Thursday, March 22, 2007

hell hath no fury like a networking dinner

I had been asked to speak at an engagement some months ago. I put it on my calendar and them promptly forgot about it. Good thing they sent me an email reminder otherwise I probably would have forgotten altogether.

The dinner was at a conference room in a hotel and idiotically, I assumed it had to do with affordable housing. I walked in and was directed to the room by a rather hot hotel boy. Everything's looking rosy until I got to the room. A room filled with professional networkers and staffing professionals. Immediately I started to itch. The hotel boy was suddenly nowhere to be seen.

My title at work presumes I am something I am not. I am not a business woman. I have never nor will ever network. And yet here I am, a speaker for the dinner tonight, a dinner of 50 or so folks who were absolutely NOT there to talk about housing.

Fuck.

The organizer found me and launched me into the circuit. All of these very nice people were on the hunt for new business, for connections, for opportunities. I had an incredible urge to hug them. This doesn't seem like very much fun.

I am seated at a table with 9 other people for a very long meal. Everyone is lovely. A bit quirky in a best in show sort of way, outranking each other with wild staffing professional stories and the like, and very, very nice. I am the only space alien. I kept having to catch myself from doing something outrageous; swearing in any sort of context or introducing myself as if I were at an AA meeting. Hysterical laughter. I was clearly out of control.

And there wasn't even an open bar.

It's finally time to speak. I had no idea what I was going to say as I was walking up to the podium. So I flubbed my way through non profitisms in regards to staffing and professionals (see, I can't even do it here - I still don't really know what it means) and then opened up the floor for questions. There were seven. Seven. I couldn't have been too much of an asshole, either that, or it was purely out of sympathy.

On another note, thank you for your comments to my last post. You have no idea how much each of them meant. Being heard is a wonderful gift. You all give me hope. Thank you.

Before you go, take a peek over at my review blog because my first Parent Blogger review is up today. It's all about sleep, so unless you already get plenty you might want to stop by. I don't get paid for this, it's just another way I serve my fellow wo/mankind. Well that, and a free book.

34 comments:

kristen said...

The times you will see me as the BIGGEST asshat you've ever met are those times I have to speak in public.

I'm impressed that you didn't panic or lose it. I would have totally made up a lie and gotten myself out of there, I'm that awkward.

Good thinking to open up to questions, those always help and at least you got seven. The last time I spoke I opened up to questions and even indoors you could hear the crickets, it was that quiet. If it wasn't for the owner of the building, I wouldn't have had a one.

Sorry I made this all about me.

QT said...

Aaaaaaaaaagh! [slam]

(Sound of me running from networking dinner)

Holy balls, I cannot believe you went through with that. I avoid those things like the plague! Hopefully no one hounds you endlessly for referrals. It sounds like you had a grand old time as the lone space alien at the party. I, too, struggle not to use extreme amounts of profanity in semi-professional settings.

This is one of my favorite posts. I laughed out loud.

andrea from the fishbowl said...

Speech improv is not my thing and I would have totally crashed and burned, but I can network if pressed to do so. The secret: a stiff drink (or a double espresso) and to pretend you are someone else. I like to pretend I'm way more confident than I actually am. Strange, but it works!

Bob said...

I CANNOT speak extemporaneously. Brava!

wo/mankind? wink

deb said...

I would have just turned around and left. I am not brave that way. Kudos to you for sticking it out.

Kyla said...

I can't speak in public to save my life, even about things I am knowledgeable! Kudos, lady!

Alice said...

I am so glad to hear that someone else feels like an alien at those things! The last one I went to made us change tables for every course (so we could meet the maximum amount of people). Torture. There was also a complicated business card swap game and the host was very disturbed that I didn't have my business cards with me. She wanted me to hand everyone a sticky note with my name on it.

Thailand Gal said...

I couldn't.. just couldn't.. as in panic attack, run from the building, can't.

I'd be curious to know what you talked about. How do you switch a meeting like that into anything.. um.. good?


Peace,


~Chani

jen said...

The funniest part was that they actually thought I was there to be able to offer them some business.

Dude. So unable. Homeless people.

But I did think about asking them all for spare change. Thankfully I restrained myself. But I stayed, because the dinner was on them, and if nothing else, I am guilt-based.

Hel said...

Oi!

You winging it put a huge smile on my face.

The boy in the box post was truly beautiful.

How I wish for that shared beer.

karrie said...

It sounds as though they were all under even more pressure than you were, so probably you could have gotten up there and tap danced and all would have been well.

I *hate* public speaking. Every time I have to present a paper I shug Rescue Remedy and try to find someone who looks like they will smile at me out of pity.

NotSoSage said...

I, who was so incredibly shy (and still am, really), have suddenly fallen into a job that requires me to speak publicly on a regular basis. I still don't know how I do it.

