Career

The Power of Social Capital

Building relationships, both online and in person, is more critical than ever to career growth. So how can event professionals foster those meaningful connections among their attendees ?

Your Network Is Your Net Worth author Porter Gale has an impressive resumé: brand strategist, public speaker, filmmaker, and mom. She’s worked extensively with Fortune-500 clients, and in a previous role as vice president of marketing for Virgin America, she helped Richard Branson launch the U.S. arm of his brand.

However, despite her high-flying career, Gale — like many people — dreaded networking. “I was more of an introvert, and I had to learn to be an extrovert over time,” Porter said in “The Power of Social Capital,” the latest Intersection video from PCMA and PSAV. As she learned to talk to people on planes, at parties, and elsewhere, “I started to realize I was getting all of these job opportunities, and business opportunities — and it was all about connecting and being open.”

Gale wrote Your Network Is Your Net Worth to share what she’s learned about networking over the course of her career (see four of her tips below); her philosophy hinges on making meaningful connections over shared passions. So how can meeting professionals create the ideal spaces at meetings for attendees — many of them introverts like Gale — to connect?

When Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP, and founder and CEO of Insight Event Strategy LLC — and PCMA’s former senior vice president of education and events — began her career, networking at conferences depended heavily on parties and receptions. “You [were] not really making meaningful connections with people, and you were certainly probably not making meaningful connections with new people,” said Peacy. “Where the real problem comes in are first timers, and engaging those people who may be new to your organization or new to your conference.”

Peacy, an advocate for using open and white space to facilitate connections, thinks that Braindates — which some attendees took part in during Convening Leaders 2017 — offer a glimpse of the future of networking, as do conference-based hackathons, where likeminded people come together to solve a challenge.

She also thinks that programming design plays an important role in enabling connections. “Now that we’re seeing multiple generations of attendees,” Peacy said, session formats are “being designed a little bit more collaboratively. Some of the sessions that were typically schoolroom-style, very passive learning, are shifting into more roundtables, activities, and exercises where people learn and connect during the education sessions. It’s just a different way of looking at how to connect people who don’t know each other, or who want to know each other, and finding those ways that fit a particular group.”

Porter Gale’s Advice for Building Social Capital

1. Look beyond just using LinkedIn to enlarge your use of social media for networking.

2. Be authentic in how you portray yourself online.

3. Realize that we are now in a “relationship” economy where networking is vital.

4. Develop your own personal brand centered around what your passions are.

Want to earn CEUs? Watch the Intersection video at www.pcma.org/theintersection.

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is a writer who specializes in food and drink.