Why Connections Happen in Real Life

Ripples_DavidArmano A couple of years ago, when I spoke at a Mediabistro Circus conference at the New York Times Center, I met a roster of really interesting people.

Among the speakers were Tim Ferriss, the event keynote who geeked us up on search and evergreen content, and Anil Dash, who was on a panel later in the day.

The event was large enough and yet intimate enough for us to connect with several people between sessions. Kudos to those organizers for utilizing the venue and designing the program well.

I love meeting people in person, and do take the extra steps to stay in touch over time. You may be able to hide behind something you leverage online.

There's no hiding in real life. Your assets must be real. Just like in business, eventually you will be found. The good news is that once you make a connection real, you have it for a long time.

I was reminded of that this week when I had the good fortune of catching up with journalist and new media maven Alison Woo and reconnecting with a long time friend on the train back — what are the chances someone would get on a train with several cars and see you?

There are many more of these examples I could give you going back in time. To me, the gold in relationships is still face to face, handshake-type promises. Which is why it is so important to learn to transform your presentations and interviews into conversations. So you can open that door.

It's not just the visuals on the deck, it's the delivery and your own availability to making those connections — body language, and attitude. All great sales people know that (disclosure: my mother was in sales, the best I've seen, and I've worked with many).

Since I do not make a mystery of how I use social networks, I am always quite surprised when people send the standard LinkedIn invite when we haven't even crossed paths. Please, do not tell me that being a member of a group with a gazillion others qualifies as having something in common. Or that we have done business together at a company I have not heard about. You know better.

And you know that signing me up for your newsletter doesn't mean I was interested… yet.

Ripples and connections

What works on LinkedIn, as in real life, are personal introductions. The act of shaking someone's hand, looking them in the eye, taking in the non verbals within the context where you are, including the common contact, bind you in ways a social graph can only demonstrate *after* that connection is established.

When David Armano published the influence ripples graphic, we discussed how online was only a fraction of the connections many people had in real life. Although I have been using Twitter steadily for about four years, projects and opportunities are still flowing through a network you cannot see — my address book.

If online we still conduct paying business through search, emails, phone calls, or in person meetings are the best conversion tools for individual connections. Stephen Downes wrote that influence is not a function of linkage. It's a function of:

1. Diversity – a person who communicates with a diverse audience will be more influential than a person who communicates with a uniform audience.

2. Autonomy – a person who is free to speak his or her own mind, and is not merely parroting some 'official view', will have more influence.

3. Openness – a person who writes in multiple languages, or who can be read on multiple platforms, or who is not limited to a single communications channel, will have more influence.

4. Connectivity – a person you can communicate with, and who will listen to your point of view, will have more influence than a person who does not.

Because I grew up and completed my studies in a country, in three languages, then moved to a different country, where I worked in five industries, and also attended university and many industry accreditation programs, built a social network with live events, traveled extensively for work, and am a very curious and interested individual, I know a lot of different people in many fields. As for the question of influence, I let the influenced decide that.

We are very lucky to live in a country where we can speak freely, be open, seek diversity, and think critically. A good reason to stop seeking links, and start making connections.


[image by David Armano]

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