It’s day one of my SXSW experience and I’ve got a lot on my mind.
(Chris Brogan’s great blog post about conferences yesterday added even more thoughts to the mix.)
- What’s my pitch when I meet people?
- Do I have enough business cards?
- Is my phone charged?
- Have I packed some cough drops? (I have a cold)
- Do I have some hand sanitizer so I don’t shake hands and spread that cold like some modern-day Typhoid Mary?
But beyond these mundane topics, I’ve got some even bigger thoughts to contend with, like…
- Why would people want to meet me?
- What impression do I want to make on those people?
- Is it possible for me to have friendly, genuine and empathetic networking experiences and still get my business noticed?
These last questions have been the topic of many coffee meetings with colleagues the past few months.
The people I’ve been talking to are smart and talented, but keeping finding that self-promo junkies – no matter what their experience level or skill set – seem to be getting all of the attention and all of the business lately. Like modern day “Veruca Salts” they have no compunction about standing in a crowded room and proclaiming, “Daddy, I want a goose that lays the golden egg!” *
And you know what? People give them that damn goose.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that self-confidence is critical for success in life and certainly in business. But there is a vast difference between meeting someone, asking what they do and then genuinely listening with an open, interested mind, and meeting someone, launching into your promo spiel, leaving an opening for the obligatory spiel in return and then moving on.
But how come it seems that the later is more successful? And what if that’s a game that – so matter how well it works— is one that I’m just inherently uncomfortable playing? What if indeed, success rewards not just the brave, but also the vain?
As a born and bred “Charlie Bucket,” I’m not sure where this leaves me in the playing field and among a swarm of networkers milling this conference like this.
All I can do is keep plugging away with my eyes and heart open and (my mind turned up to “wicked productive”) with the belief that someday I will inherit my keys to the chocolate factory and Veruca will end up in the garbage shute where she belongs.
(If you thought I was going to say something about squirrels, you clearly are only familiar with the inferior Willy Wonka movie.)