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Monday, November 12, 2012

Relationships matter, but meet at least once

Posted by: Brian Pereira

Last weekend, I was privileged to travel with almost 200 IT Executives from India to the exotic destination of Macau. We were there to attend the annual Dell India IT Executive Summit. The execution of this event was superb, and the sessions were thought provoking. Speakers such as the CIO of HongKong, the Ex-CIO of London, the founding editor of Wired magazine, and of course, the leadership from Dell India and Asia, made this event worthwhile. But what impressed me most was what Conference Catalyst Thom Singer was doing right through the event.

Now Thom is a prolific speaker who has authored several books and you can check the list here: He has more than 20 years of marketing and business development experience with Fortune 500 companies. And he's trained more than 25,000 professionals in the art of building professional contacts that lead to increased business.

As Conference Catalyst Thom's mandate was to get delegates to engage or network as much as possible. He deployed a mole in the audience to check who was most active at creating discussion groups during the breaks. Those who were good at making conversation and engaging with others were fortunate to receive a copy of Thom's book, titled "The ABC's of Networking". And the grand prize was a copy of this book, republished in Hindi, signed by Thom.

Prodded by Thom (or perhaps the incentive), even the shy executives made an attempt to make conversation. The discussions ranged from gambling in Macau, to Indian culture, Indian food, arranged marriages in India, relationships with in-laws, politics, and of course, technology.

IT executives were busy exchanging business cards, and often running out of cards. At one point, someone suggested that business cards will soon be a thing of the past. In the near future, we'd just be touching our hand phones to exchange Vcard and contact information -- with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.

While speaking to Thom in a group during lunch, I asked him what he thought about Linkedin. Thom says he has a personal rule never to accept Linkedin Invites -- unless he has met that person at least once for beer, lunch or dinner.

In Thom's own words, "You will never remember a person, the event where you met, and the topic discussed unless you meet him/her several times."

And in his book, The ABC's of Networking he writes: To have someone become a valuable part of your network, you need to have 7 - 10 personal interactions. Anything less than that makes them just a person you know.

During his presentation Thom shared an experience with his 90-year-old father. One day while playing cards with his father, Thom kept checking email messages on his phone, much to his father's annoyance.

His father insisted that Thom gave him his 100 percent attention for an enjoyable gaming experience. Thom tried to explain that it was a more connected world now, and one had to keep up with email. But that was flatly rejected by Thom's father, who lived in a generation where people had to get to a phone to be contacted -- and email was not present in the commercial world.

And when I visit CIOs and IT Heads, I would like to reiterate what Thom's father said. Please put away those laptops and phones and give me your 100 percent attention, for the next 30 minutes or so.

Is that too much to ask for creating a fruitful relationship?

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