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When work gossip can prove helpful

Having recently attended a show earlier this year, it had me thinking about a show I attended years ago in Chicago. That evening, while having a cold drink with my team, a woman and a cameraman approached us and asked if we had gossiped that day. I told her we just finished up at an industry trade show, and just about everybody there was sharing information … or gossiping. That’s when they told us they were from the Oprah Winfrey Show and they were interviewing people about the negative connotations of gossiping. I’m not one to shy away from voicing my opinion, so that’s when I mentioned that gossip at trade shows can be good.

You’re probably thinking, how can gossip be good? Well, think of it as networking with like-minded members of the industry to find out information about the market, competitors, vendors, and more. It’s a way to quietly discuss what is going on without making any ruckus and to potentially get the inside scoop on how other companies are holding up. We were doing it to gain knowledge, and as we all know, knowledge is power. Here are some of the ways sharing information can be insightful and productive:

Sharing information on:

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Markets: We have our own perspective on how business is going, but information from other people in our markets can either validate what we are seeing or point out that we are possibly missing the boat. For competitors, you always want to be on the lookout for what your competitors are doing right, as well as what they are doing that is not working as well. You don’t need to invent everything you do. Sometimes just taking an idea and improving the concept can be much more powerful.

Vendors: Finding out what vendors are doing with their other customers can help you ensure that you are getting the deal you deserve. What vendors are you not doing business with that you should be?

Products: What products are new or close to launching? Which ones are taking market share? Which ones are not living up to their promise?

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Learning information on:

Who is buying and who is selling: Understand who your new competition could be. Is there an opportunity for you to grow by buying a competitor or a complementary business?

Who has been hired or promoted: Do you have a connection with someone who is at a new company? Will a past relationship help you now that the person you know is in a leadership position elsewhere?

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Who has left a company or been fired: They say a friend in need, is a friend indeed. Find out when someone you know is on the market looking for a job. Call that person and see how they are doing. Offer to help with leads or a reference. You never know when you may be on the other side hoping that your industry friends will do the same for you.

The Oprah story continued after our camera interview. It just so happened that the information we shared resonated with their production team and Oprah herself called and asked my wife and me to be on her show. We got picked up by a limo, did the whole green room thing (the room is really green), and then got called up on stage with Oprah Winfrey herself.

The funniest part was weeks later when we stayed home to watch our episode on TV. Our phone started ringing and multiple friends called to ask if we knew we were on the Oprah Winfrey Show. While we were tempted to say no and question how they got interviews with us without our permission, we were pretty sure that our friends weren’t that gullible. But it did give us some new gossip to share with our other friends.

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