Some of the best experiences I had at SXSW this week didn’t happen in conference rooms, but over dinners with Lori Randall Stradtman. Although she designed and built my blog, I’d never met her in person until we both landed in Austin this week.
…about people who meet on line and become friends. Lori and I originally met through an online community called Third Tribe. I later contacted her about rebuilding my blog because I didn’t know anyone locally who could do it. With people you meet online, personal contact can be problematic because of logistics (distance and time) and fear (not “clicking” or being taken advantage of). But if you find a kindred spirit on the web, start building the relationship and you’ll know if it’s right to reach out to them about a meet-up.
Industry events are a great place to take it to the next level. I’d always been told this should be a goal when you attend conferences. Find networking opportunities beyond trading business cards in the registration or bookstore lines. Cultivate some deeper conversations; learn from people like you in the hallways and audience, not just from the experts on the podium.
Sitting down to dinner with someone you’ve never met can feel risky. Fortunately, both Lori and I are sociable people with open minds. And open mouths. We did not run out of things to say. This one-on-one experience away from the big-time hustle and bustle of SXSW gave us the chance to get to know each other as people as well as professionals. We clicked so well the first night, we repeated the experience a few more times.
In phone and email conversations, Lori had mentioned very interesting past careers and future plans that I wanted to hear more about. She is also farther along in her social media journey than I am. But I can find “how-to” tutorials any day on her YouTube channel. What I really wanted to know is how she feels about trends and ways to grow a consulting business. We swapped stories and ideas, not tips and tricks.
Lori and I promote each other on social media sites, regularly retweeting, liking, and linking to each other’s work. I’m confident that we’ll refer business to each other one day soon because of the new insights we’ve shared in person. When you trust and admire someone, sooner or later you’ll find a way to help them. That’s a natural inclination in business as well as personal life.
P.S. Two of my favorite blogs echo these sentiments:
Deborah Ng: The Obligatory Rambling SXSW Aftermath Post