In an age where we’re using new technologies (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) to make personal and business connections, I was especially happy to be reminded this week that the old fashioned way to network is still the best.
For the past 12 springs (including last week), I’ve been fortunate to be able to attend and participate in the annual Nantucket Conference. For those who don’t know of it, The Nantucket Conference is a gathering of circa 100 tech leaders who choose live and work in New England.
An antidote to all those deadly events at the Newton Marriott (where there’s too much talking at people and not enough exchange,) Nantucket stands out among industry conferences I’ve attended within the past 25+ for these reasons:
The ACK Conference is a unique gathering where attendees genuinely connect with other participants not to benefit themselves, but to find common ground and to help one another.
While I’m sure the bucolic setting, steady flow of food and alcohol have something to do with it—Nantucket unites the entire ecosystem of technology (entrepreneurs, thinkers, investors, facilitators) in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect.
Whereas other moderators at other conferences let the presenters drone on with their standard spiels, on Nantucket open & candid reflection is the standard for speakers and audience members alike, encouraged by conference Co-Founder and Content Czar Scott Kirsner, New England's Innovation Economist.
Paraphrasing Robert Fulgum’s “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten”, leaving the island, it occurs to me that “Everything I need to know about the right way to do business, I learned at the Nantucket Conference.”
Here's What I Learned (or Re-Learned) on Nantucket:
Sure asynchronous messaging through email and Tweets help us communicate, but nothing compares to a great face-to-face conversation in which both participants speak honestly and directly, and listen to each other without distraction.
Give and ye shall receive
A significant number of Nantucket’s attendees are successful serial entrepreneurs of whom a handful stand out because having made their millions--- now they want to give of themselves to help other entrepreneurs on the way up. Bill Warner (founder of Avid and myriad other ventures) and Jit Saxena (founder of Netezza and Applix) are two notable examples.
Follow your dreams
There are lots of ways to make a living. I’m always impressed by Nantucket attendees who follow their dreams, and who pursue their ambitions (despite being told by others to do otherwise).
Blend the best of youth and experience
Circa ten of the attendees at this year’s events were startup CEOs under the age of 30. This group embodied an enthusiasm and fearlessness that is common among young entrepreneurs, and often sorely missing among many older workers. At the same time --- I was impressed by two things: i) Respect shown by the young CEOs in how they talked with and learned from the more experienced, gray-haired attendees. ii) Similarly, I enjoyed seeing people in their 40s, 50s, 60s engaged in deep discussions with people more than half their age.
Whereas many industry conferences are filled with self-important pundits who are inhaling their own exhaust, a recurring theme of Nantucket this year was that conducting business with the interest of others front of mind is both smart business, and right-minded. War stories and perspective from Gary Hirshberg, (CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm Yogurt) on “How to Make Money and Save The World” were inspiring. Comments from enlightened marketer Mark Troiano (Principal of Holland-Mark) who exhorted us to be “solely focused on delivering value with those that follow us” rang true for me as well.
Beyond the inspiration that Nantucket gives me, the trick of course, is to practice these principles every day. :-)
Back to work.