I attended a conference recently where I went in cold—other than one colleague, I didn’t know anyone. The sessions were good and I gained the new insights that I had hoped for, but much of the value came from informal conversations.
These conversations were diverse and interesting. They ranged from someone who was a successful serial internet startup guy to a harpist who created a digital marketing platform to teach the harp online to someone who recently sold a business and is figuring out his next step.
Of course, I also encountered the occasional person who seemed a little clueless, and that is to be expected. All things said, though, you can learn so much from the experiences of others as long as you’re open to listening and ask some good questions.
You don’t need to attend a conference to experience something similar. It can happen at a networking event or talking to another parent at your child’s soccer match or engaging with someone next to you while you’re waiting in a long line.
In any of these situations, start with the common thread (the event, the soccer match, the check-in line), and with some creativity your conversation can morph into other directions.
Some of your best ideas can come from these scenarios, but they probably won’t happen unless you take the initiative.
If nothing else, you may gain an insight or two on how to approach something a little differently than the way you’re accustomed to. And that can be worth quite a lot.
The bottom line? Don’t prejudge the people you meet. You don’t know what they know or who they know, so look for the unexpected.
Have a great day!