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“When somebody thinks enough of you to ask, say yes.”

An event planner offered this advice in 2009. I was encouraged to attend more industry events even if I wasn’t on the speaker roster.

“If you’re building a business and asked to take part in a conference — and they’re offering to pay your expenses — you accept the offer and build a relationship. Give them a fabulous experience. Make yourself so indispensable and provide excellent social media coverage so they invite you back, next time, as a paid speaker.”

Ten years later, some of this advice is okay and some of it is dumb.

Relationships are the currency of business. If you want to build a business or expand your brand, you’ve got to be the Chief Relationship Officer of your life. This applies to entrepreneurs, students, and even HR ladies.

Saying Yes

So, that’s part of the reason I attend the Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit in Salt Lake City, last week. I have a long-standing relationship with people at SAP, but I don’t know the leadership team at Qualtrics. It was time to learn more about their approach to fixing work.

Beyond the exceptional speakers — Oprah Winfrey, President Obama, Sir Richard Branson, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Ashton Kutcher, Adam Silver, and many more — there were excellent breakout sessions with HR leaders from big brands like Quicken Loans, Ford Motor Company, Sephora and Buzzfeed. These are HR leaders who are collecting and analyzing experience data and operational data to have a more informed understanding of onboarding, engagement, performance, diversity, training, development, inclusion, retention, and wellbeing.

The sessions were outstanding because the conference took a story-first approach, which meant nobody was selling a widget or a subscription. Speakers were selling big ideas and experiences about fixing HR and work, and nearly everybody offered real-world examples of how both small and massive HR departments can use technology and pivot from ‘listening to employee complaints’ to creating moments that matter.

So, the event was great. No regrets saying yes and accepting the invite.

Does It Pay Off?

Will I ever be invited to speak at one of these Qualtrics events? I’m not sure that’s the point.

Superficial relationships never move the needle for my business. I’ve learned it’s best to approach every opportunity as a unique experience to deliver excellence at the moment with no expectation for additional opportunities.

If you’re an aspiring keynote speaker and think you will get on a stage at a conference because you’re blogging or tweeting, you’ve got the speaking model all wrong. You get on stage because you have big ideas and a business built around those ideas.

However, being in the audience is never a bad idea because you can learn more about your industry and see how other people express their expertise. And you can develop relationships because you’re a decent human being who knows that connections are the undercurrent of life. If you take a service-oriented approach to your attendance at these events, you can’t go wrong.

So, I’m excited to continue this newfound relationship with Qualtrics. We’ll see what happens. If anything, I’m happy to bring you future podcast stories of how smart people like Ryan and Jared Smith are fixing work. That’s worth the trip to Utah alone.