How to Build Meaningful Connections at Your Next Event

groupsWhile our lives are increasingly interconnected, the time and space for us to cultivate meaningful connections have become limited. You know the feeling of handing out business cards in a crowded convention center, listening to keynote speakers in a cramped room, and never really remembering anyone because you were checking your email half the time. What you crave is to find events where you meet people who can inspire you to grow—people who can catapult your work and push you to question, try, fail, and succeed. Ultimately, what you really want is to develop high quality connections around you. I believe curated events and conferences are a critical part of discovering and fostering those connections.

Although most events are meant to allow people to make meaningful connections, not all of them are created equal in allowing them. For most, hearing panel speakers and being in a crowd of hundreds or thousands doesn’t actually get you where you want to go. However, there are practical ways to ensure that when you attend your next networking event, you get the most value out of it. To make the most of your next event, follow these six tips.

1) Sit at tables with people you don't know: Valuable connections are often made serendipitously, so it is beneficial to sit with diverse groups to have lunch or dinner together during the events. This prevents people from just talking with colleagues you already know and allows you to forge a greater variety of connections.

2) Talk to speakers before they speak: The best time to reach a speaker is before they speak. They are already at the event and interested in learning about the people in the room, rather than running out the door and crowded with people in the room. Show them that you have read up on them. This is a great way to initiate conversations that actually continue afterward and to get remembered.

3) Match-make new people: Event organizers often miss out on how to capitalize on the matchmaking the right people and often prioritize of “the big, powerful speaker.” Take the time to get to know people around you and make connections for others. People want to be around the matchmaker!

4) Sit in the front row of the events: Don’t just stick to the basics of sitting in the back of panels and breakfast speakers. Instead, mix it up and get front and center. This is a powerful way to engage with most of the most powerful attendees and connect with the speakers.

5) Ask questions, then ask more questions: The people remembered at events are not just the speakers, they are the participants who ask provocative questions that focus the conversation on problem solving. Take the approach of brainstorming and solving problems during the event.

6) Share your learnings with the world: Share what you learn in real-time. Use Twitter or Instagram to capture special moments. Use the conference hashtag and ask attendees can respond instantaneously to your ideas while sharing their own. Blog about the event afterwards.

Most importantly, don’t underestimate your own power to maximize serendipity in creating unexpected conversations and high quality connections. When people are brought together, all it may take is bumping into someone new to spark a powerful connection.

How do you create high quality connections at business events?

New Company Launch: Cotential

cotential_full__finalCan you believe February is already almost over? I don’t know about you, but, for me, 2014 is moving fast, and it’s showing no signs of stopping! As you know, I kicked off the new year by launching Cotential, a firm dedicated to unleashing the connected potential of people everywhere to solve pressing challenges.  Getting Cotential up and running this month has proven both nerve-racking and extremely exciting. With the start of any growing company, there is a lot of preparation and work to be done in a short period of time. However, it’s that burst of activity right at the beginning that makes launching a new company so exciting. It has been incredible to watch Cotential grow so quickly in just a few weeks, and I am grateful for all of your support in promoting Cotential’s goal of creating a more informed and inspired world through a more connected world.
As I have realized recently, it really is my network of connections and resources that have made the launch of Cotential possible. Just as I hope to show people through my company, Cotential, it is possible for you too to use your networks in our increasingly connected world to make your goals happen—whether it’s starting your own company like I did, driving the growth of your business, or jumpstarting innovation within your organization.  To learn more about how you can use your innate connected potential—your cotential—to achieve breakthroughs, check out this guide on Unleashing Cotential.
As 2014 races forward, cheers to a year full of opportunity, success, and unlocked human cotential. I spent last week leading a keynote panel on The Value of Networks at Social Media Week with leading executives from Bloomberg and CNN and am off to California and South by Southwest next week. 

The year is in full steam! 


Stop Working: Build Your Life’s Work in 2014

Red2000 | Dreamstime Stock Photos | Stock Free ImagesThis is a season for 'productivity' tips and resolution mania. But this year, I'm uninterested in focusing on "planning my work and life" and instead focused on building my life's work. Instead of organizing my life around my work, I'm more interested in organizing my work around my intention in my life. When we reframe productivity or daily tasks as doing the work that matters, it's not about tasks or technologies, it is about having a passion for the challenge we choose to face. So this new year, instead of searching for the next health or work tip, figure out what in your story, in your values calls you to act and makes you want to create something that matters, and you'll reach farther than you'll ever expect. 

This statement, from the inspiring Dr. King, exemplifies the essence of building a life's work:

"Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better." – Martin Luther King, Jr.

What is your life's work in 2014?

Happy New Year!

Webinar- The Advent of Sparring and What it Means for High Performing Teams

Sparring ButtonTraditional mentoring takes a top-down approach—senior people give advice and junior staff are supposed to zip their lips and take notes. But old models don’t work in our multi-generational, global workforce where the traditional corporate hierarchy must be transcended in order to respond to rapid change.

