Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Campsite Rule

I've had several things to say recently that leave a better taste in the mouth than my last bitter ranting, but am having a patch where I'm feeling a tad overwhelmed. I'm trying to remember that not every post needs to be a major production.

Tonight's update is inspired by the SWE seminar I attended. A local entrepreneur (4 'e's in that word!) gave a talk on how to network and it's the first helpful seminar on that topic I've been to. It also reminded me how important it is to keep up with the people I already have in my web and like to talk to and that would be my loyal readers here.

What I learned tonight:

Getting Started
Allow myself time and space to assess a room before joining a group. Walk around (with a small plate of food or cup of courage) and just assess what's going on. See who looks fun or interesting to talk to; see if there's a group of 2 or 3 whose body language is open and/or engaging. Don't be worried about looking like a single freak walking around by myself - and I won't now because I'll be on my assessment mission, not just going around in a 'pleasesomeoneloveme' panic.

Breaking the Ice, solo
With a group of 2, one can always ask to "cut in". It's funny and pleasant and allows them the option of saying "maybe later" if it's not a great time.
Other recommended lines that I like: "what's your all time favorite ethnic food?" "What trends do you see coming in your business?" "What do you find exciting/rewarding in your line of work?" "What got you interested in [your area of expertise]"?

Breaking the Ice, partnered
Another strategy is to attend a place with a partner, but split up for 15 or 20 minutes. You each work the room singing the praises of the other person, then get back together and approach the people again as a pair, where they're already predisposed to like you and know something about you and whom your friend has already found to be pleasant conversationalists.

Exit Strategy
Instead of running for the bar or bathroom, use the "Campsite Rule" of "Leave 'em feeling better than when you found 'em." When the time is up - and leave them wanting more, not wanting to shuck you - politely say "thank you for sharing your [experience, expertise, opinion, story], [you're a great storyteller, that was fascinating] and I really enjoyed speaking with you". And move on gracefully.

The seminar advice dovetails with something I learned from Tina Fey's interview with Terry Gross on rules of improv. "When do you join in a scene?"
"When they need you."

I really could have used this advice a month ago at the all-engineer's engineering society dinner when I couldn't seem to find anyone to speak to and felt like a freak hovering near people to see if I could break in. Now I have "permission" of sorts to hover to see if there's a place for me in someone's conversation, rather than trying to force my way in somewhere uncomfortable. Even if the first minute is uncomfortable, a few general-but-specific open questions at the tip of my tongue will help.

So what's your favorite ethnic food of all time?
Or rather, what's your favorite way of keeping up with long distance friends?

1 comment:

Junior and Orion said...

One would think that keeping up with long distance friends would be easier with the internet......well I suppose it is easier, but one has to take the time to do it, just like one has to take time to write a letter, or shop for a card.

I know that I get tired of all the "forward this or the world will end" emails that are out there. And those make me want to just barrel thru my email as quickly as possible. Still, it shouldn't be an excuse to not keep in touch.

I wonder if we are all really that busy, so busy that we can't take time to have some sort of conversation with friends, whether it be by phone, email or mail. And I find it hard to believe that we all are that busy!

But then the whole reciprocation thing happens, or not. One person tries and tries to communicate and rarely gets any reponse. It kind of leads that person to not want to bother anymore.

I don't know what to do anymore. I touch base with a few people now and then, but the few I keep in touch with compared to how many are out there......well there is a big difference.

Then one has to think, are all those people REALLY my friends, or are they just acquaintances?

As for favorite ethnic food....I will have to go for Indian on this one. We have a great Indian place here called Bombay House. It's a bit pricey, but its good.