welcome to The Waldow Weekly WhazzupDATE
I'm so glad you are here.
[If this is your first time reading The Waldow Weekly WhazzupDATE, check out "le archives" here]
Let's dive right in, shall we?
Allow me to start with a confession: I often do not have a CLUE what I'm going to write in these weekly Wednesdays emails until moments before I actually sit down and start typing. It's true. Sometimes I stare at my MacBook Air for a few minutes, other times I just start writing. Sometimes ... well ... I sit/stare/daydream for a bit.
Today's is a bit different.
You see, I attended TED@IBM yesterday (well today, if you count from when I actually am writing these words). If you are not familiar with TED, go here first to learn a bit more. Okay. Back now?
Wow. Wow. Wow. This was my first "official" TED event I've attended and again, WOW WOW WOW. Amazing lineup of speakers. Content, delivery, just ... wow. I'll save the details for a blog post.
Today, I'd like to discuss how I increased my network with a few simple tricks.
My secret formula to making more connections is: Homework + Approach + Listen + Converse ... and repeat (+ a bonus).
It's not that polished of a formula ... yet. Let's just call it a work in progress. No cutesy acronym or anything, but it works - for me. So I'm sharing it - with you!
Breaking it down (as well as sharing specifics about how I implemented this formula yesterday (today) at TED@IBM):
Homework: By this I mean, do your research on someone before walking up to them. Learn a bit more about who they are, what is important to them. This is a crucial first step to connecting with other people, and unfortunately, one that gets missed often. Google exists for a reason. Use it. Search their name. Find their blog, their Twitter account, LinkedIn, Google+, whatever. See if they've recently published a book or spoken at an event. I'm not talking about spending hours researching someone before you approach them, but at least do a bit of homework. In some cases, it can be as "easy" as a quick glance at their last few blog posts or tweets from the past few days. Other times, it's as "hard" as reading their book. Either way, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Be ready with your "in."
At TED, several of the people I spoke with were actually speakers ... making the "homework" a bit easier. They just spent 8-18 minutes talking about a topic that is near and dear to their heart. The "in" was relatively easy. That being said, I still took a few minutes to Google each person before I approached them. For example, I learned Charlene Li was writing a new book.
Approach: Going up to someone can be hard. I get that. I'm an extrovert. I love people. I have no (or little) fear. It's easy for me to approach someone. But I get that it's not easy for everyone. However, it's necessary. Kinda tough to build connections with other people without having a conversation! Walk up confidently. Be direct. Stick your hand out. Shake firmly as you say, "Hi [their first name]. My name is [your first and last name]. I really enjoyed [a tidbit about them/their work from the homework you did]. What did you think about [ask a question that touches on their expertise/area of interest]?
At TED, it sounded like this: "Hi Charlene. My name is DJ Waldow. I really enjoyed your talk earlier today. Wow. You really hit home with the stat about only 13% of people feeling engaged at work. Really incredible. Why do you think that number is so low?"
Listen: The next step is to SHUT YOUR MOUTH. This one - I'll be honest - is tough for me. Ha! We all know how important it is to listen. A critical part of engaging in a conversation with another human being is being able to listen. And I really mean listen. Not nodding your head and smiling while chomping at the bit to spit back your words. I mean ... active listening. Internalize what they are saying. Think about their words, their story. You just asked your question. Close your mouth and listen!
At TED, I was actually able to shut my mouth (for a bit) while Charlene gave me her thoughts around why so few employees felt engaged at work. I did not talk for an entire 60 seconds while she answered my question.
Converse: Now that the proverbial ice has been broken, it's time to just have a regular conversation. Remember: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU. Continue to ask questions about them. Think of this as the first date. Learn as much as you can about them. Build upon previous question/answers. Ask more questions about their area of interest, their passion, their expertise. Again, I realize this can be tough. It takes practice!
At TED, I had a wonderful conversation back and forth with Charlene. We talked about her children (whom she showed a picture of in her TED talk), her upcoming book (I did my homework!), and some of the theories she teased out in her presentation.
Repeat: Don't stop with just one person. Work the room. Be efficient. However, don't move on too quickly to the next person. Don't look over the should of the person you are chatting with looking for your next connection. Take your time. Be patient. But be efficient. When the time is appropriate (gut feeling), excuse yourself from the conversation and move on.
At TED, I had conversations like the above with 7 of the 14 speakers. For good measure, I also chatted with 5 of the event organizers, the photographer (former Wired magazine photo editor and future guest on Living Your Passion), and at least a dozen of the other attendees. If my math is correct, I connected with - and had real conversations with - at least 25 human beings I did not know before TED@IBM. Oh, and I also chatted with a few dozen people I already knew.
That's a lot of people in a short amount of time.
Even better? These are all people I'd now feel comfortable connecting with on LinkedIn, emailing, and talking to in person the next time we are in the same room.
Bonus: If presented an opportunity to get your voice (Mic!) and face (bright lights!) in front of a crowd, jump all over it. That's exactly what I did when the host said, "Let's ask a few people in the audience about their #ShareInspiration idea." My hand went up immediately, without hesitation. To be honest, I had no idea what I was going to say, but I knew I was going to speak. Fortunately, I was not called on first. Ha! But 30 seconds after I raised my hand I had a mic in my hand and an entire TED audience as ... well ... my audience (I was sitting in the front row). What I said was not as important as the fact I said something - including my name, of course. And people noticed - even a buddy of mine from North Carolina who was watching the live stream. A few people approached me afterwards and said, "Oh, you were that guy who stood up earlier, right?"
Phew. That was a long WhazzupDATE, huh? Still with me? If you are reading this - which you are - they answer is yes!
As you know, I'm the Social Butterfly Guy (see my blog!). I love people. I love connecting with people. I love meeting new people. I love building relationships. Again, I don't get it right every time with every person. Sometimes I "strike out." However, I've found the above formula works WAY more often than not.
What do you think about building relationships and connecting with other human beings? How do you do it? What have you found that's worked? What has ... not worked so well?
Hit reply. Tell me. Share!
Questions, concerns, ideas, thoughts, feedback, whatever. I love it all. Just hit reply on this email and let me know. Truly, I love email ... especially if you tell me how YOU building relationships, how YOU are connecting with other human beings. <--I'm not convinced you actually read this last part. Do you know I change the ending every week? If you are reading this, please hit reply and let me know. Not one of you hit reply last week and mentioned this note. (sad face).
Smile. Laugh. Dance.
Until next week ...
P.S. If you want to learn a bit more about nature, specifically how to connect people with nature, check out my chat with Ethan Beute on yesterday's Living Your Passion podcast.