Before you think for one minute this blog is about which pocket to have your business cards in or how you should run out and buy a business suit, think again. I won’t bore you with such dreary details. Coz, I don’t care which pocket you put your business cards in, and if you run out and buy a business suit? Well, good for you.
These are the things you really need to do:
Act like you are somebody. No, I don’t mean act like your pooh don’t stink, but walk with your shoulders back. Your jaw horizontal to the floor and your eyes open and forward. Scan. DO NOT LOOK AWAY OR HEAVEN FORBID DOWN when you make eye contact. The only thing you can do is smile. Period. Anything less is bad.
*Even if you don’t feel confident, look the part. People are drawn to positive energy.
*note: do not raise nose so high in the air as to get a nose bleed. Nose bleeds are messy and those of you who walk with their nose so far up in the air? We can see your boogers. Keep nose horizontal to floor. Even if you think you deserve to stick it straight up, you don’t.
Dress neatly, shower and use deodorant. Please, a little hygiene goes a very long way, so does a smattering of cosmetics. If you don’t normally indulge, mascara and flesh-toned lipstick with a clear gloss is perfect. Oh, and no cracking and/or peeling nail polish on toes or fingers. Ew.
Instead of glomming with the same group, spread the love.
Ask if you can sit with a group, if they look at you like you have the clap sit down anyway. Look the beothces in the eye and then spit at them. No seriously, move on. You’re probably nervous as it is, who needs to be stuck with a bunch of snotty smelly chicks?
Go find another table. When you sit down, smile, look around, and without being in-your-face or acting like you’re starved for conversation, introduce yourself to the person next to you. Ask them something. What do you write? is always an icebreaker. Listen to the conversation at the table and jump in.
*Remember this: People love to talk about themselves, so let them by asking questions.
*And Never look or act desperate!
Don’t do this or anything closely resembling this:
So in Reno, I’m sitting with my agent, her colleague and several of their authors when this chick, a very published chick, walks right up to my agent, sticks a bookmark under her nose and introduces herself. Never mind my agent was in the middle of a conversation and the bookmark nearly sliced her nose off. Needless to say, my agent was not amused, and frankly I was appalled by this author’s behavior.
Another don’t. Don’t get sloppy drunk. Hey, we all like to get a buzz once in a while and that’s ok, but um, if you can’t hold your booze, don’t drink. Fall down sloppy drunk writers are ugly. And worse than that? While we all forget your sloppy behavior at some point. You won’t.
*Above and beyond everything, be polite.
Professionalism is imperative.
Now my fav part of networking at National consists of two things.
A martini (or a glass of wine) and a cigarette. Now I only smoke at conference (okay, I sneak ’em once in a while at home) but let me tell you this: Find the smoking section and you find the movers and the shakers. I have met so many nonsmoking people in the smoking section it’s amazing. Case in point. Atlanta last year. I’m having a smoke after dinner, lots of people heading back into the hotel. I see this gal walk by who um doesn’t appear to be too happy with something. “Hey,” I said (or something close) “You don’t look too happy, what’s wrong?” Now mind you I have never seen this person before, but boy oh boy did she need to unload. She introduced herself as Margie Lawson. We ended up chatting for a long time. I bumped into her at every turn from that point on. I officially made Margie my new best friend at the RITA’s. And the rest they say is history.
I met Deb Werksman, romance editor, Sourcebooks the same way. She’s not a smoker either but she passed by after dinner and for some reason stopped and we chatted for some time. Since Atlanta, I have passed several people Deb’s way.
So even if you aren’t a smoker, if you can stand the stench, come on out and chat.
Networking is about spreading your message, your energy, yourself. And when all of the dust has settled, selling yourself is more important than any other commodity you will ever sell.
There is a noticeable divide between genuine and fake. Fakes are easily pegged at one hundred yards. If you are fake (and I have met the best fakers in the industry), and don’t really give a crap about humanity in general, and are just flitting from one conquest to another, collecting names and pretending, it shows. Blindingly so. No matter how masterful you think you are. If you don’t care. My advice is stay home.
Am I saying you have to be nice to everyone? Nope, not at all, hell be bitchy if the situation warrants (last year I overheard two jealous harpies dissing a very dear friend of mine. I pounced.). I’m just saying if your heart is genuinely cool so then will be your energy, and your smile.
Fortunately most people are genuine and friendly. I bet if you’re reading this blog you are too. No mean girls allowed.
For those of you sitting there reading this, hunching over moving back into yourself shaking your head saying, “I can’t do any of that!” I say, yes, you can. I bet you are more of a people person then you think. I bet you have a great smile and a sweet voice. And I also lay odds you have more to offer in a conversation than you think. I met some wonderful ladies last year in Atlanta who I knew were uncomfortable with themselves. I wanted to say, “Hey, sit up straight and smile.” It would have made all the difference in the world.
While National is first and foremost a business event, it is also a social event, a chance to connect. So remember to breath. Relax, and more than anything, have fun.
Now! Shoulders back, ladies, and be prepared to smile and let’s do Dallas like it’s never been done before!
This brings me to the inevitable question: What are your networking tips, or if you don’t have a specific one, how about your personal, don’ts at conference?