It happened at every conference I went to. Every workshop I attended. Every innovation lab I was a part of.
You meet a bunch of smart, thoughtful and awesome people. Spend days talking to them, standing inline at buffet tables and riding in elevators together.
Then, just like summer camp, it is time to go your separate ways.
Exchange business cards. Maybe grab a twitter handle. Or add a phone number to your contacts.
Time passes, connections are lost.
I got tired of handing over cards and hoping.
So, I built a wish list.
Unfortunately, most of these great connections are a product of the environment and seemingly very difficult to maintain without an exchange of money.
“I would love to keep talking to you, but I really need you to pay me money.”
Sounds familiar, yes?
As a freelancer or consultant, I can feel this moment approaching during the lifespan of the conversation. As if the conference room is a warm, safe womb of thoughts, where you can ask me anything you like (which, by the way, I love), but as soon as we walk out of that room and take off our name badges and begin saying our goodbyes, the conversation suddenly shifts to “yeah, I call you if something comes up.”
Translation: I need to get away from you as quickly as possible because I think you might trick me into giving you half of my budget.
All of those good ideas, the good conversations seem to vanish as quickly as they appeared.
I thought it was your fault.
But then I realized it was my fault.
I did not give you my wish list. A wish list of things I actually want to do. Projects I am interested in. Ways (paid and free) that we can work together.
Instead of handing over a business card with just contact information — and putting the onus on you to figure out the next step — I now give people this wish list, via a URL on my card or follow-up email, that tells them how we can help each other.
The wish list works because:
- it let’s you pick the way to follow-up with me
- it tells you exactly the type of work I want to do
- it gives you a sense of completion (and perhaps closure to our brief friendship)
It seems obvious to discuss how we could actually help each other, but it is often a conversation that is skipped or rushed. During the course of a conference or meetup, we might only talk about your problem with a poorly performing visitor check-in kiosk (that happened to me) but be completely unaware that I would also be a great moderator for an upcoming company retreat (which also happened).
The wish list takes away the pressure to immediately cultivate you as a lead (I like to imagine I am driving a big tractor chasing you through a corn field.).
It let’s me listen to you, talk to you and gives you simple ways for us to stay in touch and perhaps work together.
Assuming, of course, the conversation was good.
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