Working the network

Last night, I was at a function to launch the next edition of a business magazine. It was a mixed crowd, borderline eclectic (possibly because one punter was determined to stay hunched over in his black overcoat and another punter wore red tartan trousers with matching scarf and driving gloves).

The industry types were just as eclectic, from funeral planners and home-based marketing businesses to travel agents, pilates instructors and business advisors. We collectively clutched our copy of the mag, a handful of business cards and the requisite glass of bubbles.

Now, I have a headstart on the majority of the other punters because I write a regular column for this particular tome. So, in networking terms, this is like going directly to GO and claiming $200. I could confidently walk up to groups and say, “Hi, I’m Bron, I write the customer service column,” and straight away we had an opening for a conversation.

I mean, there’s always the risk they’ll turn to me and say, “So you’re the one who writes that crap?” but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Like wearing heels to a garden wedding, opening a third bottle of wine or voting for Abbott.

Being in business for myself and working from home means networking functions are a necessity. Sometimes they are the sole reason I change out of my pajamas that day.

But the more I go to, the more I see such a stark difference in the way people – men and women alike – go about networking.

Without creating a spoiler alert, you need to know that this blog is not about male-bashing or the like. Quite the contrary. I think men are adorable. Especially when they take out the rubbish and put air in my tyres (thank you Alan). I even thought one of them was so spectacular that I married him for a long while. And I’ve now got another one who is even more spectacular so I reckon I’ll marry him too.

OK, now that’s cleared up, I’ll tell you what happened at this function. And I have to tell you, none of this is made up. Like some of my other blogs are prone to be…

I’m standing in a group of women, I think there were four including me. We were chatting, and it doesn’t matter whether we were chatting about the school pick up run or the fallout from the federal budget, we were chatting.

Then in bursts a male, business card brandished, with the stellar opening line, “G’day there girls, I think it’s about time I got around to telling you lot about my business.”

What a charmer. I bet he takes the dishes out of the sink before he pees in it. We may have two ears and one mouth but this fellow definitely doesn’t use them in that order. He was in the baby boomer category, is that relevant?

I couldn’t stomach such arrogance, so politely nodded my farewell and went in search of a champagne refill and a new group.

I’d been selected to give a short welcome address to the group at the start of the function, so en route to the bar, I was waylaid by another business card brandishing fellow who complimented me on my speech (which was lovely). In the next breath he asked if he could share my client data base because he was convinced that his wealth creation strategy would be needed by them all (which was not lovely).

Parched, I lurched stiletto first into the next group I spied. This was quaintly mixed – two boys and with the advent of me, two girls. The boys were trying to outdo each other in terms of football knowledge, Amex card colours and, I am sure, penis girth.

I’d clearly picked the wrong group to join. I don’t have a penis.

I quickly assessed my combatants and subtlely winked at my co-conspirator. We drifted off to the bar, claimed a refill, complimented each others shoes/earrings/eyeshadow application technique, and gave a précis of our business in 25 words or less. We chatted about working while raising kids and propping up husbands. We spoke about corporate raiders, live beef exports, the commonalities in our work and Lady Gaga. Swapped business cards and agreed to keep in touch. A brief air kiss and we diverged.

Shouldering my bag with a view to making a speedy exit, I heard the words, “Bron, can I have a word with you before you go?” A charming man, in a pastel shirt and rimless glasses, offered me his business card and a coffee meeting to put forward his idea to leverage our separate business skills with joint clients. Brilliant idea, brilliant concept and brilliantly conveyed. The only thing that was different from the lady I just previously met is that we shook hands instead of sharing an air kiss. Oh, and we didn’t talk about eyeshadow. I would have been mildly worried if we did.

I was nearly out the door, when one last woman waved a cheery hand and thrust me her business card. I quickly scanned it and learnt she was a personal stylist. It made me think she had a target market with this down-trodden crowd who mostly looked like they had dressed in the dark without the benefit of a mirror. Or deodorant.

“Give me a call,” she cooed in some faux French accent, whilst noticeably eyeing my outfit. “I can have your wardrobe sorted in a day so you never have to go out looking like this again.”

I had to look down at my clothes to assure myself I hadn’t accidently left my pajamas on. Oh blimey, I thought, do I look that bad? Either way, insults are not a great way to drum up business lady!

And had she seen Ms Red Tartan Trousers yet?

I like to do business with people, not companies. If I need a particular service – be it a document printed, a legal opinion, or my nails painted – I like to deal with a person I like. A person I can relate to, feel comfy with and even enjoy a laugh. Nudge nudge wink wink etc.

It doesn’t matter a jot to me if your printing firm won a major national award, or your legal company is currently putting the defence strategy together for Ricky Nixon, or even if your beauty salon does Miranda Kerr’s nails. If you don’t warm to me, I freeze you out.

Even if I’m wearing pajamas!

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Comments

  1. Brilliant post, expressively written I think clones of your examples attend net working functions all over eh country.
    It never ceases to amaze me how people tell you…what you need to think and d…especially in relation to their benefit.
    The stylist lady got me giggling… a colour expert chose one networking event to publicly point the flaws she perceived in my personal presentation.Her level of tact (not) had to be seen to be believed….and noooooooo I was not in PJ’s!
    I really enjoyed your post. Cheers Di xxx

  2. What an awesome post, and so true. Except that stylist, was she for real? Way to drum up business lady … signed Bronnie, who often wears her pyjamas out in public by mistake.

  3. Bravo! I think I recognised some of the people in your post, Bron. You and I have been at the receiving end of someone whose networking skills leave a GREAT deal to be desired so I knew from personal insight how you felt at this event.

    Love the stylist anecdote. One may be able to sell 'style', but one must accompany said skills with the manners the stylish are meant to display.

    It's a shame that some people feel the need to behave like talking billboards at networking events. I believe a cold shoulder is the most appropriate recourse. Or, to address some of the points you mentioned, perhaps a cold spoon would be more in order.

  4. Bron, I just loved your post x My sentiments exactly, as I sit here in my PJ's catching up on all the goss and pressing my delete butoon with my right ring finger with precise aim and speed freezing out those business and posts that don't appeal to me or for writing shite on my wall.
    I love the way you wrote , I found myself in the room visualizing you moving around, summing people up like the speed of a lizard.
    Anyway enough babble from me, I just wanted to say Hi…….and yes we all have an ulterior motive and I don't pretend not too! If you aren't gong to check out that stylist and hang in your PJ's then I think you should do so in style, comfort and luxury. visit http://www.bamboolingerie.com xx

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi Bron

    I just loved this – it was spot on! We have posted this to our networking group! so that they can enjoy it too!

    Have a good day and if you are ever in Brighton come and meet us all and we can talk pj's, fish and chips and Brighton Pier.

    Nicky

  6. Brilliant blog, thoroughly enjoyed it lol!

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