You can feed your ego, or you can feed your family.
It can be hard to pretend to know less than you do, but it can pay off in spades.
No one wants to enable or empower a competitor, but everyone likes to feel important, because they are being paid attention to.
Here’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 5 years:
People who are good at what they do, like talking about what they do. At great length, too.
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes that one of the fastest ways to build rapport with someone is to let them talk about themselves, and what’s important to them. In my experience, most people’s favorite subject is themselves (in one way or another).
At events, when you get a chance to hang around people who are in similar, or related industries to yours, you can have them tell you the ins and out of their business– what they do, how they operate, how the bill, what their contracts look like, where they get their clients, etc (you name it), if you show genuine interest in what they do.
Some people really like teaching other up and comers, and some don’t. That’s just the way things work, but you can get anyone to talk about their business and teach you, if you get them talking about their selves and make them feel like they are teaching you something.
If you make them feel like your peers, then it gets much harder to learn from them. You’ll usually be talking about stuff on the same level that you’re currently at, maybe a notch up. When you take on the role of the student, then you get to be the person asking the questions. If you’re asking the questions, then you’re in control of the conversation. You get to guide the conversation where you want it to go. It’s much easier to answer a question honestly, than it is for someone to tell someone who is eager to learn that you don’t want to answer that question. People get uncomfortable saying no.
When I wanted to learn about the ins and outs of video for the web, I tagged along with a videographer as she was shooting b-roll all around Long Beach for an afternoon. After 4 hours of asking questions, coffee, and dinner, I knew just about everything I needed to know to start selling high quality video content to clients. All I had to do was take some time, and be curious and in awe of what she did, the rest just paid off.
If you take the time to get good at it, then you can get and learn all kinds of neat things.
I did this at a networking event in Culver City a few years ago, and I left the event with a free invite to a conference (tickets where like 600 and sold out), an invite to a brand strategy session at a down town creative firm, and I learned enough to realize I could double my rates.