Next-Gen Networking

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Will High-tech Networking Really Include Extreme Sports?

I was in Maui in early May of this year, kitesurfing with a friend. As I chatted with other kiters there – who have subsequently become friends – I learned about Maui’s MaiTai Global events. This unique annual networking gathering brings together elite kiteboarders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and tech companies.

For me, being a PR professional in the tech space, living in Hawaii, and a kitesurfer, this networking event not only sounded like absolute bliss to me, but also got me wondering: what makes the best networking event? What do extreme sports enthusiasts, tech entrepreneurs, PR professionals, and VCs have in common?

In my opinion, the best places to network are where you share a common cause or interest, combined with some kind of physical activity. This means that you’re there because you want to be, not because you feel like you have to be. Next, the participation in a physical activity makes it incredibly easy to break the ice with others. You are more likely to return to these places again and again, making closer connections and building trust each time you visit.

Whether participating in an extreme sport like kitesurfing, or something a bit calmer like playing Frisbee, or even participating in an endurance sport like road biking, physical activity can be an excellent way to bond with others. Participating in physical activity together builds camaraderie and respect and often leads to a new business deal or the beginning of a lifelong relationship. Mind you, you don’t have to be a top athlete or even a competent athlete to create these bonds. Your participation and attitude are what counts, and is truly what creates the strongest impression among your peers.

Golfing is the best example of this to date. Thousands of relationships have been built and deals made on the golf course, some of them by really great golfers, and others who are only so-so golfers. Another benefit is that pitching ideas, or giving speeches or presentations at a networking event tends to feel less stressful when you’ve already bonded with attendees on the field (or in the case of kitesurfing, in the water).

Although extreme sports-and-technology networking events are still relatively uncommon, it is indeed growing in popularity. There are some skill sets that kiteboarders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and PR professionals have in common, that are driving its popularity:

Jill and friends kitesurfing in Maui.

Jill and friends kitesurfing in Maui.

Moving out of your comfort zone – No doubt about it, success for PR professionals, entrepreneurs, VCs or extreme sport enthusiasts requires moving out of one’s comfort zone, on a regular basis. Being willing to act boldly when the situation requires it, especially when the probability of success is low, is a skill set that we all share.

Persistence – We share the “never give up” attitude. In the eye of adversity, we continue to move forward; a positive mindset is key to success. A setback to us simply means that we are making progress. If we crash our kite, or get turned down by a reporter or an investor, we don’t get discouraged and give up. We just try again.

Being active and social – Human beings are social animals. We all like to have friends and enjoy life. Today, as more and more people work remotely from their homes, it has become even more important for us to socialize and be active outside in the sunshine, on the beach, or on the track. We see work and play to be one in the same and truly relish in both.

Clear goals – Clear goals give us all direction and purpose. The power and drive to overcome the obstacles comes from knowing our goals. Kitesurfers and other athletes are continually setting goals for themselves, as do PR professionals and entrepreneurs. Having a goal, and the drive to push through to it, is a very admirable quality.

Intelligent risk-taking – This is a lot different than just “risk-taking.” Successful communications experts, tech leaders, and extreme sports athletes often engage in this. We all possess “situational awareness”, meaning we are aware of our physical surroundings, our markets, our target audiences, or our customer’s needs, and based on that knowledge, we intelligently decide when and where to take our risks. By doing it intelligently, we reduce the chances of danger and increase the opportunities for success.

The lessons and skill sets that we learn playing sports, at school, or at work, all tend to cross over in our multi-dimensional lives. So it makes sense that next-generation networking events will do the same, by combining tech leaders, entrepreneurs, PR professionals, and VCs with an interesting and challenging sport such as kitesurfing, just as the Maui MaiTai event does. The exposure to new people, technology, and sports is a recipe for some terrific bonding and relationship-building. I can’t wait to participate in them!

Check it out! Bloomberg TV reported on one of the MaiTai Global events: