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Local Networking on Life Support

By Isabel Donadio

Isabel Donadio is Editor-in-Chief of Top Talent Magazine,

Co-Owner of Speaker House Publishing, and

Bestselling Author of Finishing is Happiness.

Writer: Isabel, thank you for being with us here today, talking about tough things. You seem like such a happy person to tackle such a challenging topic. What’s the premise of the problem you see hurting businesses now?

Isabel: Well, I am a happy person, and I don’t come to the world with just a problem. I have a solution too. First, the trial and sad reality of today are that many things that we businesspeople and entrepreneurs relied on to help grow our businesses are going away. I’m talking about local networking being something that is pulling a big-time disappearing act.

Writer: It’s going away, and you don’t think it’s coming back? It will come back eventually, won’t it?

Isabel: Well, it was already hurting even before public events got crushed by COVID-19. Networking has been losing its effectiveness for a while. Local networking has been mostly ineffective. The truth is people don’t want to walk around a room shaking hands and handing out business cards. This style is very 2010…or, maybe in 2000…its just an outdated method.

Writer: So, you seem younger or at least closer to 30 than 20 or 40, so does this reflect a generational change?

Isabel: Maybe a little, but mostly it’s that “people want to do what works.” Relationship building is what works, and relationship building with the best people or the right people is what works consistently. Finding your people or your tribe is where the real value is. People like me were flying to conferences, conventions, seminars, masterminds, and retreats worldwide to build relationships with the right people. The people that didn’t have the time or money to do that were the ones more likely to rely mostly on local networking groups versus someone that only partly relied on local networking groups.

Writer: So, local networking was already hurting, and the people who relied on it most were locals who didn’t need or want to be more than local or, in some cases, couldn’t afford to be more than local for one reason or another?

Isabel: Right, and then along comes COVID-19 that essentially has government leaders shutting down face to face get-togethers…especially the ones with more than a few people getting together. After six months of these local meetups, chambers, and random networking groups not being able to meet up or get together, combined with them already hurting from them being more about networking then relationship building has pretty much crippled them. These organizations are driven by revenue from people paying memberships to attend these public events and sponsors and exhibitors that pay to be visible at these events, and that can no longer happen.

Writer: Well, that does make sense, and that does sound bad, but won’t these things make a comeback, or are you saying “no, they will never come back?”

Isabel: It’s probably more like the newspaper print industry. I don’t think the newspaper print industry will 100% go away, but it’s not coming back either. Sure, there will always be some papers around, and some will find ways to pivot online more, but it will never be like it once was.

Writer: You might be right about that. That is what we have seen for the last 15 plus years in the news biz. So, what is the solution for networking?

Isabel: Well, first, wandering around a room handing out business cards may never come back. Business cards themselves may never come back. At least not in the traditional mainstream sense. Relationship building is what is still robust and rebooting in different ways. And, yes, the answer for business people and entrepreneurs everywhere is getting online more. Of course, you can’t just get online to get online; you must be a part of groups and events that create an environment where you can memorably engage people. We are having a ton of success with several of our Facebook groups and even an event series we call the Top Talent JV Mastermind.

Writer: What’s a JV, or what’s your definition of a mastermind?

Isabel: JV stands for a joint venture where two or more people from various organizations come together in a limited way to connect, collaborate, and create something together. It’s not typically about them hiring each other and paying each other. Instead, it’s about them sharing resources and talents on a specific project to share positive outcomes and or revenue. A mastermind, on the other hand, is about three or more people coming together to learn from each other’s success as well as their failures. It’s a think tank of sorts and the dynamic where there might be one person facilitating everyone there as equals to give and gain knowledge and wisdom. These processes also allow for both personal and professional sharing that enables more opportunities for relationships, which is where the real magic happens.

Writer: So, you do this online? Doesn’t the online part make it harder for relationship building than face to face?

Isabel: Thanks to Zoom video conferencing, we can still be face to face. You’re still getting together in person for authentic relationship building, joint venturing, and masterminding in this day and age which is most valuable. Working in the same room with many people is a risky business, but finding your community online is the answer. Not to mention how much time and money you save not having to travel. Of course, I admit I miss jet setting the world, but I’m saving thousands on average every month not traveling as much. Until April of 2020, I also put on many events, and by not doing so saved me tens of thousands of dollars and travel time.

Writer: So, this is how you are shifting and pivoting as they say?

Isabel: Yes, but not just me. Working online face to face is how many people are shifting and pivoting because they still need to do business. They still need to maintain relationships as well as create new ones. Our Top Talent JV Mastermind events are connecting people worldwide so that they might collaborate and create together. You can’t afford to wait until the world returns to normal. There is a new normal now.

Writer: What about the people that don’t want to deal with the technology? What about the people that don’t want to change?

Isabel: Yes, rigid people are having an awful year, or at least that’s something my husband keeps joking about, but it’s true. I guess the numbers have confirmed it too. There is a lot of money out there for people that can change and evolve, and typically this means embracing technology. Say what you want about my generation or the next generation, but we embrace technology. We can change, and we can evolve.

Writer: So, people that fall behind get left behind? That seems harsh.

Isabel: I guess, but I don’t want anyone to get left behind, which is why I’m doing this interview. This interview isn’t about the death of local networking, either. It’s about local networking barely hanging on. Of course, it will die if it doesn’t adapt.

Writer: Isn’t that the saying, “adapt or die?”

Isabel: That’s what we are doing with our Top Talent communities that want to build relationships, joint ventures, and masterminds. We are giving them new ways to communicate with quality online. We do that at if you don’t mind me saying so.

Writer: Thank you for sharing that. Is there a cost to that?

Isabel: No, there is no cost to attend regular North America or Asia Top Talent JV Masterminds.

Writer: So, you have events all over the world, then?

Isabel: Yes. We are united in our communities by our interests, goals, and best practices, not geography. Although I am partial to my online events, we are not the only ones shifting in this direction. By doing so, we attract people from all over the world. Top Talent JV masterminds make the world smaller, allowing more significant growth opportunities, and make our relationships more meaningful. That’s the new direction, the shift, and the ultimate pivot for everyone. You are going to see millions of people going from local networking groups to global relationship building communities. It’s already happening.

Writer: Thank you for your time. This interview is both thought-provoking and enlightening. Thank you again.

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