Networking. As business professionals we recognize it is imperative to gain exposure for our enterprise, but business growth can simply be a positive by-product. How about confidence growth, learning from peers and lasting friendships?
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to both attend and be a keynote speaker at the National Minority Supplier Development Council Conference, which was held in Florida earlier this month. Plenty of dialogue on the criticality of global expansion, overseas partnerships and joint ventures… but a highlight of this conference was witnessing the excitement and enthusiasm – especially exuded by Millennials.
It’s hard to imagine these youngsters are old enough – the oldest of which were born in the 1980’s – to be among us as entrepreneurs and business owners, but for a generation raised with internet and social media they fully seem to embrace the art of face to face communication. Often – wrongly so – pegged as uber-users of smartphones with less than optimal time spent on social interaction, these young business professionals champion interpersonal connections for professional purposes, e.g. client / workplace satisfaction and personal fulfilment.
Dan Schawbel, whose article on Millennials in the workplace was recently published in Time Inc.’s Money Magazine, partnered with American Express on a study which revealed that 62% – higher than expected – of Millennials prefer face to face contact in the workplace. Not surprisingly, Schwabel goes on to say, “When you’re at an office, or a networking event, you can really get to know the person through their emotions, facial expressions, and gestures—all of which you wouldn’t be able to grasp if you were communicating virtually. That is why in-person relationships are stronger and can lead to better opportunities from a career development perspective.”
Now, this isn’t meant to at all minimize the extensive networking opportunities that social media and interconnectivity have to offer. The Millennials – that is until Gen Z fully matures – possibly possess the most powerful combination of networking competencies: unparalleled technological acumen and plain old personal skills. The take away is that conferences and networking remain incredibly relevant.
A young blogger, recently aware of Schwabel’s extensive work with Millennials, took time to synopsize 5 Things Millennials Expect From Great Conferences. To summarize Juraj Holub’s blog even further, the top suggestions are: providing a distinct experience, live polling, active participation, networking opportunities, and embedding social media.
But at the end of the day, whether you are a Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennial or a rising Gen Z, these networking opportunities not only help expand our business – and relationships – but help us determine with whom to do so.