Networking not Working: Serial Marketer Weekly #20

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Do you also hate networking?

It’s uncomfortable. It’s crass. It’s forced.

It brings back memories of grade school dances – if you’re not

the one everyone wants to hang out with, then you’re stuck in the corner with your group of friends who you’d rather be hanging out with elsewhere. And the one who everyone wants to hang out with is too cool for that scene anyway.

And yet, what did I do this summer? I started an online community. I spent much of my time meeting people who others introduced me to, or who I introduced myself to. I’ve been… networking.

I still avoid most events that bill themselves as networking functions. When I misread an event invite, show up, and it feels like a typical networking approach, I’ll typically have a conversation with the one or two people I know and then look for the exit. I’m sure I can learn something from every single person who shows up to those kinds of events, but those kinds of events are not optimized around surfacing meaningful interactions.

Two items in the roundup below – one an article, the other a book – describe what’s wrong with networking and how to do it better. Fostering meaningful exchanges around shared goals is at the crux of it all, as is getting to know people on a more personal level before getting into their CV.

One of the next areas I want to explore for Serial Marketers is around hosting events. I may start with a standard happy hour or two so some people who are already in the group and in the same city (New York is easy, but I’m open to other ideas) can get face time with each other. In that case, a lot of the icebreaking already happened digitally. But I’d love to figure out other ways to do that better.

If you’re exploring this too, let’s talk. Maybe we can collaborate and create something new. I value my network in a broad sense more than almost anything – though what I really value is each individual relationship, and how those relationships intersect. Most of those relationships haven’t come from networking in any typical sense, and there are so many ways to do it in a way that people want to participate in.

That’s some of what’s on my mind lately. What about you? And what are you making of yourself?


An addendum: This week’s update is dedicated to the memory of Luke Haseloff, a recently departed friend who was a consummate networker; he also was mindful of how much others disliked “networking” – including those who would attend his events. In an email he sent what must have been just hours before his passing, he wrote, “Many of us don’t like ‘networking’ either. I obviously enjoy networking. I prefer other terms for it, but I love meeting/seeing/connecting with people. But many attendees do not relish networking as much as I do 😉 I believe they still come because everyone meets thoughtful and proactive professionals who can teach us something and/or help move our careers forward.” I met Luke thanks to networking, as Bonnie Halper introduced us at a TechSet party during a Web 2.0 event in New York in September 2008. I first connected with Bonnie through the LinkedIn predecessor Ryze in 2004, and I must have met TechSet founder Stephanie Agresta around 2008. Maybe I don’t dislike networking as much as I let on. Luke would have kept me honest.

It is especially rough to send this particular newsletter out this week. I wrote it days before he passed, and as I wrote this, he was the one person I was thinking about. It was Luke’s feedback that I most wanted after I sent this. And now, he’s not here to give his feedback. Instead of having an exchange with him, I am forced to wonder what he would have thought about it, and yet I will never get an answer.

There are thousands of people he touched and brought together over the years, and it is a very strange world to wake up to where he is not here to be that nexus for all of us.

To you, Luke, my friend: If there’s email in the great beyond, I’d imagine it’s a feature of hell and not heaven, so you probably aren’t seeing this. Still, should you get this, know that you are leaving a great, big hole here back on Earth, but the world is so much smaller for so many people thanks to you. Your memory will live on through those connections that you forged, and those connections will reap dividends eternally. Thanks, Luke. I hope you’re not spending so much time on email and much more enjoying the splendid view. You can now make the world beyond a little smaller too.



I saw this article come up because my friend Dina Kaplan is mentioned in it, but I’m glad I read the whole thing. It describes an alternative way to go about networking – precisely the kind of thing I’m curious to explore if Serial Marketers expands from Slack into live events. Please share your thoughts on this, especially if there are ways we can collaborate on reinventing networking.

Getting ahead isn’t about who you know; it’s how you tap into their networks. Build ties through personal connections first and turn those into professional relationships rather than vice versa. These are some of the ideas permeating this excellent read by David Burkus: “Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career.” 

Econsultancy explores the latest Gartner hype cycle and looks at what changed since 2017 – a great read for tech enthusiasts. Particularly sharp is the focus on what was removed, such as virtual reality. How did VR actually fall off the curve?

Amy Morin has given a version of this talk for a while, and it’s a pretty good list. I loved her take on how when people get physically healthier, they don’t just stop and say they’re healthy. The same is true for mental health; it takes persistence to develop some of these good habits, which she shared at the Drift conference in Boston earlier this month.

Come on, you know you’ll have a presentation coming up the next few months where this will come in handy. (But why is it designed vertically and not horizontally?)


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If you’re running an event, feel free to reach out to me so I can include it.

October 4-5
New York, NY
This event is really several in one, covering music, games, TV & video, and rights tech. I’ll be moderating a panel on voice-activated AI for media and entertainment.

October 15-19
New York, NY
Kite Hill PR is back with another round of their annual Communications Week, with the theme of The Workforce of the Future. As always, they have a mix of paid and free events, including the PRSA Tri-State conference and some shorter events open to all. They always put a lot of thought into their programming; I’ve been going for years.

October 30
Hailed as “the largest one-day media event of the year,” hot topics include multi-screen marketing, location data, and new media models. Brands and agencies can attend for as little as $150, and I’m looking forward to attending.

Early application deadline: October 4
Application deadline: November 15
SXSW Pitch event: March 9-10, 2019
Thanks to a judge of this event for sharing it; previously known as SXSW Accelerator. Startups have the opportunity to connect and compete in front of a live audience, a panel of expert judges, venture capitalists, and high-profile media at SXSW 2019. 

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