Friday, February 27, 2009

Life Lessons from School Dances

Did you ever go to one of those school dances in Junior High or High School? Another reason to wonder about Public School, but I digress. School dances were awkward. We go, but we don't really want to, we don't really feel comfortable. The cool kids are hanging out having a good time, the extroverts are somehow talking to everyone else, making friends and having a good time, and wall flowers like us wonder about what we could have been thinking by going to this thing. I'd like to hide in the bathroom the rest of the night.

I have news: That feeling never goes away. I had those same awkward feelings just this week, and there are opportunities for grown ups to do the same things as at school dances.

This week I has hand picked (let's send Jeff, he'll do anything!) to represent H & R Block at the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce's "Business After Hours" Networking Social. It works like a school dance. There is a big room, with a DJ playing music. There is food. The theme is sports, so they have hot dogs, chips, fries, that sort of thing. Bartenders are serving drinks, both hard and soft. I hang around for a minute or two so I can find out if the food and drink are free or if I have to pay. I have $1.00 in my wallet. It's all free. A dollar saved is a dollar earned. I have a hot dog, fries, and diet coke.

The cool people of the business world are gathered in small groups, talking business I suppose. I don't know for sure because I am not part of any group. Other movers and shakers are introducing themselves to others, swapping business cards, and who knows what else because I'm an aloof observer.

Fortunately, wallflower Jeff has an opportunity to do something without looking too out of place. Because the theme is sports, there are some sport type games setup. I choose the basketball game, the kind where you have mini basketballs that you try to shoot into mini basketball hoops. It is electronic so bells and whistles and lights go off each time I make a shot.

An older man who already knows that he can drink as much beer as he likes for free comes over and says something. Despite my difficulty in understanding his slurred speech, I was happy because I was now networking.

It does get better! I find out about a "speed networking" session. There is a round table with up to 10 seats. A facilitator gives each person sitting around the table 1 minute to talk about who we are, about our business, and what we'd like others to know about us. Then another minute to answer questions. I sign up, and get to meet 7 others in a controlled, structured environment. This actually isn't too bad. A print shop owner is looking for clients. A retired Chief Financial Officer is looking to provide accounting services to start up business ventures. An officer of a local credit union is talking about how they have money to lend. Then again, someone is looking for clients to help us balance our physical and spiritual inner something or others. But the point is that I have success! I have a collection of other people's business cards, and I can prove to the H & R Block people that I did something.

After the networking session, I go back to the dance, I mean After Hours event, and lots of people are there talking to each other. I know nobody, except the people I just met, and so I get another hot dog and diet coke. Fortunately, this is a multi purpose facility with swimming pool, exercise rooms, etc., and they are giving tours. I go on the tour so that I don't have to mingle. Nice place. I bet I could afford to be a member if I grew my client base more. I could grow my client base more if I did some networking. Maybe I'll go again next time.

1 comment: