Saturday, April 20, 2013

Part 2 of Five Lessons from TED

Five Lessons (Re-)Learned in a Day at TED – Part 2

Lesson Two: Never eat lunch alone.

The Inspiration for
 Lesson 2
Alright… You caught me.  This lesson is clearly unoriginal.  There is a whole book about it by Keith Ferrazzi (and I highly recommend reading it).  Then again, that is why this blog series is titled
“Lessons (Re-)Learned.”  The lessons I’m talking about are nothing new – in fact, we’re taught them everyday here at the MSBA program.  Rather, it’s about demonstrating how those “classroom lessons” are actually used in real life settings.  So, with that tangent complete, it’s on to the heart of the matter.

As contracted workers of TED, we were given a standard 45 minute lunch break each day.  TED had graciously provided a really nice conference room in the Long Beach Hyatt near the conference facility for us to use for lunch.  To be honest, though, I think I only used it once.  Instead, I would spend my lunch break engaging in conversation, making new friends, and networking to the best of my ability.

Now, you have to understand, a BIG section of my contract included rules for professionalism which prevented me from deliberately networking with TED attendees.  After all, how many repeat clients could TED expect if all the employees at the conference were hounding them for business cards?  But just because I couldn't network with the big shots, didn't mean I was left without options.

I think that was the huge take-away here.  When we walk into a networking event, we have an instinct to make sure that we meet and get connected with the most powerful people in the room.  More often than not, though, they will be unwilling or unable to help us.  So, why waste all the time and effort for a few seconds of time that will do little for you in the end?  Instead, network smartly.

The walkway from the conference
center to the lunch-break room was
 a great place to meet other staffers
 and team leads.
And that’s just what I re-learned to do at TED my first (and subsequent) days.  I challenged myself to spend at least 15 minutes with a new person every lunch break.  It could be anyone: staff workers, team leaders, attendees who needed extra help… the list goes on.  By approaching those precious lunch minutes without the pressure to meet the best contacts, I took much more away from each contact. 

Over the course of the week, I would forge a friendship with a famous Italian barista, discover my brain-twin (that is, someone who thinks uncannily like yourself), catch-up with an old classmate, provide comfort to an overly nervous speaker… the list goes on.  Since leaving TED, we have all kept in touch and they have been some of the most successful, win-win relationships I have ever come away with from a networking opportunity.

Never ride the Metro alone-
Going to and from campus
is a great way to meet people
Now that I am back at the MSBA program, I've tried to expand that lesson.  While I still try to never eat lunch alone, I also try to never ride the metro alone, never go to church alone, never drink your Starbucks alone… There are all kinds of networking opportunities that are available to us each and every day if only we re-frame our mindset that networking has to take place in a formalized setting with “people worth knowing.”  Instead, just reach out to the people already around you – you never know who it might be or how they might be able to help you (or vice versa).

I promise you, amazing things will happen when you never eat lunch alone.

Neil Watson
MSBA Candidate
Class of 2013

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