What I’ve learned from arranging my first Meetup

It started as some kind of joke or a dare- a guy I don’t know asked on Quora if there are any meetups for local Quora users. The replay was that it sounded like a good idea but it was never done before. So I thought to myself- why not?

So I started a new meetup group called the Israeli Quora meetup (neatly labeled “IQ”) and set a tentative date for a meetup.

IQmeetup

I published the existence of the group and the meeting on social media and Quora itself and waited. Pretty soon people started joining the group and RSVPing to the meetup. Now that it became more tangible I had to actually find a place and set an agenda for the meeting. Finding a location proved more difficult than I first expected. All the places I knew that could host us for free were unavailable. I didn’t want to start collecting money to fund this activity. Through open discussion we’ve reached the conclusion that it would be ok to hold the meeting in some public place, as long as it had ample parking and access to public transportation. 

I then came across an unexpected hurdle- I originally set the date to 7.7 to make it memorable, but it turned out my wife had to be abroad that day and I had no one to look after my kids. So I postponed it one week to the 14.7. I booked us a large table at a local beergarden and waited. 18 RSVP, but I was almost certain not everyone would show up. It didn’t bother me much since I knew at least several people were actually going to make it and I would not have to sit at a table set for 18 people all alone.

Long story short- they came, we dined and drank beer, talked and talked and had a great time. We said goodbye some 2.5 hours later and everyone, self-included, were pleased. I took some notes (written and mental ones) during the meeting and I’d like to share these with you here:

1.      Quorans (that’s insider jargon for Quora users) like to talk. A lot.

2.      Quorans interesting and merry folks. There were people from all over the country (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other places) aged 18-60 (I think, I never asked but some were fresh from high school and others had gray hair. I dare not guess the ladies’ age…)

3.      “If you arrange it, they will come”- People like to meet like-minded people. Period.
No professional agenda is needed, no high profile speaker or hip location…  just provide people the platform to meet face to face and they would gladly come.

4.      Networking works better face to face (and over beer)- Sure, I’ve been following and corresponding with these people over several months on various platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora and meetup inmail platform) – but 5 minutes sitting next to them were so much more meaningful.

5.      People really appreciate others who take initiative- all the participants thanked me and people that I didn’t even think of praise me for arranging this meetup. In reality all it took was 5 minutes to setup the Meetup accounts, some 20-30$ for the account fee, a few emails and phone calls. Nonetheless, people see you as the facilitator and acknowledge you’ve done something they’ve only dreamed or talked about. 

And they respect you for it.

So what am I taking from all this? Will I arrange another meetup?

You bet.

I just extended my subscription to Meetup and moved to unlimited account, which means that more than 50 people can actually join the online group. I will certainly push for another meeting in the fall, and make sure we will be meeting in a more convenient location. And yes- I will delegate most of the work to others. There are at least a dozen of IQ members that know how fun such a meeting can be and will surely help me arrange the next one.

One last note- I’m looking at 2016 as a year in which I experiment and try new things. Arranging this meetup, while not planned or thought of as part of this experience, was a great learning experience for me, and I’m really glad I’ve made the effort to pull it off.

And I know my fellow Quorans are grateful, too.

Advertisements

When is it OK to utilize your network?

When is it OK to utilize your network?

Reach out to your connections when in need, but do it right
Reach out to your connections when in need, but do it right

So, if you’ve been reading my latest posts about networking (https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/27/the-advantages-of-being-accessible/

And https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/17/you-are-the-sum-of-your-connections/)

Then surely you realize it is important and very much possible to cultivate a large network of connections.

But when and how can one utilize this awesome network of followers?

First let’s dwell on why I refer to the action of asking something from your network as “utilizing”? well, I consider my network one of my greatest resources, and I utilize it regularly- as a reader base, to ask specific questions and even the odd “ can you help me get a job at your firm” request.

So now that we’ve established this is a resource, one must wonder how not to abuse or over use it- or, simply put- one must ass when and how I can utilize this awesome network of followers?

Well, like everything else in life – the answer is “it depends”. It depends on your need, urgency and level of intimacy with the person you wish to engage.

The need- simply put, is the person qualified to help you with what you need to do? If she is 100% relevant to what you want to achieve (for instance, is in charge of recruiting in a firm you want approach) than it’s ok to approach her and simply ask what it is you want her to do (introduce you to someone, sample your product, provide feedback on your website etc.).

Urgency- this is easy to grasp- sometime speed is of the essence- like when a new job opening is posted on a company website and you happen to know someone from the inside who can make sure your friend’s CV is one of the first to make it to the recruiter’s desk. Or when you really need to reach out to someone now. Most people appreciate that “desperate times” call for desperate means and if you will explain why the request is urgent they are likely to accept even if otherwise they would have rejected the request.

