Monday night I was at this “networking” event. Sorry for the air quotes.
It’s just such a depressing word. I honestly can’t even say it without hearing Nelson from The Simpsons mocking me: “Ha ha! You’re a grownup!”
But that’s not even where I’m going with this.
If you’re one of my clients you’re totally thinking hey, she’s going teach one of her word reframing techniques.
Like, we’ll do a spot of magic (Mary Poppins voice, yes) and either turn “networking” into something I can like again or make up a new, improved and thoroughly less sucky word for it.
New! Improved! Less Sucky!
And actually, if I ever get around to wrapping up the Tuesday Blogging Therapy series, I have another series waiting to go that’s all about that.
You know, taking words we hate (eeeeeeeew, marketing) and figuring out where the stuck is, reconfiguring the patterns and coming up with something better.
But astonishingly — and maybe for the first time in my life — I don’t feel like talking about words. I’d rather talk about what I figured out on Monday.
Quickie definition because I can’t help myself.
Fine. Whatever. So for our purposes let’s just assume that “networking” in and of itself is not gross or icky per se, and that it’s just about meeting cool people.
Cool people who might also share my excitement about the stuff I do or cool people that I can possibly help with something. Yay, helping people!
Twitter has ruined my life! But, you know, in a good way.
I met Kim Dushinski a few years ago while taking a course (the best way to “network” outside of Twitter).
She recently wrote a post about how “networking” with Twitter people is way, way more fun and productive than the old way. You should read it.
Basically, the idea is that if you walk into a “networking” room and you already know people there from Twitter, you know what they do and what they’re like. And whether or not you like them.
So your conversations don’t have to be absurdly awkward and artificial. And you don’t have to dust off some ridiculous elevator speech. Ahhhhhhh. Much better.
What’s that? You’re not on Twitter? Read this again. And then consider the fact that this blog would not exist without Twitter. This is not open for debate, guys. Get. On. Twitter.
So … in practice.
Anyway, I went to this event. And there were some Twitter people there … though not as many as you’d think given that this was kind of a warm-up for Portland people headed to SXSW Interactive. Hello, interactive.
And yeah, I’ll be at SXSW. But not to “network” or anything.
Anyway, I was at this thing. And no one knew who I was, which was somewhat disconcerting. But all sorts of people recognized Selma and came over to say hi to her.
I met some great people. I mean, great people. Not just saying “great” to be nice. Smart, funny, goofy, easy-to-talk to people. And it was actually really fun.
But I still don’t care. Until March I’m planning on staying home and live-twittering from the chaise lounge that is my desk.
Here’s why doing stuff in real life doesn’t measure up.
Well, maybe not “doing stuff”. Doing stuff rocks.
Real life … I’m for it!
But specifically the “networking” part: going out in order to wander around a room full of strangers and talk to them about things when you could do it online instead? That’s what I mean.
In no particular order:
1. Eye contact. Making it.
It’s a hard and awkward thing.
Everyone’s in some little group. And then if you’re in a little group and you see someone else wandering around aimlessly, it’s difficult to grab them and bring them in.
On Twitter you don’t need to make eye contact. You just respond to someone if you feel like it. Or not. It’s not a big deal.
2. There’s no good way to start a conversation.
Because in real life it’s completely random to just charge up and start talking to someone with no introduction or preamble. Even if it is a “networking” event.
You still have to smile and offer your hand and say “Hi, I’m so and so and this is my duck”.
Actually, I’m the only one who has to say that, but you know what I mean.
And then they ask what you do. It’s awful.
It’s even more awful because you instantly forget what you do, and proceed to launch into your impressive stuttering-fool routine until something mercifully ends it and you can just start talking to each other.
On Twitter you just start talking. Casually. No introductions. You can even talk to yourself and other people will join in.
Plus there’s that handy bio so you don’t have to actually present yourself. You’re in.
3. There’s no good way to end a conversation.
In real life you have to actually say something to indicate that a conversation is done.
And it’s usually something embarrassing and stupid like “Gee, I should go say hi to so and so” or “Looks like I need to go get drunk” or “Well, I’m going to go mingle.”
Also, because not lying is part of my yoga practice, most of the things you would normally say to end a conversation are not actually things that I can get away with saying.
On Twitter you can casually wander off and it doesn’t mean anything. Which reminds me. . .
4. Awkward moments.
On Twitter there aren’t really so many of these.
If Communicatrix says something hysterical and I say something back and she doesn’t reply, I’m not being snubbed.
It might be that she started doing something else at that moment. Maybe she’s working now. Or maybe she’s twittering on her phone and not getting all replies.
Maybe 75 different people replied to her and she can’t answer each one individually because that would be insane.
Whatever. It doesn’t matter. The point is that it has nothing to do with me and I don’t look like an idiot.
In real life, if I say something in response to someone else and they ignore me, I feel foolish. And if I ignore something someone says to me, I’m a rude and horrible person.
On Twitter, it’s just the stream. Stuff flows. It’s not a big deal. There aren’t awkward pauses. There’s just times when you’re overlapping and connecting and times when you’re not.
5. Stalking people: way less creepy.
In real life, if I’d wanted to get the aforementioned Communicatrix to eat hot buttered biscuits with me, I would have had to move to Los Angeles and follow her around. For years.
And it still probably wouldn’t have worked. And I’d be in Los Angeles.
Thanks to Twitter, I was able to casually be smart and funny in her general vicinity until she decided she had to have hot buttered biscuits with me.
Reverse stalking: less expensive and way more fun.
6. Getting dressed: what’s up with that?
Finding something that’s not yoga clothing and is clean and presentable? It takes time.
Also, what a useless, annoying thing to have to do. Really. If I were the sort of person who cared about things like matching socks I’d stop running my own business and apply for a “real” job.
And a gazillion other things that I can’t be bothered to list.
Like business cards and where to put them. Or how there’s nowhere to go when you don’t feel like talking to anyone.
Or how it’s not polite to roll your eyes. Even when people say things like “What’s Twitter?”
So yeah, I’m done.
If you’re at SXSW, I’ll be the one with the duck. And the mismatched socks. And crumbs on my face. Stop by and say hi to Selma. We’re really nice.
But until then? I’m staying home. Or sitting in a cafe. Or going biscuit-ing with one of my Twitter friends.
p.s. If you’re feeling tempted to give me “networking” advice, save it for your blog. Because being a cranky misanthrope works just fine for me on Twitter.