Networking 101: What NOT to do…

I love an audience. It’s a family thing. I like the kind where I am on the stage and the audience is not. The kind where I have a pretty good idea of what I am going to say and how the event is going to go and some confidence that the curve balls will be few. So, to stand up and pitch my business to a group of probable clients is like… pizza. It doesn’t get much better.

I spent happy-hour the other night with the lovely people at The Corporate Source, and about a hundred guests. What CSI is to shared work spaces, Corporate Source is to networking groups; friendly, professional people with a genuine desire to enhance the business opportunities of members and guests.

As the Bootcamp expands beyond word-of-mouth I find myself making my first foray into networking thanks to Susan Aldridge, the Cold Call Queen, who seems to have taken me under her wing, introducing me to ideas, opportunities and people. I find that as I enter new communities I am at a loss with the one-on-one mingling and I have noticed a kind of process, (maybe universal?) that I use to fit in. After the initial hiding phase, I try to find something to do that forces me to meet people, like pouring drinks or fobbing open the door for guests. Then I try to make the space my own so that eventually I am welcoming people into MY space and it is natural to get to know them. Well, suffice it to say that I really like this group, would like to be a member and was determined to get to the find-something-to-do stage at Thursday night’s event.

This was my third visit with this group and the first two times I bolted after the formal part of the meeting was over. In other words, just when things were heating up for everybody else. So yesterday I pretended I was in charge of the name tag table. A clever tactic, I thought to myself. I introduced myself to people as they came in, found their name tag for them and struggled to recall their names as they were swept away by familiar voices. With so many people who were guests, most of them didn’t realize that I was too!

Then my plan backfired when one fellow’s name tag wasn’t there. Figuring he was a late addition, I mentioned it to a member nearby and offered to write one up if he had a pen.

“Well that was an oversight, wasn’t it?” he said. Yikes! Had I just gotten myself blamed for a name-tag snafu? I didn’t quite know what to say.

“I’ll write one up quickly,” I offered.

“That’s kind of shabby,” he answered. I felt a little rebuked, as if I HAD been in charge of printing name tags. My mind racing furiously for a solution, I looked at our pile of emergency blank name tags and wondered why we had them if they were shabby?

The fellow we were discussing had long since wandered off and was now setting up at the podium and I finally realized – he’s the key-note speaker!

“Ah,” I said, “Maybe no name tag is better. Everyone knows who he is.” (Except dolts like me who don’t read the invitation!)

“Yes,” he said, “I can’t believe it. I guess I was so focused on getting all the guest names, I forgot about the speaker.” Whew! So he was talking about himself all along!

Next time I need something to do at one of these things, I’m going to take up smoking!

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2 thoughts on “Networking 101: What NOT to do…

  1. no no don’t take up smoking, unless you do it with popeye cigarettes (do they even make those anymore?) or coffee stirring straws. maybe that isn’t a good idea though- people might think you are mocking them and get their backs up.

    i do that too, thanks for clarifying it so well. i assume a task so that i feel i own the place- that is why i will often walk into the scene of a party or gathering and go right to the kitchen and help out (aka take over). just never realized it was because i was sometimes shy. you have to really feel “on” to be willing to step into the cauldron required to forge new relationships.

  2. i was just at a midwifery student conference this weekend, that was attended mainly by Ryerson students a couple of years behind me in the program. very different page. my version of attempting social behaviour and “meeting new friends” was to hang around the merchandise table and cling to the conversation of a couple of people who were clearly invested in making outsiders feel at home (thus, it was less an effort on my part than theirs). the following morning, having still not recovered from the deluge of births last week, found myself completely anti-socially tucked away in the Globe weekend crossword. not completely a recluse, given that I smiled at people a lot, but somehow having the crossword in hand was like having a safe base. and much healthier than smoking. šŸ˜‰

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