I’ve been attending these annual business networking soirees since 2007, just after I began working for the Central/Western Maine Workforce Investment Board. What I’ve always enjoyed about them and why they provide value for the businesses, organizations and others that attend, is that they gather together key people from the community that you need to know if you are going to be working Waterville.
My role at the Showcase was a bit different this year. I’m now operating in a diminished capacity with my employer of nearly six years, after having my hours reduced from 40 to 20. Knowing about the Showcase now for a few weeks, I timed my “soft” launch of my website for the JBE to coincide with the event, knowing I’d have a chance to network, talk a bit about the situation with the LWIB, but more important, I had my new business cards with me, and I had a chance to work the room for the JBE, articulating what I’m about and what I’m able to provide, and a little bit about my personal brand.
Since 1999, I’ve been attending networking gatherings like this one, either to pitch what I do as an attendee, but more important, I’ve worked these from the display table side. I know what the role of an exhibitor should be—engage those walking by your table. Don’t rely on me, or the others working the room to draw you out. Here’s the thing; I’ll talk to you, I’ll tell you more about me than some people will want to know. I’ve done this routine enough to know if you can engage, or not.
There was some great networking talent on display. Marketing queen, Tracy O’Clair/TOC Media, like me, was working the room. We talked and then passed one another throughout our time at the Boys and Girls Club where the Showcase took place. Tracy is a real pro–personable, has something to say, and services for business that have value that she wants to make others aware of. There were others there, partners I’ve worked with in the community for several years—they were also engaged, and engaging with others.
Unfortunately, there were too many people, standing at tables, acting like it was my job to draw them out. Some of these people weren’t worth the trouble to engage with. Others, I tried having a conversation with. A few couldn’t be bothered enough to tell me their name after I introduced myself, handed them a card, and asked them about their business or service. A few were close to being rude.
Here’s a tip. It takes the same amount of energy to stand on your feet and act bored and disengaged for three hours as it does to be enthusiastic, smile, and take an interest in people that stop by your table. Learn to get outside of yourself and take an interest in others. Have a business card ready to hand me and don’t make me ask for it. You’ll be amazed what happens when you do.
The upside for me, besides connecting with some of my peeps, was meeting a business leader, a vice-president at one of Maine’s best-known banking institutions, who lives a mile away from me in Durham. I made some comment about her eating healthy during the after-hours portion and as a result, I met one of my neighbors. We also had a nice conversation.
Life is what you put into it. For a few of you, a bit more effort is required. Don’t always leave it up to me, although I can carry it for both of us, no problem.