One of the greatest benefits in the age of online social networks is the ability to connect and develop relationships with people all over the world without ever leaving my office. I’ve had the privilege of connecting with thousands of people across the globe, many of which I consider not just business colleagues but also friends. Pretty cool.
The trade off is that often I forget the joys of shaking hands, chatting over a cup of coffee, and dragging myself out of my virtual home and into the real world for good old fashioned face-to-face networking. I was reminded of how rewarding this experience can be last week at the ARF re:Think 2011 conference, but more importantly I saw the connection between online/offline networking in effect. It’s was a powerful combination!
Prior to the event several online organizations were hubs of activity for pre-conference planning including the MRGA, NGMR LInkedIn group, ARF LinkedIn group and Neuromarketing LinkedIn group. Members of all those networks were busily making plans to meet with their contacts at the convention, but the ARF did something event better: they deployed their own online social network using Crowdvine. This became the central place before and during the event to connect with folks, plan itineraries, share information, and keep up with latest happenings in connection with the convention. It was the perfect way to bridge online and offline around a conference.
If you’d like to see pictures from the event of networking in action, click here. Also, Nelson Davis of AIP, the intrepid photographer of all MR events, also has a series of pictures broken out by day at the event:
Sun 3-20-11, http://goo.gl/ow52S
Mon 3-21-11, http://goo.gl/HnPGi
Tue 3-22-11, http://goo.gl/9ztAj
Wed 3-23-11, http://goo.gl/WJc9Z
So yes, the ARF conference alone was a great example of combining the best elements of online and offline networking, but it was also a great excuse for other networking organizations to hold events, and that was where some of the real fun was to be had!
Sunday night The Research Club had an “Ignite” event and it was a blast! Jonathan Wheeler, John Mackay, and the rest of the TRC team helped us all kick-off re:Think 2011 in all the right ways! Here is a synopsis of from the TRC site:
The Research Club is pleased to present an Ignite event to kick off the ARF’s 75th Anniversary Annual Convention. Join us for an action-packed evening combining the best networking opportunities with a program of short Ignite presentations in the convivial setting of the Bourbon Street Bar. Ignite’s worldwide community holds high-impact evenings of dynamic 5 minute speeches. Fast-paced, fun, thought provoking, Ignite is a force for raising the collective IQ and building connections in each city.
Speakers selected for New York Ignite!
- Michael McCrary – “Surviving a Non-Compete….Chronicles of a Golf Junkie & a Year Off”
- Will Goodhand – The Power of Emotional Advertising – and Proving It!
- Lauren Moores – “Digital Connections”
- Steve Rappaport – “What Johnny Parts, “”Whitey”” and Axel taught me about listening and business management.”
- Brad Fay – “Connected – The Power of Social Influence”
This was my first Research Club and Ignite event, but I hope it’s not the last! I was truly impressed by the turn-out, the format, content, and most of all the opportunity to chat with many of my colleagues that I had never had a chance to meet with before. Kristin Luck of Decipher was the best hostess imaginable, and Jonathan Wheeler greeted everyone with a smile and a wisecrack. If you’ve never had the chance to meet Jonathan, then you’re missing out: he is one of the brightest and funniest folks I’ve ever met!
For all my fellow Market Research Revolutionists, the “secret” meeting of our cabal on Monday night was filled with inspiring fun for all with tongues firmly planted in cheeks! The Research Liberation Front planted the seeds to Set Research Free in the fertile ground of the ARF, but this was no boring tirade by firebrands; instead it was a great casual gathering with an opportunity for everyone to get on their soapbox (literally; speakers stood on a soapbox!) in an “open mic” environment and share with everyone in the funniest possible way how research needs to change. If you’re a fan of the great British comedy tradition, then you would have loved this event! Skits, faux interviews, farce and sarcasm were the rules for the evening, and everyone embraced the spirit and had a fine old time.
“Revolutionaries” such as Mark Earls, Grant McCracken, and John Kearon (with many of the BrainJuicer U.S. team in tow) were in attendance, and the highlight of the evening was the ChiefJuicer himself delivering an irreverent and funny as hell rant about how conservatism, acquisitiveness, and plain old lack of imagination is stifling our industry. He ended with a message to a certain Sir about what he could do with his quest to dominate the global industry that had the crowd cheering at the end! My understanding is that the evening progressed from there to pub hopping and ended with Karaoke in the wee hours of the morning; I exited long before that, but John Kearon did seem a bit worn around the edges the next morning!
Overall, the whole re:Think 2011 experience reminded me of the importance of taking our online relationships into the real world. I certainly love being able to connect and collaborate with colleagues via the MRGA, this blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Quora, etc… but something special does happens when you shake hands with friends old and new. I love the intersection of online and offline as well as global and local that conference was an example of. It certainly inspired me to take advantage of local opportunities to engage and interact with others and I hope that we see the continuation of this trend at other events this year. Do yourself a favor: extend your online networking to the real world. You’ll be happy you did!