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/

Baby Steps to Blissdom

This year I promised I would get out of my comfort zone and do what frightens me. I started this blog even though it was a big scary task I knew nothing about. October marks one full year for Good Girls Wear Thongs and so far I haven’t been criticized (to my face), yelled at or told to shut up. I have however, been looked at funny, backed away from and whispered about, “Don`t talk to her she might blog about you.” But that’s just my family…

Since I haven’t made a total mess of it, I thought I would take another step and investigate this blogging life a little further. It seems to be a lovely way to (insert sarcasm font here) earn a living, especially if you don’t particularly like getting out of your pajama’s every day and if you don’t need money to survive. I’ve been told it’s rather difficult to cash in, even for spare change and like anything it requires dedication, perseverance and a hell of a lot more blogs then I’ve been writing.

I read as much as I can. I bought Blogging for Dummies, but every time I open it I end up horizontal with drool down my face. Not exactly thrilling stuff. I’m better one on one. I need a blogging coach or therapist (if you will)…someone who knows what they’re doing; who can draw me a pie graph of my time divided into focal points (social media, writing time, etc.,) then slap me across the head with it for wasting time looking at a graph when all it does is make me hungry for pie.

I’m hoping to find some answers next weekend (Oct 20 & 21) at Blissdom, a bloggers conference in Toronto I signed on for months ago when I was feeling enthusiastic.  I’m looking forward to the advice and inspiration of the guest speakers and the answers to the important questions like, what do I do now?

As the date nears I’m getting nervous. Emails, Tweets and Facebook conversations are coming fast and furious telling me to get ready for round table discussions, costume parties and fun excursions, which all sound wonderful if you’re not a hopeless recluse like me.

Blogging is a community, a community I’m not yet a part of, which means a lot of these women already know each other and just know a lot more about everything in general. My blog is small potatoes with green skin and big hairy eyes. Of course, I know the whole point of going is to get acquainted, mingle and network but that’s exactly what scares me. I feel like my parents moved me to a new city in the middle of freshmen year and I don’t know whether to wear boots or heels to my first day of school. I’m an amateur; a (gulp) newbie. I hate not knowing things, not being in control. I don’t know if it’s because Halloween is just around the corner, but I keep hearing the scary voice from Carrie echoing in my head, “They’re all going to laugh at you.”

Not to mention there will be sponsors looking for a good match for their products, someone who will fit into their marketing plans. I’ve heard the word “brand” a lot over the last year. What’s your brand? How do you market yourself? What is your theme?

What am I supposed to say, “Well, I write about ass dimples and getting bit in the vagina by black flies?”  Who is going to sponsor me, Raid?

I don’t have a good answer, but I better have one by Friday. If I want to move forward I have to talk to people and make them like me, believe in me, invest in me.  Oh good Lord! How on earth do I fool them into doing such a thing?

I don’t know. I really don’t know anything about Blogging, I just shoot my mouth off when I feel like it and you read it for some reason. But, I know I like it and even though I’ve been distracted lately and feel like topics are eluding me, I know when I write and purge whatever is on my mind, I feel a little better; a little lighter. I don’t know what it all means right now, but I want to find out, so I’m walking through the fear and grabbing my cafeteria tray and going to find a place to sit.

Wish me luck!