Networking events scare the heck out of me! I went to my first one in over a decade yesterday at noon and managed to survive. A group of 30 or so marketing and sales types met for lunch in order to hear a guest speaker talk about expanding your customer base. Imagine my surprise when the first two things our of her mouth were the "Law of Attraction" and the writings of Esther Hicks - WOW, has marketing ever changed in the past few years. I was caught completely by surprise when someone, a professional corporate speaker/trainer, has the courage to open with those two items. By the way, just in case you do not know me, I wholeheartedly agree with both references in this wondrous new world.
Back to the networking part; I guess that I would never make a good politician since the idea of glad-handing my way through a room full of strangers both terrifies and bores me to tears, at the same time. I would rather meet 5 or 6 people and hear a bit of their story than find comfort in how many business cards I managed to collect and distribute. The story is the essence of my interest in something like this and well, in fact it is the story that is always the most interesting for me. If I chose to look at myself closely, I would realize that the only writing projects I like, reveal a story, perhaps reveal an inner truth or create a connection through the struggles and success of the main characters, real or fictional, corporate or dramatic. I find it interesting that today's marketing is moving in the same direction of finding a connection through the authentic exchange of information that reveals a bit of who the individuals really are, at a core level.
I would never be sought our for my networking techniques since I seem to be more of an observer than participant but what I see in a room full of strangers is three types: A) also an appropriate letter for this group who move effortlessly through the entire room and offer a few sentence to each conversation, introduce who they are and elicit the same information from everyone else, exchange business cards and quickly disappear to find the next group to repeat the process. For some reason, they remind me of those speed-dating shows they show on TV from time to time. B) the second group enter into conversation with a few people that seem to fit the same description of not quite knowing why they are there and just want to meet somebody/anybody that they can carry on a conversation with. They are happy to tell the story of their own business and seem genuinely interested in their conversational counterpart but mostly, they are relieved to have a warm body to share the general discomfort with. C) this group retires to the back of the room, questions their own sanity and decision making process for being here in the first place and just hopes to God that someone will wander over and introduce themselves and not leave too quickly. They enviously survey the room and admire the exploits of groups A and B and generally end up making some sort of mercy-connection with another group C member.
I float somewhere between the last 2 groups and am always a little amazed when someone seems interested in what I do, but the easiest way to extend a conversation is to be interested in what your conversational partner is doing in their own life or business. The event host invited everyone to introduce themselves to the group at large after we were seated for lunch. He used a nice ice-breaker when he asked each of us to say what 3 things we would bring if we knew we would be stranded on a deserted island. Many people watched too many of those survivor shows but I chose to bring a fully loaded Kindle, a surfboard and a bottomless bottle of red wine. Now, if I could just work on my name-remembering skills a bit, perhaps I will not wait another decade before attending my next event - see you on the hustings.