Networking Not Working

I just got back from a business networking event with the Texas Exes. In many ways it was not what I expected.

First of all I thought it would be a huge event. I mean, how many freakin’ UT alums live in this town. But it was attended by perhaps 25-30 people.

Secondly, the speaker. As you know I’m looking in to doing more keynote speaking, so I was paying a lot of attention to her technique and the audience response. The introduction she was given was stunning: the founder and CEO of a successful high tech marketing firm, winning awards, appearing on top ten lists in magazines I had heard of. It made me expect a lot. And she was a fine speaker. She spoke about the direction of marketing and how we’re moving towards a culture where people are in control of the messages and marketing they receive and marketing needs to respond to that. People opt to check websites, sign up for emails, TiVo programs, etc. Marketers have to make sure their message is relevant 1 on 1 and tailor the message to each consumer and let consumers interact with the message and the company. Consumers are too savvy and their attention spans too short for traditional marketing. I agree with all of this.

But I also felt strongly that she wasn’t taking her own advice. Except for a brief Q & A session at the end, her presentation was pre-set and one directional. The presentations I do are interactive, where the audience has input and affects the outcome. People want to figure things out for themselves and experience things for themselves. All those professionals are too smart to just have them sit around for over an hour listening to the “future of marketing in a high tech world.” They want to know how it will apply to their business or career. They want to try it out right now. I think presentations shouldn’t underestimate the audience and the expertise of the people sitting in the house.

Also it was a networking event, but she spoke for about an hour and then we all went home. When was the networking supposed to take place? I would have structured activities to facilitate low stress networking. That’s the reason everyone is there anyways. Not necessarily to listen to a great speaker (although it’s a bonus when that works out) but to make connections and find people they need or who need them.

It gave me the idea to host a networking event similar to that speed dating. There would be fast activities to get to know a lot of people and make connections or not. Then you could check off who you are interested in hearing from and the service would connect double matches. I could have all kinds of fun games and activities for people to get to know each other and get familiar and find out if they want to do business together.

‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.’

Sometimes I get inspired when I see someone in an enviable or intimidating position and I think I could do something better than them. I think once I get the ball rolling with these interactive presentations, I’ll have more work than I could ever need.

About Shana Merlin

Merlin Works is the brainchild of Shana Merlin: improviser, teacher, and performer. Since 1996, she’s been leading classes that stretch people’s imaginations, push them out of their comfort zones, and make them laugh out loud for hours at a time.
Replies: 2


  1. Sara said:

    I’m trying to teach the value of networking to my students, as well as the art of conversing with people you don’t know. I’m doing it much earlier in our program so the students have more opportunities to practice before they graduate. We’re using some of the excellent games and curriculum you’ve given us, (Thanks!), but I love this idea of a game-driven networking party. Too bad I’m not a Texas-Ex (yet?).

  2. Matt said:

    I think the networking event you described is a GREAT idea! I’d love to attend once you get it up and running.

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