I was reading a post over at Robby Slaughter’s blog about the difference between a networking event and a conversational French club. His post: The Expert Detector.
In it, he compared and contrasted these two distinct gatherings. One (the networking event) where everyone is prepared with scripts and pitches; the other a free-form experience where the conversations switch between discussions in a foreign language to discussions about a foreign language.
The latter is focused on learning.
What we really need in business is the equivalent of a salon:
“A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation … Salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th century and 18th centuries, were carried on until quite recently, in urban settings, among like-minded people.
Founding father Benjamin Franklin created something along the same lines in Philadelphia in 1727. He called it a Junto. Its focus was to improve businesses in his home city.
Today there are, I think, two equivalents to the junto/salon. One is coworking where independents office together and support one another. The second is a Jelly - similar to coworking but without the official location.
In both, the types of people that come together to work allow business people to collaborate, converse and support one another.
It’s about learning.
When people are working on their own things in proximity of one another, they aren’t focused on the elevator pitch. The conversations bounce between business and personal. Sometimes a question comes up that is in direct relationship to a person’s line of business. More often than not, folks talk about running a business.
As an interesting sidenote, artist Hugh McLeod has announced that he is holding a Salon for Gapingvoid. I’d want to check that out if I lived in Miami. Sounds cool.