Our world is speeding up.
Instant messaging. On-demand TV. Flash sales. Speed-dating. Market ‘crashes’. Productivity apps. Fast food. The acceleration of technology, coupled with our own inbuilt curiosity and bias toward convenience means that it’s easy to be drawn into this whirlwind without even realising.
How do we keep up? Should we keep up? What’s the impact of such fast living on our minds, bodies, relationships, thoughts, ambitions?
We exist in a time of discoveries, solutions and opportunities. But it’s hard to keep up. And the recent surge of engagement with practices like mindfulness, meditation, yoga and retreats says that something in our collective existence is trying to slow us down.
I’ve been to a few networking events and conferences recently. I’ve unconsciously developed a particular approach at these events: to begin with, I scoot around the edge, focusing on balancing my (bad) wine and a plate of beige-coloured food, whilst trying to politely eat and talk to whoever I’ve engaged with. Once I’ve found my groove there, I tend to stay near the edge, looking in. I watch the room dynamic, and make a mental note of any people I’d like to connect with.
There is a temptation at these events to connect with everyone in the room, collect loads of business cards, and tell everyone about what you ‘do’. And that moment you realise everyone is talking to someone except you, you go and look busy with the buffet table. We like to look busy. But after all this busy-ness, I’d come home with no really meaningful connections, and actually feeling a bit rubbish — I’d compare ‘success’, busy-ness, intelligent chat and clarity of goals with everyone else in the room. It was exhausting and it wasn’t a reflection of who I am. It didn’t leave room to use my strengths.
So I decided on a different approach — the Slow Networking approach.
Sometimes people choose a simpler way of life after a time of critical illness, bereavement, or a relationship breakdown. They reassess, prioritise, slow down. They ‘Downshift‘. But I’d love to invite elements of this way of thinking into all our lives.
My last post was about WonderRunning — about slowing down and noticing the rhythms, the patterns, and the things that might usually pass you by. We can all notice rhythms and the unseen in other ways. For me, Slow Networking is about noticing, and meaningful connection. It’s not about how many business cards you’ve collected, but more about quality of conversation and being in the moment with someone; about really listening to them and being open to where the connection might go. You’re not thinking ahead to the next person you need to check off your mental list, but you’re noticing how this person thinks, feels, interacts. You’re listening deeply and responding to what they say — rather than waiting for the next gap so you can tell them more about yourself.
There is no timeline on Slow Networking. That pressured feeling having 30 seconds to deliver a polished pitch or otherwise you’ve blown everything is unnecessary — we can gather relationships over time, and make time for one-to-one interaction and getting to know someone. Who knows what it will result in? — that’s part of the adventure of Slow Networking. And Slow Networking goes beyond ‘networking’ events — we can be open to powerful, chance connections that come through looking, listening and bringing our whole selves to each and every person we encounter.
As Slow Networkers, we get to ask ourselves questions: How do I communicate best? What is a good result for me, and where have I produced results like this in the past? Do I enjoy one-on-one interaction, or talking to a group? Do I network well virtually, or in-person? Where have I felt most comfortable and in my ‘flow’ in past networking experiences? Where do I feel most like me? Listen to the answers to these questions, and create a way to network so that you get to bring your strengths and uniqueness to each interaction.
I hope that with a Slow Networking approach, we might feel better about ourselves. We’d feel able to bring our whole selves to networking — not just the headlines, the accolades, the edited gloss. We’d make it clear that we’re genuinely looking for connection, and not just opportunities for ourselves. We’d relax, and by doing so we might attract others who want our kind of interaction — people in our ‘tribe‘. Through that, the right opportunities will come, and we’ll have the right people around us to help us succeed.
I invite you to ditch the bad wine and the beige buffet, and explore Slow Networking — networking your way. What does it mean to you? How might it change how we ‘do’ work? Can Slow Networking help us better align identity and integrity?
Let’s explore, slowly…