But I SOOOO get the instinct to throw people for a loop. I get that all the time. In school, talking to other moms, hanging out with the in-laws. I can't stand the fact that people put me in a box, one way or another, based on a false set of assumptions, and all I want to do is break out of that, somehow: tell my in-laws that I believe that drug use should be decriminalized, tell my crazy-hip friends that I just joined a fan club on facebook for my old high school Chemistry teacher. I would have loved to have been there with you to trade WTF? glances with you across the table.

meno said...

Oh it's great to have the gift of bs isn't it.

I wonder what they were expecting.

Oh, The Joys said...

I have a tough time at those dinners. Too many people talking at once. It makes me all jangled.

Mad Hatter said...

Is there a soul on this earth who enjoys a networking dinner? Show of hands, please? I'm sure they all saw something kindred in you.

Lucia said...

Every single time I agree to give a talk, I regret it. The time comes closer, and I just don't want to. I don't want to prepare. I don't want to speak. I cannot imagine being in this situation. There are all sorts of hell. And this ring is pretty far into the depths.

crazymumma said...

Oh honey. I wish I had been there. It sounds like when I go to the dinners that mr mumma sometimes brings me to. I am a fish out of water and I don't understand a damn thing that is going on.

Sounds like you handled yourself really well considering....

wish I had been there. I would have smelled your freak flag from afar and befriended you....

Going over to read about sleep now....

kim said...

I am so impressed that you can speak on the fly like that.

Tabba said...

I don't know how you did (do) it. You're just too good that way.

Thailand Gal said...

Dude. So unable. Homeless people.

But I did think about asking them all for spare change.


I wish you had! Seriously. In another post perhaps.. tell us what you talked about, how you turned it around. I hope they all left with something new, some idea, some feeling. Tell us how you turned that lemon into lemonade.

Sometimes I wonder how and why you end up in these shitty situations. LOL

(Pardon the language. Not usual for me but ~ fits ~ in this case. :)


Peace,


~Chani

theflyingmum said...

Oh. My. God! You are too awesome, you actually got up there and bs'd your way through a speech!? You didn't know what this dinner was about, you stayed and ate (hell, yeah!) and GAVE A SPEECH. I am bowing down to you in that Wayne and Garth "We're not worthy..." way. You so totally rock!

Laurie said...

That is quite impressive. I can hardly make it through a public speech when I know what I'm talking about. I can't imagine getting up there in a room full of people and winging it.

My hat is off to you, sister.

kgirl said...

omg, the next time i am introduced to a suit, i am so going to hug him/her.

Izzy said...

I would have hid in the bathroom! I so totally bow down to you :)

mamatulip said...

I used to be okay with public speaking...and then I regressed.

Congrats on getting through it, and the ol' 'opening the floor up to questions' technique is brilliant.

flutter said...

I once had to give a 30 min presentation on emmissions to the board of a company I worked for. I was told about it 2 hours prior.

KC said...

Why am I not surprised? I can totally picture you there- charismastic and making it work.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh good for you managing it all so well, especiall all things considered---but if you'd asked me in advance, I'd have had no doubt of a positive outcome for you.

I feel too old but ass-kissing and networking.

I used to be all up for it in my 20s and early-mid 30s, but now...I just feel too old.

I just want to be honest, save time...get back home to bed as early as possible.

LOL

That said, I do very much enjoy public speaking and educating. I can pull a speech out of my ass if needs must. (It might surprise absolutely nobody that I am rarely at a loss for words. Yuk yuk yuk LOL at myself.)

In fact, I totally forgot to elaborate on my outline for class Tuesday to create an actual lesson plan. Spring break. Time change. What can I say? Anyway, I had to pull out some wild hairs. Nevertheless, went well, I think.

You have lots of business to offer them; awesome tax deduction too.

I'm torn about that you didn't ask for the spare change. ;)

Emily said...

I think there's a whole lot of skill in being able to stand up and speak off the cuff without complete panic...I too know nothing about the networking dinner and it's not a skill i'm looking to acquire

Redneck Mommy said...

Hey, I found you through MamaTulip. I just wanted to say that I have scrolled through and read some of your amazing posts and you take my breath away.

You sound like an amazing woman and I am honoured to be able to spend some time reading what you have chose to share with us.

And just so you know, I am always that girl who inserts her foot in her mouth in a semi-professional (hell, any ) setting. Generally with embarrassing stories sprinkled with profanity.

I don't seem to have an off switch! Good for you for surviving!

Momish said...

Wow! You actually give speeches in public! I admire that. I would throw up if I so much as had to walk up to a podium, yet alone speak. You are cool!

urban-urchin said...

i would have crawled out of that dinner on hands and knees to avoid speaking on a subject that foreign to me. you're brave.

Sandra said...

You rock. Rock.

Ruth Dynamite said...

You know what? I'm sure you breezed your way through this event with grace and aplomb. Of course you did. I have no doubt.