Another Revisit to A Cup of Coffee and A Chat: Networking at Its Core

One of the best networking instigators there is.
One of the best networking instigators there is.

With #SHRM18 coming up in June I thought this was worth a replay.
I came across an article called Serendipity as Strategy, written by Michael Soto of Spark Collaboration. It was a very interesting read. He talked about the ways in which companies are working to increase employees meeting and interacting with each other. These “chance” meetings have been found to increase collaboration, productivity, and employee engagement. Soto provides these examples:

  • Lunch Lines – Google tracks the length of their lunch lines, not to reduce them but rather to keep them at an optimal length.
  • Elevators – The Bloomberg building in New York elevator takes you from the ground floor to the cafeteria where you can then switch elevators to other floors.
  • Bathrooms – Apple put restrooms in a single location to drive people towards the same place.
  • Hallways – Architects in some cases are designing narrower hallways, which force people to look up from their devices to avoid bumping into others.
  • Lunch Tables – Offices are encouraged to replace small lunch tables with fewer, longer ones
  • Watercooler – One company is even literally moving around the proverbial watercooler
  • Open floor Offices – Tearing down office walls to create a single open space where people can see and bump into each other.

The goal of each of these is to “promote casual collisions and serendipitous conversations” as Soto says.
But what if you don’t work at a large company? What if you don’t have the opportunity to stand in a lunch line? You can still network. It may not be serendipitous but it still has value. Below is a post I wrote over five years ago that talks about the value of networking.

Originally published November 9, 2010

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our Social Media connecting frenzy that we lose the true essence of what networking is all about. I had the good fortune to act as a “connector” today and introduce one friend to two other friends. They already “knew” each other through social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs) but had never actually met. So I facilitated them getting together over a cup of coffee (I will let you guess which coffee shop) and we chatted for two hours. Each told their stories, their interests and their plans to the group. We are all now in a much better position to help each other, to introduce each other to valuable contacts and we have now taken a step toward cementing friendships that may last for years.
Social media facilitates the connections. Each of us had a story to tell of meeting someone on Twitter which then further developed into more. Each of us had a story to tell of a blog post getting a reaction that then sparked a connection that then turned into something else. So I am not here to pooh-pooh the value of social media.
There are wonderful tools to connect with people. Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook are the three most common ones that come to mind, but not the exclusive ones. (Dating sites and other companion sites are pretty common too.) You can even get to know someone quite well through these mediums. But to me, to really know them requires a face-to-face meeting.  (I have not yet heard of anyone getting married from an Internet relationship without first meeting face-to-face.)
There are a lot of definitions of networking, from handing someone your business card to connecting with them on social media. But to me the core of networking is meeting face-to-face, going beyond the superficial, and truly understanding the person in front of you. By the way, this works very well in getting to know fellow employees better too.
So I encourage you to take the opportunity to invite someone you have been wanting to meet and invite them for a cup of coffee and a chat.

Meet me in Chicago at #SHRM2018.

Join me for a cup of coffee at #SHRM18 in Chicago,  June 17 through the 2oth. Reach out and let’s chat, in person.
Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

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