We love the idea of “the genius,” the one person who can change the world. That is an exciting idea, but here’s the problem: That person doesn’t exist.
The truth is, it’s communities that change the world and change lives — not individuals. Most great accomplishments are not the result of a single person. It may be a direct path and easy to see, like a research team collaborating to make the next breakthrough. Or it may be much more subtle, such as the encouragement of a friend that keeps you going during a tough time.
So how do you truly become part of the Delaware tech community?
1. Be authentically involved
Finding meetups, events and other people is the easy part. [Editor’s note: Start with our daily newsletter.] You’ve arrived at a meetup, perhaps the monthly Delaware Tech Meetup, and you’re met with a sea of people. What’s the next step?
Some would say you go up to a person, say hi, introduce yourself, get a business card and lather, rinse, repeat. You leave the night with two dozen business cards and a hazy memory of a few faces. Success! Right?
The better way is to go up to a person, say hi, ask about him or her and be interested in the story you hear. Keep the conversation going, and ask yourself what you can do to help this stranger. Who do you think he or she would like to meet? Then tell your story when asked. If you feel like you’ve made a connection, or can help that person, ask for their card or offer up yours. Maybe you leave with a single business card and one real connection.
If you believe the first scenario is the real success, stop reading. You have to be interested in people for them to be interested in you. We can all see through those that aren’t.
2. Nurture those new relationships
Follow up with those people who you made connections with. Give them a call or send an email, but there’s one difficult guideline to follow. This isn’t about you. You might really need a job and you’re looking for leads, or maybe you need a new client for your business.
This is the part where many fail. I know I’ve done it. I’ve started talking about myself too much and listened too little, and I’ve seen that dreaded look across the table in the coffee shop that says, “Why am I here? He isn’t interested in me.” Be authentically interested in the other person. People are fascinating, and everyone has their own experiences and knowledge to share. Don’t worry, you’ll get your chance to talk soon enough. He or she will ask you because you’ve been interested and made him or her feel important and valuable.
3. Keep it up!
It doesn’t stop there. Keep going to the same events. Offer to help out any way you can. Listen to people and help them. You become a familiar face simply through repetition. You must put sincere and repeated effort into building your own little community. Every month I make it a point to go to Delaware Tech Meetup as well as a few different bi-weekly or monthly lunches, including the DE Networking Group Lunch and the Pike Creek Networking Group. There’s also a few cigar enthusiast groups I’m becoming a part of. It’s a time investment, and that repetition matters.
“This sounds hard,” you might say. “Why should I bother?”
When asked to write a post about community, the first post I wrote was about all the reasons why community is awesome. It can help you make connections, be a support system, move you forward in life, etc. Then I realized that post sucked.
Everyone knows communities and networks are important. Everyone has heard “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” No one needs to be told why community is important. The reason why people aren’t more involved in local communities is because it requires effort, and it requires trust. You have to put effort in to learn about and support others, and you do this without knowing if you will get anything out of it. But you have to trust that the more you give, the more you will get in return. And believe me, it works. When enough people with this attitude get together and support each other, great things happen.-30-