Not so long ago, it wasn’t unusual to sit next to someone in a similar field in the Delta lounge, on a plane, or in an airport bar. I remember my very first time flying first class, I sat next to the EVP of Fidelity and talked for hours. Now you sit next to someone and they are buried into their smart phones, iPads, laptops, or other devices making it impossible to have small talk.
I was pleasantly surprised to sit next to a fellow traveler at the bar in Detroit the other day. Although both of us had our laptops out and cell phone in hand, we were able to talk about our companies, travel, and the changes we have seen over the years. He was a little bit older and talked about the days when he would hand out a dozen or so business cards just at the airport. I took advantage of the situation and handed him mine, and he returned the favor. I was talking to an executive of KenQuest Medical Equipment. As soon as I got home I plugged him into my professional network via LinkedIn.
Small talk can introduce you to great interesting people and even possibly connect you with someone who might share ideas and experiences that can help you. For example, this day I found out that MSP airport only has first class lines at security gate 4 and Detroit closes first class lines at 6pm. I almost wrote about that!
I think next time instead of rushing to open my laptop I’ll see who I’m sitting next to first. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll meet the CIO of a hospital, or an Epic AC, or even another maxIT consultant. If it’s a family of four traveling to Disney World, I’ll open my laptop, get on the phone, and play backgammon on my iPad all at the same time.