How To Build A Network By Making People Stop And Smile

Today’s guest blogger is Melea Seward. She gives people something to smile and talk about via her business at Chief Amusement Designer.

There’s a lot of noise out there. Cutting through the clutter = key. Real relationships do that. Often, so does a flash of creativity. Make people stop. Make people smile.

Looking for a job or new venture?  Before you do the same thing everyone else does, take a minute to try to find a more creative solution. Go for greater impact.

Have you seen the Google Job Experiment?
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Here’s the low-down: A guy looking for a job at an advertising agency had an idea. Instead of job hunting the usual way: sending out resumes blindly, sending out resumes eyes-wide-open, applying online, hoping for the best, putting his resume and credentials in the mass of everyone else looking for a job, he took a different tack. One that totally paid off. He researched the companies he wanted to work for, and ascertained who at each of those companies would have the power to hire him. He came up with five names. (A quick LinkedIn Advanced search will get you all the information you need.)

And then he created Google ads for five top agency executives who had the power to hire him. Why Google Ads? Because a pretty good assumption is this: People google themselves. And when people google themselves, they are on the lookout for anything they see. They are especially on the lookout for anything new, or not quite right, for anything amiss. And so when you google yourself and there’s a note from someone talking directly to you, you click on it.

The Google Experiment yielded the following:

  • Number of interviews: 4
  • Number of Job Offers: 2
  • Employment Status: Employed at Y&R.
  • The total cost for this experiment: $6.


How do you get a diverse network when you hate networking?
When I launched my next big thing (a new business) a few years ago, I knew I needed to build a broad, diverse network quickly to sustain a consulting business. I’m a public speaker. And a fairly shy extrovert. I also hate ‘networking’.  I find it awkward. I had a bit of a dilemma.

One day I was browsing groups and Bernardo’s List of New York City events (of which there are many), resigning myself to slogging to multiple events every week when I noticed something. The person who starts a Meetup group or any group really, had visibility, instantly. To create a new network to jumpstart my new business, I didn’t need 100 business cards. I needed to give people a good experience, a chance to meet with other people. And give them something to talk about.

Why Be One in a Million Name-Tagged Attendees, When You Could Be the Host?
So, I started two events/networking groups (with friends). One was about dating. It was called Almost Emotionally Available. The other, about business, was Almost Economically Viable (or AEV for short).

Almost Emotionally Available: I started it with two friends: Connie and Amanda. The attendees were all friends of friends. Everyone present knew someone who knew one of the three of us. Almost Emotionally Available was by invitation only, so there was trust. And because you had to know someone who knew someone, there was exclusivity, hence demand. We got a free venue (a bar) and brought our own ‘awkward corner’. A place where people could use coloring books and chill out. At the door, everyone got a nametag with a new moniker and something interesting about them–a conversation starter. It was a success.

Almost Economically Viable: The business event, I started with three other friends: Robin, Joe, and Sarah. At each AEV event, we had a guest speaker, attendees raffled off their services; it was participatory. It was playful and fun. AEV grew in popularity and we eventually started making money on the event, even though it wasn’t our intention.

I don’t do either event anymore, although for fun, perhaps I could do a revival. But in addition to quickly building a big, broad, diverse network, I became known as someone who is creative and strategic and usually involved in fun projects and throws a darn good party. And all of those things are authentic and central to my brand, now… these three years later.

Want to Make Your Own Impact? Give People Something To Talk About
Think about the problem you’re trying to remedy (I need a job or I need to grow my network or I need funding). And before you do the next obvious thing (send your resume to 100 people, throw yourself at networking events or apply just like everyone else), stop and think how can I get noticed, how can I have more signal, how can I stand out? How can I give someone something to talk about?

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Got ideas to get someone talking? Share below.

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  • Catherine Morgan

    Oh what an interesting post. I love the Google experiment and start my “Kick-start your job search” info product off with that. So important to get people to expand their thinking. I have heard of individuals starting their own groups to get noticed but I really appreciate the details of your stories. Bravo!

    • Melea Seward

      Thanks, Catherine,

      I love the Google Job Experiment; it’s such a great example of what happens when you spend more time thinking about the impact than just going through the motions. Thanks for your comment!


  • Wendy Hanlan

    One other tip for Meetup – offer a “Perk”. It’s cheap and I have received great response from it!

  • Millicent

    This piece was cogent, well-written, and pithy.

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