I went to a local business expo last week. The first thing on the program for the day was a keynote speech at 8:30 a.m. I arrived at 8:00 and much to my surprise, they were serving breakfast. Tables were set in the standard eight-person rounds, and it looked like they were expecting a large crowd. The room was slowly filling up as most people had yet to arrive. I came alone, so I looked for an opportunity to meet new people.
At first glance, a few places had one person sitting at them, many of the people looking young. I made my way to one such table and asked the young woman sitting there if I could join her. I set down my bag, got breakfast, and rejoined her.
My tablemate introduced herself as Erin. She attends La Follette High School. She is taking an internship course and her teacher, Mr. Darrin Graham, brought them to the expo. Apparently, he does this every year. He takes students to the Madison In Business Expo to hear the speaker and has the students visit the vendor exhibits. They target a few of the over 100 vendors who offer products and services of interest to them. How cool is that?
Erin and 18 of her classmates were scattered around the room at different tables. They were not to sit at tables with fellow students. Their task was to introduce themselves and network with expo attendees. I love networking. However, I know it’s daunting for others. Can you relate?
I learned that Erin is a junior. She is interested in environmental studies. She is bilingual and helps Latino children struggling in math and literacy through Nuestro Mundo (new world), an educational program run through MSCR (Madison School & Community Recreation). She finds the work rewarding and says her students love the consistency they experience working with her. She also thinks we email and text too much and should have more face-to-face conversations. Smart and perceptive to be sure. Pretty real and authentic if you ask me.
I love the exercise Mr. Graham put his students through. I can only imagine he also told them no electronics at the table. How awesome is it that he asks young people to engage in conversation, to interface with adults, and to present themselves confidently to others?
Erin and I took copious notes during the presentation. We both used paper and pencil; how refreshing. After the speech (thank you Libby Gill, and Mass Mutual for sponsoring her), Erin and I exchanged cards. That’s right; she had a business card with her contact information. How professional.
Erin is intelligent, insightful, and inquisitive with a bright future in front of her. Kudos to her family and teachers for giving her the tools to be the confident woman she presents to the world. And props to her for the choices she has made so far and will make in the future.
Here’s what I learned:
- There’s hope for younger generations to have meaningful, genuine conversations that don’t involve tech and text.
- Take chances and put yourself out there. Sit alone at a table and see who joins you. You never know who you will meet and who will surprise you.
- You might get breakfast, and you never know what remarkable experiences you might have.
Thanks for starting my day off on the right foot Erin.