I am embarrassed to say that I actually told people that I would be a track “leader” at the #truNewYork unconference on May 18th. The truth is that the normal process for leading a track in one of Bill Boorman’s global meeting-of-the-minds is to stir the conversation and then listen. The next time that Bill invites me to participate, I’ll use the term “convo stirrers” to promote the conference because that is what the track leader does. If you have not attended one of these sessions you have no idea of the power in a group of thinkers discussing openly the events that we all deal with daily but somehow never have the opportunity to share. Learning happens here. Somehow there is a bond of trust that goes beyond normal brainstorming. Brilliant and innovative ideas are never pitched by self proclaimed experts from a sleep inducing PowerPoint deck, but spoken by participants that prove their expertise by sharing their experiences and ideas to move a discussion forward.
I jokingly asked Bill at the start of the session if the rules had changed since I last met him. He looked at me and said, “Rules?” I answered, “Good! That’ what I expected.” Although he claims there are no rules, there are two: PowerPoint is a four letter word, and you won’t find out who someone is by their name tag… there aren’t any. This thing called networking means approaching people and engaging in a conversation with them. It was funny that people kept introducing me to people I had already met, but that showed the natural tendency of attendees to stir the conversation. At one point someone was discussing a problem and I said “Here’s the guy you should be talking to. Joey, do you have a business card?”
Those of us who live on social media channels are always preaching that online contacts are better when taken into real life… IRL as the tweetchatters would say. I’m not sure face-to-face connections are an improvement on the dialog if there is an honest exchange in the social media realm, but it does mean a lot to meet people who have been only twitpics before a conference. Shaking hands with at least five people known to me only virtually before the conference was a real treat. They are not any more real for having looked me in the eyes, but it does put a physical context to the conversation that adds to the depth of the relationship. Yes, Victorio, I will buy you a cup of coffee and talk about absolutely nothing the next time I am in New York.
Someone recently asked me if I was planning to attend the SHRM 2013 Conference in Chicago in June. When I said I didn’t know if I could break free, the reply was to just show up and get invited to the outside events since everybody would be in town. The inference was that the real networking takes place outside of scheduled presentations. This is the essential spirit of an unconference. Innovative thinking does not come from a room full of people watching a slide show. Mind blowing ideas come from “tru” idea exchanges with real people.