A couple of weeks ago I went to a networking event here in NYC.
As with many such events, a company were hosting it – running events is expensive and time-consuming after all.
The hosts of this event were a company in the entertainment industry. The event was advertised as an evening of networking alongside industry thought leaders discussing sponsorships, key insights, strategies and opportunities.
The venue was a very well-known spot in the centre of Manhattan. There was a free bar and some snacks. They’d partnered with a startup to help facilitate introductions on arrival (their algorithm seemed a bit erratic but it still served as a nice icebreaker).
All was going swimmingly. After 30 mins or so of mingling and eating croquettes, we were informed a presentation would be starting shortly.
I assumed this was a minor US/UK translation issue. A ‘presentation’ felt like a peculiar term to use.
What followed was effectively a revolving sales pitch by the host company to persuade brands and advertising agencies to spend money with them. It lasted for well over an hour, and even halfway through many of the attendees looked to be flagging.
I understood the company’s eagerness to position themselves in a new light. They’d been through a tough time over the past couple of years and had relaunched with a new management team and partners. Turnarounds are often really tough and relaunches are an exciting time.
But not opening up a genuine conversation didn’t ring true to what this new dawn was supposedly all about, and a little ironic considering they’re in the business of connecting people.
I didn’t feel negativity or animosity, more a sense of disappointment at a missed opportunity.
Whether by luck or design, there weren’t just two lines of dialogue available, there were three. The host, their brand & agency guests, and the rest of us. We all had something to say; something on our minds; a viewpoint.
Perhaps the event led to more sales and new relationships, but an overt sales pitch with a third party also in the room didn’t feel good.
Today, yelling our messaging so loudly everyone can hear it rarely works. Attention is scarce but that doesn’t mean shouting louder is more effective. It’s often the opposite. A street full of hot rods and monster trucks aggressively jockeying for position doesn’t encourage other road users.
Focused, relevant, inclusive and thoughtful conversations are what set us apart. Listening, gauging, using empathy, trying to see all sides.
Of course, too much moving traffic becomes noisy, but if we can channel that traffic, guide it, and keep all routes open to everyone in the room, we’ll be all the better for it.
No one likes one-way traffic.