Intimacy- in today’s world of loosely related networks (also known as “weak connections” we cannot expect the same level of intimacy as before. And yet, there is a wide spectrum of degrees of closeness. Starting from the obvious- Family and close friends are pretty much open to help request anytime. Weaker connections and ones which are purely virtual- people you’ve never met, spoken to or even emailed, but are connected to on Social media ) are less likely to assist, given that they don’t actually know you.

Given that you’ve considered these factors and decided to move ahead and utilize the connection, please bear the following principles in mind:

  1. Be polite: You are making a move here, so the reasonability is on you. Be polite, use proper grammar and respect the other side (don’t “Bro” anyone you are not actually bros with). It will go a long way in helping the other side to decide to assist you.
  1. Be specific: Tell them why you approached them, why now and what it is you expect them to do. The worse case scenario is someone telling you it’s out of their reach, but more positive outcomes could be that people who wants to help but can’t/ not capable of, will often direct you (or even approach on you behalf) another individual who could be of help.
  1. Don’t erode your currency- Don’t ask multiple times the same request, don’t bug people if you don’t get an answer. Being “connected” to someone does not mean you have the right to annoy and spam. And respect the “No”- if someone refuses to help accept it and move on. Fighting such a person will seriously erode your credibility for the next time you have a need for assistance.
  2. Be willing to give back- reciprocation, even if not specifically mentioned, is to be expected. If you are not comfortable with someone asking you to reciprocate with an introduction to a guy in your firm, don’t ask them a similar thing in the first place.

Conclusion

It was said that in ancient China, if you managed to get some face time you could have asked for anything, it would have been given to you. This made sense because such a tiny percentage of the population ever had a chance of actually meeting their ruler, so if one had the resources and means to achieve this it was usually important enough so the emperor would abide by the request. Today you don’t have to wait a lifetime to ask anyone (even famous and powerful people) anything. And yet, it might be sensible to think of the story of the emperor and save the requests for important stuff. Building a large network of connection is easier than ever before, but that does not mean we need to abuse this powerful resource.

What I’ve learned from my grandmother about life and Owntrepreneurship

My grandma passed away last week. She was 90 years old, and until very recently mostly healthy and extremely sharp minded. She was diagnosed with cancer some 2 months ago and the decline was swift and painful.

person-731423_1920 (2)

Putting aside the pain and the longings, I got to thinking about what my beloved Grandma taught me about life, and which of these lessons can be applied to Owntrepreneurship. We’ll, taught is not the right word. She never “Told” me or “taught” me anything, but by observing her life and her behavior I’ve learned many important lessons about what’s really important in life:

  1. Resiliency- we tend to forget this, but Europeans living through the first half of the 20th century, and especially Jews, have had much harder lives than we will ever have and had to overcome many obstacles that later generations don’t have to face- like war, immigration and economic crises.
    My Grandma was born in Sambur- then Galicia, Part of Poland (today in the Ukraine), immigrated to Argentina when she was 10 with her family. She started elementary school in Rosario without knowing a single word in Spanish, but quickly overcame this obstacle and led a happy lives in the thriving local Jewish community. She married my Grandfather, a young doctor and had her first daughter, and then decided to immigrate to Israel. Arriving in Israel in the 50s must have been a big shock- made worst by the fact they settled in a Kibutz (a communal settlements), living in tents and sheds and forgoing all luxury of middle-high society she enjoyed in Argentina. She was a trained optometrist, but that was not a required profession at the new settlement, so she worked whenever she was needed- at the communal kitchen, tending babies and finally settled on a job as a seamstress, where she worked for many many years, mending the clothes of dozens. Since my grandfather was a doctor who worked travelled often she was also tasked with raising my mother and her younger brother. And yet, through all the hardship she remained optimistic, and adjusted quickly to the new, oftentimes worse situation. Perhaps that was the trait of many people living in harder times (I’m guessing one might even call her lucky- had her parents not left Poland the entire family would likely have perished in the holocaust), but to this is one thing I will always admire about her- the ability to adjust, bounce back and keep a smile on the face while doing so.
  1. Ability to re-invent (or pivot)- having been the “Doctor’s wife” for most of her life, when my Grandfather died at 68, she was left with a big hole in her life. But she kept going and re-invented herself as the ultimate grandma. She was the driving force behind our family and always made sure we were together on holiday and family occasions. She became more independent and started to travel the world, go to concerts, movies and shows and never had a dull moment until her recent decline. Even a broken hip in recent years did not hold her back. She was truly another person, no more the shy, appeasing, small women, but a strong, appointed and fun loving.
  2. The power of a supportive network – research shows that one of the crucial elements in longevity is the existence of an embracing community. My Grandmother had just that- a group of friends who were together from their 20’s and stayed together through good and bad, living in a small, protected community. Several of her close friends attended her funeral – all about her same age (90). The ability to create and maintain such a network is crucial in achieving long and happy life. But her network was not limited to her friends- she also cultivated an extended family-like network, of many, many “adopted” children she took care of when they arrived at a young age to the kibbutz (as a result of Israel facing many immigration waves in the 50’s, many kids from large families were sent to more established families since their parents were unable to support them having just arrived in a foreign country with no job or knowledge of the language). These kids grew up, had kids and grandkids and they all referred to her as “Grandma”. Until her very last days she would remember who was doing what, where everyone was living and even kept a small notepad with names, addresses and phone numbers, just in case she would forget someone’s contact details. This large supportive network was evident in her last days when people from all over the country came to pay her a last visit, and the many people who came to her funeral.
  1. The currency of Love- my Grandmother was never rich. Whatever she had, she would always give away, and what she couldn’t in terms of money or physical means, she passed on in the form of the most powerful currency available. That of love. And people loved her back, and respected her for it. By always helping others and being truly empathic, she was able to create such a powerful following, of people who would gladly help her, should she ever ask (she almost never asked anything).

