Friday, 14 June 2013

Running and How To Win Friends & Influence People

Earlier this week I was fortunate to go on a three day work conference in Cyprus. The weather was amazing and Cyprus is an amazing place with its rich history and mixture of Greek and Turkish culture. I met some fascinating people who work in the same field I do from all over Europe and the whole experience was amazing.
As a runner though I learnt two things:
1.       Nicosia (the divided capital of Cyprus) has one of the best running routes I have ever had the pleasure of running.

I have run all over the world including Indonesia, Jamaica, France, Spain, America and even Brazil but the running in Nicosia was out of this world. Nicosia is built on the banks of the Pedieos River, if you are a runner on the south side of the “Green Line” then head to the river. On the east bank the authorities have built a beautiful path that is pure runner’s heaven that goes on for mile after glorious mile.

If you like to combine your holidays with a good run then Nicosia is the place for you.

2.       If you want to “win friends and influence people” put on a pair of running shoes.

One of the main points of these types of conferences is to network with people in your field from all over the world. I am atrocious at networking. I normally find the whole affair too contrived and artificial. You know I am talking to you because I think there might be a business opportunity for me in the future, I know you are talking to me because there might be something in it for you in the future. But we have to undergo this entire social dance which finishes in exchanging cards. I am also quite self-conscious and shy at these types of events as well, talking to strangers doesn’t come naturally to me.  

And so it was during one of these haltering networking conversations that I blurted out; “I see from your conference biography entry that you have two children and like to run – do you want to run with me?”

The next morning I was lacing up my trusty running shoes and going for a 10km run with one of the most influential people in my field in the UK. Conversation flowed naturally as we fell into step - as it always does for me when I am relaxed and running with someone – and it was the best 60 minutes of networking I can remember.

Later that day back at the conference word quickly spread about our run. Before I knew it I was organising a group run for the following morning. And so the next day I ran another 10km and networked all the way along the banks of the Pedieos River with a new group of people.

Only neither run felt like “networking” it was finding that common bond that only runners share. The funny thing is I even found it easier to talk to everyone back at the conference when I had changed out of my sweaty running gear.
So next time I have to go to a conference the first thing I will be packing is not my little business cards but my running shoes. The only thing is I am not so sure that strategy will work over a buffet lunch of some soggy sandwiches, which seems to be how most of the networking events I attend turn out.  
(The picture today is of the running path along the river in Nicosia)


  1. As a non-runner can I mention here that a shared love of folk music works just as well in terms of breaking down barriers. Though admittedly this is a smaller cross-section of the population and the noted eccentricity of this demographic means I can't imagine what you'd network about.

  2. Next conference we go to I'll bring a spare pair of running shoes for you, and you can bring your ipod with folk music loaded for me to listen to - what size are you? :-)