In writing the other day about LinkedIn as a great model for networking, I made a throw-away comment about the ‘horrible invention’ of the power breakfast. Prompted by a comment on this on a forum I belong to, I’m fulfilling my implicit promise in the earlier piece to write about the power breakfast.

Having done some instant research (Google) I realise I need to get out more.

Because I have to admit I’d thought power breakfasts would have gone the way of IPOs for dotcom companies with no discernible product or business plan. But no, from a quick scan of those search engines, it looks as if the concept is alive and well. One link had the ten best power breakfast spots in LA (where else?). And from the information provided I don’t think they are talking about vege juice, vitamins and press-ups. And there were lots more – pages and pages of links about power breakfasts.

The Rikai language portal (for want of a better source) defines ‘power breakfast’ as a  noun (really?) meaning ‘a meeting of influential people to conduct business while eating breakfast’.

Now the reality for me, on the rare occasions in the past when I’ve attended a power breakfast defined as above, has been that the people there assembled had no business trying to do business in that venue or context. Roughly, those that probably weren’t usually awake or fully compos mentis at that time were not awake or fully compos mentis, those that loved their food were totally focused on who was getting the last Danish or whether the coffee was to their taste, and those who were fully operational were blithely unaware of the lack of focus of their colleagues (or else were quite aware and were, pretending nothing was amiss, in Machiavellian style engaged on wringing crucial decisions or slips of the tongue from their less than fully engaged co-breakfasters).

There is also what I would call the poor cousin of the power breakfast, where people get together for a ‘networking breakfast’, where you try to share a usually inadequate amount of canned, over-chilled fruit, or eat a life-challenging combination of packaged cereals, fried sausages, fried eggs, hash browns and lashings of buttered toast, or else have a ‘light’ breakfast of pastries and muffins, stuff you would never get at home because of what the doctor said (well, I know I wouldn’t). In return, you get to listen to a pumped up former sports hero or ‘sales expert’ telling you how to turn problems into challenges or how to manage your time better.

And of course you get to spray your business cards around the table and collect cards from everyone else there, including people you would rather not be sitting with at a time of the morning when you usually have your head stuck in the paper and a cup of real coffee at hand.

In a lot of years of going, off and on, to such breakfasts, I have collected a lot of business cards and given a lot out. And yes, I have done follow up calls, sent emails, suggested finding out more about one another’s business, but I can’t recall that these events have ever brought me any substantial business.

I know some people who thrive on these breakfasts and get lots of pleasure from attending them. I also know some people who do very good business from them – especially plumbers, accountants, lawyers, people who fix computers, and travel agents.

Some, I know, would say I don’t have a positive enough approach to networking breakfasts – or to fully turbo-charged power breakfasts for that matter – but maybe the truth is that I’m not meant to be out that early in the day trying to focus on business, and certainly not trying, between the fake orange juice and the hash browns I shouldn’t be eating, to get an understanding of someone else’s business.

But with LinkedIn and other online networking services I can have my good, personally chosen, home brewed coffee and read the paper and then choose a better time of day to go online, check out my network connections, make contact, exchange emails and phone calls and engage in what I find a more manageable and valuable form of social and business networking. 

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