6 Tips for the Networking Newbie

I’m a train wreck in social situations. People say I hide it well, but I think they’re filthy liars because inside I’m a jumbled mess. This weekend I catapulted myself out of my comfort zone and attended Blissdom (a blogging conference) in Toronto, a place where networking is a necessity. For the most part things went well, I’m super glad I went and came back inspired and ready to take on the world…and I will, after I clean the house.

Most people were quite approachable and willing to share a table or include you in conversation however I didn’t get out of it completely unscathed. I believe we can learn from those who went before us, so now that I’m no longer a conference virgin, I’m willing to share my embarrassing moments to further your networking capabilities, because I’m selfless like that. Here’s what not to do.

1. Throw your umbrella in the toilet at The Marilyn Denis Show.  I couldn’t believe it either. I briefly considered leaving it there, but someone came in just as I was about to bail so I had to make a quick decision; be forever known in the blogging world as the one that tried to drown her umbrella or the one who saved it? I saved it.

2. Tell someone about it. As mortified as I was, it was funny as hell and I had no friend with which to share my humiliation, so I blurted it out to the first person I saw in line. I don’t think she found it as amusing as me. Later in the slickest move possible, I inadvertently held the umbrella out to her and she took it. It was when our eyes met in mid hand off when we remembered where it had once been. I don’t think she’s going to follow me on Twitter as planned, but if she does I might point out that fresh toilet water has fewer germs than a kitchen sponge. Fact.

3. Blatantly disregard instructions. Apparantly awkwardly addressing yourself in the monitor during a live television broadcast is frowned upon. We were told cameras would be on us and to not under any circumstances look at ourselves. What they don’t tell you is how hard it’s going to be. When a camera is in your face, wanting to know how you look is a natural instinct, isn’t it? It takes great restraint, something I clearly don’t have based on the recorded version on my DVR.

4. Spill coffee down your side from waist to knee. Especially on the train into the city so there is no possibility of changing. The irony was I thought I was really being careful. But when I’m nervous I’m klutzy, like an I Love Lucy rerun and before I knew it I dumped it (all of it) on myself. The upside is if it happens, tired people will be attracted to you and you can pretend to be part of their group.

5. Wear a green sweater and get your picture taken with Chef Michael Smith in front of a green screen holding a jar of lentils. Results? My mid section is completely invisible. Michael is transposed into a field of lentils with my head floating beside him, which is just one more reason for me to hate lentils. I did manage to engage in some thought provoking conversation when I remarked, “Boy, you’re really tall,” and then quickly followed up with, “I bet that’s the first time you’ve heard that.”  See how I saved myself? Again, looking on the bright side, who on earth do you know who has a ghostly pick of themselves in a lentil field with a freakishly tall man?

6. Be introduced by Erica Ehm to a Random House professional and rather than engaging them in witty conversation…RUN AWAY. What is wrong with me? These are two very friendly, inspiring women who could potentially change the course of my career and all I could do was shift my weight awkwardly like I’d been holding my pee for a decade. In my defense, having just embarrassed myself in the lentil field my confidence level wasn’t exactly intact, so I bailed like a scardey (actual word) loser forgetting all about the two completed manuscripts saved on the USB in my purse.

Oh, there’s more but my heart can’t take it. Would I do it again? Absolutely, I made a few great connections and heard some really amazing women speak. It was inspiring to say the least. Besides, what could go wrong?

 

**Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tallentshow/433963255/in/pool-freeuse/