Innovation Sparring Zones are spaces of power-free collaboration that create an optimally innovative, responsive, and flexible environment for ideas to germinate and grow by leveraging the groups’ collective experience, differing viewpoints and strengths. The result? Friction-free communication, an open flow of ideas and profitable collaboration. This provides new tools for a new era of collaboration and conflict.In our webinar, I’m going to go into detail on how you can use Sparring to:

  • Learn to harness productive conflict and spar with your team in a way that brings results, more ideas, and greater execution

  • Learn what questions to ask, which suggestions to make and how to adapt their styles to the styles of those on their team

  • How to measure the ROI of innovation sparring zones to make it a productive result for your bottom line to drive results

When is the Webinar?

Presenter: Me! Erica Dhawan

Format: The Advent of Sparring and What It Means for High Performing Team

Day: Wed, November 20 2013

Time: 2 PM EST – 11 AM PST (US and Canada)

To reserve your spot in the webinar (spaces are limited), click HERE.

Join the Facebook Event here and Get the FREE Sparring Script here.

Webinar – 4 Ways to Unleash Connectional Intelligence to Achieve Business Breakthroughs

Connectional IntelligenceWe're not tapping into the cognitive surplus of our interconnected age. Everyone has the capacity to link up with people, power, ideas, information and resources, and on an operatic scale. Humans have always been connected, but until now we've never had the capability or the tools to connect to one another on this scale, and no one has cracked the code as to how we can take all our passions, interests, initiatives, innovations and outrages, and go big with them. That's where Connectional Intelligence comes in. In partnership with Saj-Nicole Joni, I have developed a proprietary process, Connectional Intelligence, that helps leaders and organizations consistently deliver transformative results by discovering and leveraging the value of relationships and networks.

In our webinar, I’m going to go into detail on how you can use Connectional Intelligence to:

I’ll tell you:

  • Why organizations that value growth, innovation and excellence must include connectional intelligence as part of the role of every leader
  • How to use tools to harness Connectional Intelligence without causing resistance and how to leverage the connective capacity of every employee
  • How to strengthen teams by transforming disconnects into trust points
  • How to innovate and implement best practices that maximize each person's contributions

Get ready, I'm going to drop some serious knowledge.

When is the Webinar?

Presenter: Me! Erica Dhawan

Format: A complete breakdown of the 4 Ways to Unleash Connectional Intelligence

Day: Wed, October 30 2013

Time: 2 PM EST – 11 AM PST (US and Canada)

To reserve your spot in the webinar (spaces are limited), click HERE.

Join the Facebook Event here and Get the Connectional Intelligence White Paper here.

The Power of Serendipity

I've spent the last three weeks on the West Coast, first at Downtown Project, then HATCHfest, then Summit Series weekend and wanted to give a real update on me (given my delayed blogging this month).

First, I spent a week at Tony Hsieh's new Downtown Project initiative. I had come out here in July for Catalyst Week (here's my video from the event) and decided to come back to work on exploring the Connectional intelligence of this community –boy I did. 

First of all, if you don't know yet, the Downtown Project is trying to change downtown Las Vegas to the most community focused city in the world. The most interesting thing I learned is that every time a city grows, it becomes more productive and effective. Every time a company grows, it becomes less productive. As a result, Zappos is learning how to be more like a city as it scales while growing a city next to it with the Downtown Project. It is an amazing 350M dollar social experiment and one that time will tell will be discovered more.

My week included the following:

–Attended Zappos's all hands quarterly meeting, which included circus performers, Deal or No Deal and Price is Right games, TED talker Yo Yo performer, National Geographic's Jason Silva, and open employees Q&A with executives. I hadn't seen this level of "company fun" ever before.

–Zappos is unleashing a powerful new social technology called Holacracy, which is a governance structure with no employees (only partners), no managers (just distributed authority, and no owners controlling it (just investors along for the ride). No organization at this growth stage has every tried it. Medium is one example of a group that uses Holacracy. Like many things Holocracy models the pioneering nature of Zappos and an aspiration to build a bottom up decision governance structure and open corporate culture as it scales.

–I was most touched by the open, quirky culture of Zappos–the idea that everyone is weird and to let your own uniqueness shine. The People team were incredibly passionate and forward thinking about how to use the concept of "collisions" to grow a diverse, connected comapny.

My next journey was at HATCH, an amazing collaborative community of 100 of the world's creative thinkers in Bozeman, Montana. I had never been to Montana, so this was really fun and new.   I found myself next to everyone from Tim Gruber, the inventor of Siri to now a dear friend Mike North, founder of Reallocate and Prototype This on the Discovery Channel. Most importantly, everyone was thinking about how to push the edge in the most creative ways possible. An experiment we went through was asking: what keeps you up at night? What challenge are you trying to overcome? Then we worked in carefully matchmaked diverse group to work towards actually solving the challenge. Then we connected people with 2 mentors with similar types of challenges to help each other solve it. It was one of the best raw and real events I've ever been to.

