Browsing through the schedule for the forthcoming Winchester Writers’ Festival, I can see four opportunities for networking. That’s four occasions I’ll need to take an urgent call, visit the bathroom or pretend I’m reading a book; such is my fear of ‘networking’.
I HATE networking. Even the word irritates me. What does it mean? Yes, I understand it’s meant to be an ‘opportunity to expand one’s network of comrades’ but my experiences have been rather disappointing.
When I attend networking events, I become the ‘listener’, the friendly face people turn to to tell me ALL about themselves. Perhaps I am the warm-up before they have the chance to meet someone they’d actually like to add to their network, such as a publisher or literary agent.
This could be my own fault as I’ll happily stand there nodding, humming and laughing in the right places, rather than getting out my trumpet for a loud blow.
I’m not comfortable with trumpeting. I’d much rather discover someone’s achievements by accident, than listen to their accomplishments being shamelessly paraded in front of me.
The other reason you’ll find me at the buffet table instead of talking bollocks is that I find networking incredibly self-serving and insincere. Nobody’s really interested in you, they just want to find out whether you’re worth talking to, i.e. can you offer them something – ‘Oh, so you’re not an agent. Oh I see. Well, good luck with er, whatever…’
My reluctance to mingle will make next weekend a bit of a challenge. Whilst others will be enjoying the 10 o’clock lecture, I’ll be counting down the minutes to ‘coffee break and chat’ time. It’ll be especially hard if the other attendees have brought their buddies along. No networking for them, they can turn their backs to everyone, un-self-consciously eat croissants, and discuss who killed Lucy Beale.
Ironic, my loathing of networking, considering I spent many years working in public relations which is probably the most vacuous profession a person could have. Many a time I have stood, quite comfortably, amongst a room of strangers and hosted a seminar or given a presentation. No troubles there. It is the one-on-one exchange of chittery-chatter that I dread; the ping-pong of meaningless banality; the opportunity to let myself down with an unintentionally offensive remark.
I am never myself when engaged in small-talk. I am more concerned in how I’m faring rather than concentrating on what I’m actually saying. I can have a conversation with someone and walk away having no idea of what I said. The weather was probably mentioned and how tiring the kids are. They’re safe bets in club chit-chat.
So, if you’re attending the Winchester Writers’ Festival and you feel the need to make a very important phone call during morning coffee and biscuits, don’t. Come and find me. I’ll be in the toilet reading my book.