“Alexa, can you pass the Turing Test*?”
“I don’t need to pass that. I’m not trying to be human.”

Our family received the new Amazon Echo Dot for Christmas this year. It’s a hockey-puck-sized widget that houses a microphone and speaker and a remarkably versatile piece of software that answers to the name “Alexa”. Alexa is your digital assistant. She can tell you the weather, list what’s on your schedule today, and play music for you. Given the right additional technology, she can control the lights, temperature, and just about anything else that you can wire in your house.

But what does this have to do with networking?

While Alexa is good at what she does, despite a veneer of “personality”, she is still obviously a computer program. Conversations with her don’t work much past one or two exchanges mostly because she can only respond in a pre-programmed way. The big problem is nothing she says is personalized to you. She would respond to anyone and everyone who made the same request of her in the exact same way.

You’ve probably heard that you should follow up with those you meet to develop the relationship. Experts suggest sending an email or even a handwritten note. Both options are great — just don’t act like Alexa. When I receive a note saying “It was great to meet you at the Chamber breakfast today. Hope we can continue to chat.” I know that that person probably sent out the exact same note to every single person she met. What would make me feel as if she actually cared whether we became friends would be if she added even a single line to show that she remembers me. “I hope your program in Bay City goes well.” would be all I needed.

Systems, templates, processes — these are the tools you need to make managing your large network possible. The challenge is that if you want people to believe they aren’t talking with a machine, then you have to take that few extra seconds to make it personal.

If you can’t at least do that, then you don’t know them well enough to connect with them in the first place.

*The Turing test is a test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

This article originally appeared in the Connext Nation Newsletter May 2017 issue.