Friday, May 18, 2018

Stop Playing Golf and Going to Happy Hours. Do This Networking Activity Instead

We talk every day about innovation, what's next, what piece of technology will disrupt whole industries. But we never talk about innovation when it comes to networking. Sure, social media has certainly changed it.

But face-to-face networking, as a whole, hasn't changed much. People still pass out business cards, still meet for Happy Hour and half-priced apps at their local networking group. And they still play golf.

Don't get me wrong, I love golf and I understand its previous networking appeal. It's quiet and leaves plenty of time to bond and discuss things. But it's not necessarily for Millennials it's not cheap and it's not a workout. And Millennials are now the largest age demographic in the workforce so preferences are changing.

If we know that people are looking to be more active then we need to re-evaluate networking activities as a whole. We need to make them less expensive so more people can be included. We need to make them more active because today's connected workforce is always looking to kill two birds with one stone. A networking activity that also doubles for a trip to the gym is crucial.

But it also has to be general enough that people can have a conversation while doing it because again that's still the most important part. I would love to network while doing CrossFit but not everyone is as crazy as I am.

So when I was in Las Vegas last month for Adobe Summit, we took people on a bike ride. Simple, athletic, outdoors and the creation of a common experience everyone can share. And the excitement of doing something other than golf worked.

"Some of the best networking I did this year at Summit wasn't inside the conference itself but on the highways around Las Vegas--on my bike. When people are doing something active and the endorphins are pumping it's a way to forge a much more natural, and lasting, connection. Networking doesn't always have to mean sipping drinks and wearing name tags. It's as ripe for disruption as any other business practice," said Ryan Holmes, founder and CEO, Hootsuite.

Beyond the health benefits of exercise, cycling has three major benefits in the workplace - it fosters creativity, builds a sense of camaraderie and collaboration, and can positively impact performance.

Brad Rencher, executive vice president and general manager, Adobe Experience Cloud, broke down those three reasons for me and gave me insight in to the mind of a young top executive at a company and how they are rethinking work-life balance and networking: creativity, camaraderie, and performance.


To me, there's no better way to think critically though a tough problem than on the back of a bike. That's why I schedule cycling meetings with my team when our schedules and discussion topics permit us to get out of the office. It's our chance to ditch the to-do list and step outside to get fresh air and open up our minds to think creatively though our challenges.


Our rides foster camaraderie, whether they're internal team rides or external rides with partners and customers. During a ride, you're working together to make it to the finish line-inspiring each other to push forward and make it through tough climbs. This sense of teamwork builds deep, lasting relationships that go beyond the ride. In fact, a partner who joined a ride this past year at Cannes told me, "We all walked away feeling we connected with each other on another level, which obviously helps business discussions."


I cannot speak enough about the importance of balancing your day job with exercise. In fact, according to a recent study by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), Brigham Young University and the Center for Health Research at Healthways, employees who exercise three times a week for 30 minutes are 15 percent more likely to be higher performing individuals. Any physical activity, whether it's cycling, a walk around the block, or even painting, goes a long way toward resetting your focus and making people better when they're on the job.

It doesn't have to be cycling. But it does need to be something your team is passionate about doing and wants to share with others. Make it an experience. Make it more active. make it something that creates a collective bond that you can share and remember call back to over time. That's what makes a networking experience memorable. And the point of networking is to be remembered, not forgotten. 


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