Networking and why I’m a superb wallflower

I wouldn’t say that tonight was a complete failure… at least not for the 100s of people enjoying themselves over a nice, cool adult beverage meeting new friends and keep up with old. It might have just been one for me. Also enjoying myself over a nice adult beverage, or should I say, from behind a nice adult beverage. It happened like it’s happened so many times before. I choked and decided that what tonight’s reception needed was an amazing wallflower.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Every good reception needs a great wallflower… right? It completes the room and provides harmony where harmony might not have been before. I guess I’m doing a service for all events out there. It takes great skill to do what I do.
Great skill and a complete lack of guts.
I’m not sure at what point in my life I lost the ability to chat everyone up like I’ve known them forever. It was sometime in college, I know that much. It isn’t that I can’t find topics of discussion if I’m forced into a group setting or if someone sits next to me at the dreaded lounge configuration in any normal reception setting, it’s just that I can’t bring myself to be the one to join those settings. I’m perfectly happy waiting for them to come to me.
I would like to go to my own defense a bit. I had a terrible time finding people that looked to be about my age at tonight’s event. I saw (and even chatted with) industry veterans. Upon asking them how many times the have been to this conference, I got answers like 40 years! ‘Scuse me? 40 years? “hi” “bye”, not my crowd. Awesome mentors? Yes. Will we leave best Friends on Friday? No. The next group was a gathering of excited girls all sharing cheese off of one plate (and none of them with the aforementioned adult beverage). I’m going to go ahead and guess that these girls don’t make up my crowd either. Perhaps here from a college? Maybe, I wouldn’t know though, I didn’t chat them up (that is the point of this blog post). Then I would think I saw someone my age, I started to approach them, and then I recognized the slumped shoulders and a double dose of registration goodies marking them as assistants to the older person at the table. Perhaps they would have jumped at the chance to talk to me, but their boss whisked them away before I could even make a step in their direction.
And there I was left alone, playing the part of a wallflower well enough to be awarded for it.
I even went as far as to passively aggressively post on Facebook that having a coworker here would be swell and all of my problems would be solved. Perhaps I should retract that statement. I’ve always gone to conferences with coworkers (well, except this conference last year in Houston) and here I stand at the cusp of my next big opportunity to grow and I’m cowering in the corner, grasping my iPhone as I text friends back home. This isn’t the way to be 30 years old, almost 8 years into an amazing career, and taking over the world. I’m ashamed of this person.
Self – I’m giving you an assignment. Get the heck over your fears. Jump out there, meet someone away from an organized session. Walk up to someone and introduce yourself. You’re charming, funny, and impressive to boot. Go show that off to the world and quit complaining about it on your blog!

(this is the second in a series of blog posts written while attending IAVM Venue Connect 2011 – let’s see if I can keep this up all week)
follow me on Twitter @WoolyHands and keep up with my conference tweets with a #venueconnect search

3 thoughts on “Networking and why I’m a superb wallflower

  1. Erin, you are so cute! I totally know where you are coming from though… my 30 year old self is rather shy too, compared to my 20 year old self. I think it happens with age, honestly… but that doesn't mean we can't pull up our big girl panties now and then, and try to be more outgoing… I know you have it in you girl! Just think, those you meet this week, could be friends you can't wait to connect with next time… makes it all that much easier, and much more exciting to return to. ♥ don't forget to have fun, okay?!

  2. you have WAY too much potential not to go chat up every group of people at that conference. Here's how I (45 years in) see it…More Experienced: you are a breath of fresh air! They want to get your enthusiasm back, and they have a TON to offer you as (as you said) mentors, or even just to introduce you to OTHER movers and shakers in the industry. 30 year olds may not have the connections they do – you want to tap into those connections!!Less Experienced: They are about to make mis-steps, looking for advice, and hoping to learn as much as you know now. You may not want to take them home with you and share an apartment (or even a cab to dinner) but honing your skills at advice-giving and helping other younglings make it through the maze will not only endear you to those FUTURE movers & shakers, but those Experienced types will see you as a potential leader.Come up with a couple of easy questions to ask – step up to a little cluster of experienced folks and ask "what sessions should I make a point to attend tomorrow?" And ask the younglings "what sessions do you plan to attend tomorrow?" That's it, I think my comment may have been longer than your post. 🙂

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