By Pam Hersh
I had a back-to-the-future epiphany on Friday, June 14. Non-screen contact (NSC) with humans – the phenomenon that occurs when you make eye, voice and physical (non-sexual) contact with another person – might be making a comeback in our alienated and alienating society.
I woke up on June 14 somewhat depressed because I realized I had no more NSC networking events to attend. My week had been filled with human interactions that featured no big screens, no podiums, no speeches, no microphones, no computers, just walking around and connecting, talking face-to-face, smiling, laughing, shaking hands and occasional hugging – without regard to how many likes or retweets or follows anyone was generating.
Particularly impressive people-to-people events included the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber Mayors’ Breakfast and the Princeton Media Club’s Quarterly Meeting.
The recently expanded Chamber (the merger of the Princeton Regional Chamber and the MIDJersey Chamber) is the granddaddy or grandmommy of networking. Rather than morphing into a virtual LinkedIn vehicle for connecting, the chamber has emphasized more intensively in-person networking – as exemplified by the Mayors Networking Breakfast on June 12 at Mercer Oaks in West Windsor.
Instead of speeches, PowerPoint presentations and panel discussions, the breakfast featured people milling about and talking with one another. No one fell asleep, no one lectured and there were no catastrophic computer/technical glitches because no one used a computer.
“Our annual Mercer Mayoral Roundtable provided a new approach through a networking forum that allowed the mayors in Mercer County to meet the over 150 attendees in a relaxed and open discussion environment that was appreciated and well received by our attendees and our mayors,” Chamber CEO Peter Crowley said.
East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov revealed that she loved the setting because the mayors were “not in a display case. We had the opportunity for real information sharing.”
The Chamber’s new approach was a less stilted and a more genuine way of gathering opinions, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert said.
“This format allowed for no bad behavior – some officials in the past have taken far more than their allotted time for presentations. The networking breakfast reminded me of my office hour sessions, when people are encouraged to come in and chat casually,” often producing more effective communication than what occurs when a resident speaks into a microphone at a formal municipal meeting.
“The Chamber breakfast, however, had the advantage of giving me the opportunity to have these casual conversations with a lot more people – and with a good breakfast,” Lempert said.
Two days later, I attended a networking event at the Dinky Bar, which was sponsored by the Princeton Media Club (PMC). My invite came from PMC’s Co-chair Jordan Berman, who weeks ago talked to me – in person – at Starbucks. The company he founded and heads is OFC: Office Channel (OFC.tv), a creative communications agency and video production studio, conveniently located in office space right above Starbucks on Nassau Street.
The PMC connects media, marketing and technology executives from across the Princeton area so they may engage in “the three Cs” – collaborating, commiserating and consuming food and drink, along with information that makes everyone better at their jobs.
According to Berman, who cofounded the group in 2013 with Greg Kahn, PMC members represent all aspects of the print and digital media ecosystem with people working on behalf of large international brands and corporations, as well as small entrepreneurial communications/public affairs/marketing companies. PMC members meet in person at conversation-conducive locations that also reflect the personality of Princeton. Except to take a photo, the PMC members at the recent Dinky Bar event kept their cell phones in their pockets.
Jordan and PMC Co-chair Brad Poller, the founding president of Princeton Internet Marketing, have a passion for their communications work that “knows no bounds. We also are passionate about Princeton – believe that Princeton is an exciting place to be. It is the intellectual and cultural heart of New Jersey – a place of ideas and action,” Berman said.
It was very comforting to me that Brad, whose company Princeton Internet Marketing specializes in online marketing solutions, and other PMC members, whose professions depend on digital communications, still believe in communication that encourages in-person socialization. I would call it the highest form of social media.