Thursday, August 30, 2012

Making meaningful connections in a modern world

We are more (virtually) connected than ever before. Duh. We all know this. 

Still, indulge me while I vent: 

In addition to writing more, editing our own photos and videos, editing and posting our own stories online, keeping up with hundreds of e-mails per day (not to mention texts and voice messages -- you can talk into that texting machine?), the modern journalist is expected to be The Most Productive And Tech Savvy Member Of Society Ever Born Ever. We need to stay on top of an endless stream of social networks and constantly check in to every web portal we can find. 


Except not necessarily. 

Being connected virtually is more than just a one-way check-in on FourSquare. I recently ran across a great article by Michelle Welsch, a Longmont High grad who moved to NYC and founded Project Exponential, a series of curated networking experiences (that just announced today, btw, that it's expanding to Colorado). 

Here are a few of her tips on how to make meaningful connections in the modern world: 

* Be memorable. Build a personal brand. "Value is derived from the ability to be equated easily in the minds of an audience."

* Ask questions and mean it. Be curious. 
* "Reinsert mishap into your life. Don’t plan. See if you can find inspiration in unexpected sources. Force yourself to be uncomfortable. Improvise. Cross boundaries."
Join groups, discussions, and work sessions you can contribute to in a thoughtful way. 
* "Reach out to a professional in a different industry to see how their work might be relevant to your own."
* "Make it a priority to set aside time in the 'real world.' Challenge yourself to a day sans media and tech, and see what you discover." Schedule your next meeting in a park -- technology free. 

Michelle Welsch, founder of Project Exponential
I asked Welsch why meaningful connections are important for journalists specifically (see? I am following her advice to reach out to professionals in different industries). As a journalist, I might have my own feelings on this topic. 

This is her take: 

I think one of the primary responsibilities of people in the media is to connect people to people
, to create and show the world in a way that brings an empathic perspective to others. By building relationships with individuals from a variety of backgrounds, industries, and experiences, you'll have your finger closer to the actual heartbeat of your subject matter. 

I'd like to think media figures have an obligation to post and report as authentic and true of stories as possible. Having the right relationships (and establishing them in an authentic, meaningful way) can help those in the media industries relay information that is accurate; people feel more comfortable telling truthful stories to those with whom they've developed relationships.

Secondly, it's important for reporters and media professionals to have a clear understanding the different lenses through which one might consider the world. Acquiring exposure to others' reference points can help us realize and navigate our own bias and prejudices. Yes, we all have them. 

This is one of the reasons why attendees at my invite-only events remain anonymous --- I want to create a level playing field, a blank canvas for individuals to connect and learn and grown. Too often, networking events encourage superficial gatherings by listing titles and companies of those in attendance. It's easy to miss valuable opportunities because you're focused on meeting the CEO of so-and-so. Meanwhile, the project manager of a small design team might have something to offer you, that's applicable to your work, and you've skipped over him/her because you're focused on finding the C-level personality.

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