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networking is easy, if you do something crazy

October 16, 2011

Hello internet!  I’ve been largely absent because I’ve been off doing things like living out of suitcases in family’s houses, (finally) getting a sweet place and moving in, getting a job, and, oh yeah, getting married.  And now I’m in MST (yes, not MDT, because these people are silly and want to screw with my east-coast body clock) at a writing conference.

But just for you, internet, I skipped the first session this morning, slept in, and am now enjoying a delicious breakfast at a very crowded coffee shop and bakery, enjoying a cappuccino and a biscuit with veggie gravy.  At least, you can pretend it was just for you and not for my sanity if it makes you feel special.

My leisurely breakfast experience this morning actually prompted this post.  You see, I was interrupted (politely) by some folks attending my conference, who wanted to introduce themselves and tell me how much they enjoyed my talk the other night.  My entire conference experience so far, it turns out, is full of moments like this.

Why?  Because my talk was insane.  I was one of only ten people (out of hundreds who write and talk for a living) who signed up for this crazy session on Friday evening.  The premise?  You have exactly five minutes to give your schpiel about whatever you like related to the theme of the conference … but you must use 20 slides, which will auto-advance every 15 seconds whether you’re ready or not.  It is the 50 meter hurdles of public speaking.

And apparently, I rocked it.  I picked a very silly personal story, which was a) suited to the format, and b) strange enough to be memorable.  And I was full of migraine meds and had only had short airplane naps in the 20 hours before I spoke, so I was thoroughly goofy and excitable.

I mostly signed up to do this just because I smelled a challenge (speaking to people who get paid to write and speak? in the craziest format ever? yeah, I’m in), and I thought it would be fun.  It was lots of fun indeed.

But the best part is that it’s made my life ever so much easier.  I’m a terrible networker, always losing my nerve when I want to go introduce myself to people.  Now that half the conference knows my weird story, half the conference is coming up randomly to tell me they enjoyed it, how weird it was, and, perhaps most importantly, to introduce themselves.  People may remember only one totally useless fact about me (that I’m allergic to hamburgers), but they remember me.  And that is absolutely everything in this field.

So listen up, people who are as bad at networking as me: next time you go to a conference, find a way to do something weird and memorable.  Fill your talk or poster with little oddities.  Wear an awesome hat.  Sign up to do something weird.  It’s a bit nervewracking to put yourself out that way, but it’s only doing it for a short time.  For me, that’s way easier than the constant stress of “am I meeting enough people? should I go talk to that person over there? ohgodwhatdoIdoIhavetobetalking!”

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