I recently discovered meetup.com, a site that allows you to connect with people with similar interests in your area. As soon as I saw it I was struck by the fact that you could just as easily use it to connect with people who share your passions while you're travelling. And that's exactly what I did.
I was planning a trip to the States, so I looked for social groups in the area that shared some of my hobbies. I also saw the potential for business networking, and used it to connect with someone who runs a group that might be interested in what I do. I'm developing a new keynote, and it's a great opportunity to try it out on a new audience.
So I was pleased to see a post over at Brand-yourself.com that talks you through how to set yourself up on meetup.com and use it to expand your network.
It's perhaps ironic that in a world where technology helps us to communicate faster and more directly with those around us, the same technology often sets up barriers that make us feel more isolated than ever before. Clients often complain that, with the ease of electronic communication, they've lost many of the opportunities they used to have for human contact - both at work and outside. It seems like computers are depersonalising communication. If you think about social networking tools like Myspace and Facebook, what do they really do? They make it easier for us to update our network without having to contact them! In fact, most social networking sites are about saving us the "hassle" of having to meet or communicate with people in the real world. You have something to celebrate? A few years ago you would have called your friends to give them the news. These days you're much more likely to log onto Twitter and write a 100-character tag line about it. Got a new job? Why go to the hassle of emailing your contacts, when you can just update your LinkedIn profile and the system will let them know.
It's great to discover tools like meetup.com that redress the balance, and use the power of the web to bring people together in the real world. So thank you to the designers of meetup.com for re-humanising the world of online networking.