In his best-selling book, “Never Eat Alone,” Keith Ferrazzi makes the case for genuine, in-person relationship building. And sociologist Ray Oldenburg has written about the human need for a “third place” that is not your home or your workplace (such as a café, bookstore or hair salon) where people can interact, collaborate, exchange ideas and just plain hang out.
Why do I bring this up? Because on April 24, PRSA-NCC launched a quarterly luncheon program for senior communicators called “20+ LeaderPack” that in my humble opinion meets all of the criteria for the kind of interaction that Ferrazzi and Oldenburg have called for.
As Jeff Ghannam—the organizer of last week’s inaugural luncheon at Carmine’s—noted in his post “Senior Moments to Come,” the goal of this new program is to provide a forum for senior-level professionals to interact and support each other and jointly address common challenges and concerns.
In his welcoming remarks, Jeff said he felt senior communicators have graduated beyond networking and seek venues where they can build relationships and share ideas. Although the 20+ luncheons will have speakers, the presentations are not the focus. The presenters will act instead as facilitators so that the group can tap into the experiences and resources the attendees themselves bring to the table.
Perhaps fully half of the 25 communicators who attended last week—many of them leading practitioners here in D.C.—are independents or head a PR firm. Others have changed jobs or made substantial career moves. That made guest speaker Kristi Hedges’ talk all the more relevant. Hedges, now a leadership coach, described the various “pivots” in her career from political campaign worker to journalist, PR agency head and, more recently, book author.
Hedges’ message of authentic communication and intentionality (her book is called “The Power of Presence”) seemed to resonate. She talked about how we tend to be “too busy to figure out what our true passion is” and need to “give ourselves the time and space to try new things.” Hedges said it begins with “just being honest with yourself” and finding a style of communication that aligns with your values.
I especially liked the family-style seating and service at Carmine’s, which facilitated our sharing and conversing. Long frustrated by standup receptions where you try to juggle a drink, a plate of food and still shake someone’s hand, it was a relief to sit down and have a pleasant, extended conversation with the colleagues who sat next to me.
At my end of the table, we talked about our own career changes, the pros and cons of solo practice and projects we’ve been working on. Everyone was engaged, BlackBerries and iPhones were turned off and the discussion lasted longer than a 140-character tweet. Now that’s relationship building!
Look for details about future 20+ events on this blog and in PRSA-NCC mailings.
By Jay Morris
Jay Morris serves on the PRSA-NCC Board and is president of Jay Morris Communications LCC in Alexandria, Va.