Saturday, July 19, 2008
The Importance of Networking?
Sarah Frances and I are about to fly to Los Angeles for our second annual SCBWI conference. In fact, just today I had to buy a new LARGE suitcase because the airlines have changed their luggage policy to allow one suitcase (that you have to pay to take?!). I am a two to three suitcase kind of girl. How do you fit all your shoes in one? Anyway, I digress. So last year we were told that we really needed to *network* and *meet as many people as you can.* We even received a document from SCBWI giving advice as to how to effectively network.
Therefore, we were not surprised (although horrified) when we got on the elevator the first day in LA, and a woman shouted out to the entire packed elevator that her name was Nellie McNetwork, and she had a fascinating blog. She then whipped out several hundred business cards and forced them into the hands of everyone between floors one and four. All of this, while wearing a glittery costume resembling the kind of gaudy pageant attire commonly seen on Circus of the Stars. Talk about a nervous breakdown. We got off the elevator and SF said, "Dang! Are we supposed to do that?" And I replied, ''What the heck was that? I'm not doing that." To which SF brilliantly replied, "Whew! It's a good thing we don't have one of those blog things."
That single event however, caused us to rethink our networking strategy. Our mantra became, "We must not fade into the background. We must get noticed!" Too bad we left all of our sequined tube tops back home in Mississippi. Not to worry though. We stormed into the conference the next day and became the newly formed Name Tag Nazis. As luck would have it, the "Faculty," otherwise known as "important people with whom to network," all had purple stripes on their name tags... which made them easy to find (if you were comfortable walking around only staring at people's chests). I went with the flow staring down chests until I felt like a complete creepster. Things went from bad to worse as I eventually got up the nerve to *network* with two GIANT editors (giant in fame, not size) in order for them to remember me. As you can imagine, they were rather put off by my timing and stupid comments and the only remembering that happened was them remembering not to get coffee if I was nearby. After the second of these unfortunate incidents, which ended with the editor literally pushing another button on the elevator and getting off several floors before his intended stop, I had a full blown panic attack, which led me to skip all the classes that day and go to the gym, (btw, it is AMAZING!).
A little more than an hour later, I had shed my mantra and embraced a new one, namely "networking is for the birds." The new plan involved just going to the workshops and simply meeting whomever I sat next to. SF had come to this conclusion on her own after watching me humiliate myself. And guess what? The rest of the conference was awesome! And we DID meet quite a few people, some of whom we still keep up with and will see again in two weeks :-)
So don't stress people! Forget networking. Just listen to the excellent speakers and if you feel like it, chat up your neighbor. Who knows? Maybe we'll sit next to ya.