I loved my grandma dearly and already miss her. But thinking about what I’ve learned from her gives me comfort, and also serves as a reminder- she would not want me to feel sad or sorry after her demise, but she did wanted me to apply the lessons I’ve learned in my life, and help other just like she did.

The most overlooked skill required for successful networking

Networking does not come easily to everyone, that’s for sure. If you’re an introvert, it is definitely harder for you to be a good networker (https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/20/growing-your-network-as-an-introvert/).

Your memory is your greatest asset when utilizing your network
Your memory is your greatest asset when utilizing your network

Or is it?

Because there’s one overlooked skill of networking. Sure, it helps that you are open, flamboyant or chatty. But that only gets you that far along. Because in order to be an exceptional connector you need to have a skill that is not immediately associated with communication.

That skill is memory.

Just being able to reach out to people and “connect” with them, means little if you don’t have the ability to catalogue them in your memory and being able to access it at any given time. And even that is not sufficient. You must remember when you’ve met, what he or she are doing, how they connect to others and how you can reach out to them if need be. In short, you need to be able to create and maintain a mental map of all your connections, preferably categorizes into sub-networks (people you went to school with, people you’ve worked with, friend of friends etc.). while this may sound trivial, it is very complicated when you are considering very large networks. Technology helps- LinkedIn contains a lot of information about the people you’re connected to (I have more than 6000 of them), and some people maintain excel sheets or even keep rolodexes filled with business cards with hand written notes about the person. But the really good connectors? They have it all in the most awesome data base the world has ever known- the human brain.

So if you feel the social aspect of networking is difficult- do not despair. Most chances are you can more than much up to it with good memory skills.

The benefits of making yourself accessible to others

Putting yourself out there is a scary thing. It used to be that only a very specific type of people would do that- artists, writers, “celebrities”. Enter web 2.0 and we can all (in theory at least) connect to everyone, everywhere (I’ve discussed the benefits of having multiple connections in previous posts: https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/20/growing-your-network-as-an-introvert/).

system-571182_1920
If you are accesible, they will find you

But the fact that you can connect, and sometimes actively do doesn’t mean your are accessible. Most people will content with just connecting to people they know, or to people whom they’ve just met ( see https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/20/growing-your-network-as-an-introvert/), but that would be it. And it is a shame because every human connection has two sides. And if you’re not accessible, than you are making it harder for OTHERS to reach out to you. What do I mean when I say accessible? First of all- you must have some sort of online presence. Some place people can come and see you, hear what you have to say and be able to assess whether connecting with you is sensible for them. It can be social media account (obviously Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, but also the more visual Pinterest and Instagram and the likes), a private blog or a corporate blog. Anywhere online which is the “digital you”. This was once an exception but today it’s pretty much standard practice for everyone. And even if you are exceptionally shy and reluctant to share any detail of your private life- do remember that you control every aspect of this exposure, so you can determine how much and what to share.

If you are still not convince- think of the downside of not having any online presence at all- in all honesty, this might appear as you have something to hide from the world (surely potential employers would be very suspicious of this).
Once you’ve set this up, do try to make it accessible- meaning allowing people to look you up, see your information etc. obscuring this using elaborate “privacy” settings defeats the whole purpose of being out there. Next, think about you inclination to receive connection request. Would you accept these from everyone, just people you know well or even from people you’ve met briefly? I believe that unless the other person clearly has malicious intents or uses questionable ethics (such as utilizing a fake image) it worth connecting to, if only to increase my visibility. And this is the real secret of networking in large scale networks- the more people you connect to (or connect to you), the more visible you become- hence more people are made aware of your existence seek to connect with you. Sure, some would like things from you – an intro to another person, or for you buy whatever it is they are selling. But for most people- they seek to connect from the same reasons you are. Some might even have a genuine interest in you and what you are doing, and, when called upon, will be happy to extend some help ( I will elaborate on how to utilize this enormous resource in future posts).  So don’t be shy, and make sure you are visible and accessible. You network will grow as a result, and you might, just might be opening yourself to new opportunities which were never available to you until now.