Lunch and Lessons Learned
So it was lunch time on Day 2 of the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Atlanta earlier this month — NTC totally rocked, by the way — and folks were millng about the crowded ballroom seeking out friends or trying to decide which discussion table to sit at. I was eyeing up the salad in front of me and looking for a waiter to glop on some of the yummy-looking orange dressing I saw glistening on other people's plates.
Suddenly, I made (inadvertant) eye contact with someone standing a few tables over. Not too far away, but certainly not within easy strolling distance given the number of people who were still standing about. The contact was brief, but there was a lingering sense to it. I knew it well — from my dating days. If this was a bar or a nightclub, a free drink might have made its way to me.
Sure enough, the tall gentleman on the other end of the gaze began to make his way over and I thought for certain that I was about to be, as they say, hit on.
Silly me. (You might have noticed that I'm prone to bouts of glittering whimsy and sequin-fueled flights of fancy.)
“Hi, I’m speaking at a session tomorrow. Hope you can make it,” he said, handing me a leaflet made from a excerpt from the NTC program outlining his topic of discussion. “There'll be lots of time for questions, and I’ll be around afterwards too if people want to talk.”
Then he made his way toward someone at a nearby table.
Once my ego recovered, I was impressed with the way this guy was working the room. Though his initial contacts with people were brief (eye contact or a brush-up while trying to maneuver through the crowd), he followed up in a timely and friendly way, and gave them enough information to move them to the next level of engagement, which in this case was going to his session and even possibly talking with him afterwards.
He was effectively planting the seeds of relationships before he even sat down to his meal.
I didn't find the topic of his session particularly interesting, but I stopped in — mainly because he took the time to invite me. If he hadn't, I would have skipped it altogether because, obviously, I had brushed right by it in the conference program. But now I at least have a name if I ever need someone to write about that specific topic.
People connect with your organization all the time, in many ways. Sure. some start out by writing nice-sized checks or walking 10 miles for your cause. But more and more, people are making “eye contact” with you by becoming a fan of your Facebook page or following you on Twitter. How are you responding?
If like the speaker I met at lunch, you're following up in a timely way, providing information about your mission and asking for support, you've got it going on. If not, you're leaving stuff on the table, not the least valuable of which is money.