The medium sell

It doesn't matter what industry you hope to work in – to be successful you need to be able to relate to people

All my life I've wanted to go to the IKEA ball room (a room full of coloured plastic balls where kids can jump and play), but I've always been at least 20 years too old. Well, maybe 30...

But recently, I had the opportunity to plunge into a large container full of balls at Sydney Town Hall. It was a marketing event. Actually, it was more of a giant party.

These guys hired the entire Town Hall and provided free entry, free food, free drinks and free entertainment. Why? To encourage people to mix and network around the target industry. To highlight some of the products that their business partners had for sale. To have a good time.

Gaining goodwill from clients and potential clients is so important, that it's worth hiring the Sydney Town Hall, spending a fortune on filling it with people and keeping them happy.

This week I found myself at yet another event, but this time it was CeBIT, which is the world's largest information technology expo. It was held at the Sydney Convention Centre and was billed as "the digital economy's most important international event". CeBit started in Germany in 1970 and the Australian version has been running for 12 years in Sydney. While it's great wandering around and seeing some of the really neat hi-tech hardware and software on offer, what most people are really there for is the networking.

It doesn't matter what industry you hope to work in – to be successful you need to be able to relate to people. That doesn't mean that everyone has to be an extroverted salesperson. Bill Gates considers himself to be an introvert (his favourite TEDtalk is on introverts). But it does mean a willingness to communicate with others and share knowledge and ideas.

Many university and TAFE students in science-based courses bemoan the fact that they need to do "soft" subjects like Communications. But in reality, these can often be the most important subjects of all.

So if you find yourself confronted by a roomful of people in your industry and you feel a bit apprehensive about meeting them, remember they may feel the same. Pretend it's a tub full of coloured balls and jump in!

Footnote - The Northern Sydney Institute will be holding a TEDxevent in August this year. Check out the website here.