Last but not least was Summit Series weekend a week later. Summit Series has been a well-known tribe and known to be a fascinating view of "Connectional intelligence", having just bought an entire mountain, a 40MM investment and getting together in a powerful way to create their own new version of an Aspen Institute. It truly felt like an interesting meeting of the minds and time will tell how this community grows.

Here's what I'm learning from my trip about Connectional Intelligence: Our greatest sources of help are where we least expect it. I learn the most not from the "big speaker" but from the new person sitting next to me, the person that is brainstorming a new way of solving a problem or might have had an interesting resource on questions to ask ourselves. They helped me think the most critically about my book on Connectional Intelligence and why we need diverse crowds to shift the edge. 

So, now to you, how are you going to surround yourself in new "crowds" to help push your thinking and prepare for serendipity to create your next breakthrough? How do you open up your own curiosity to learn? You never know where it could come from, so you just need to dive in!

3 Ways to Boost Your Innovation

I had the most fun time doing a webshow on Connectional Intelligence with the wondrous! In this episode, we talk about what it means to have Connectional Intelligence in business, key ways to boost innovation and what Bollywood dancing has to do with it all. Be sure to watch until the end for a little surprise–some dancing! yes, I'm serious.

Here are 3 ways you can increase your Connectional Intelligence –

1) Spend 15 minutes every day connecting to new sources of perspective outside your normal perspective  (different news source, forum, conference etc).

2) Schedule 2 conversations with millennials or people you think differently from you on a regular basis.

3) Take the Connectional Intelligence Test at



Alexstar | Dreamstime Stock Photos | Stock Free Images

Alexstar | Dreamstime Stock Photos | Stock Free Images

"Don’t go through life, grow through life."

  Eric Butterworth (Click to Tweet!)


Are you finding yourself growing through life? If NOT, what's that one action you want to take today to turn that around? 




Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid /

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid /

"Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

– Will Rogers (Click to Tweet!)


How do you make sure you're constantly making forward progress?




Top 5 Reasons Real Leaders Say No

Image courtesy of Marcus /

Image courtesy of Marcus /

It takes one cancellation, one schedule change, one forgotten reply, and only one disappointment to change others' perceptions of you as a leader. This is a bold statement, but it's true!

The world that we live in is fast-paced and crazy competitive. People do not have the time to spend thinking through why somebody disappointed them. Rather, all they can afford to process is how that disappointment felt. The reasons behind the experienced disappointment is irrelevant.

Take a look at the top 5 reasons why real leaders say NO:

1. The only way to avoid letting others down is to say no proactively.  At first, this can seem unnatural as leaders typically enjoy their position of power. However, always saying "Yes, I can do that for you," is not sustainable.  Often times, a definite no can lend itself to increased focus and clearer understanding for the larger group. This choice may not be understood at the time but will make sense to them later.

2. True leaders understand the weight of their words. If they commit to doing something, then they know it is important to do it. Whatever they said they were going to do is unimportant because the disappointment that people feel when something doesn’t get done can be irrationally understood.  If you commit to doing something as menial as picking up the donuts, then you better be ready to make a Dunkin’ run, or somebody at work will feel disappointed.

3. Rationalization can be so strong that you reason your way out of doing something. You might feel certain that you absolutely cannot be disappointing anybody by not doing what you said you were going to do. This is a danger zone.  You will never be able to fully know whether or not you've disappointed somebody. Most of the time you will never be alerted to the facts. The only way to avoid disappointing people is to do what you say you are going to do and leaders have a firm grasp on this reality.

4. By saying no in an open and honest manner, you can avoid the common pitfall of over-committing and under-delivering.  Sure you’ve heard this saying before and know there is a level of truth to it. How often have you over-committed and as a result, have felt that you were forced to under-deliver?  Remind yourself of this common advice and be transparent with others about your other commitments, so they understand why you cannot say yes.  Temporary disappointment up front will subside quickly.

5. Planning one’s time wisely is essential to being successful as a leader in any forum.  Once you have learned the art of saying no, it gets a whole lot easier to manage your day to day activities.  A job doing is worth doing well. No better way to remember that than to take a look at where your time is being spent and make a contentious decision to scrap what you can.  Your calendar will thank you later.

Sure, doing what you say you are going to do seems easy enough, except that it's not. The most difficult task real leaders face is knowing when and how to say no as it takes strength, thoughtfulness, and experience to do it.  As you are working through the growing pains of saying no more often, remind yourself of the reasons why you are doing so, and you’ll be much more inclined to continue.

Guest Post by April Anderson. April is a researcher at Erica Dhawan Group and currently a MBA candidate at Baruch College in Organizational Psychology with a passion for women & leadership, social enterprise, and management development theory.  Find April here.