On Saturday, I will attend the SCBWI International Winter Conference here in New York City. I’ve never attended a writing conference before and I’m terribly excited. I’m trying to imagine what it will be like to attend a conference with a subject I am interested in. All the conferences I have been to in the past have been mandatory for my job.
I’m not very good at networking. I’ll say this as elegantly as possible: I suck at it. When people are thrown into a room with the expectation to ‘network’, it feels fake to me, like wearing a poorly disguised veil.
For me, chit-chat is boring and I want no part of it. Most people don’t suspect this of me but I can see right through to anyone’s crap. If someone wants something from me, I prefer they come right out and say it. When I want something, I prefer to do the same.
But I know it doesn’t work like that. People have to go on golf outings, attend business lunches, stand with a glass of wine in one hand, a pig-in-the-blanket in the other.
Once, I went out for Hot Pot (basically chinese fondue) with a friend. The entire meal, she barked orders in her native language while the rest of us sat back, feeling as if we were a bunch of mis-behaved children with our ruler-slapping teacher.
She explained that American’s are wishy-washy, too polite, too passive. In her culture, it is necessary to be direct about everything. For example, if you receive the wrong order (as we did) there’s none of this: “Oh, I’m sorry, can you please take this back? It wasn’t what we ordered. Can we have this instead?” It is: “No. I do not want this. Give us green beans now.” It is not impolite. It’s just the way it’s done.
I believe I could survive quite well in a culture like that. A place where people do not beat around the bush. It sounds efficient.
I’d like to attend a conference where the networking runs a little bit like Hot Pot.
But, in the meantime, while I still live in a society full of mandatory and polite chatter, I’ve decided to approach this conference differently. Personally, I like to meet new people. I like to talk with others.
I’ve decided not to worry about the networking aspect at all. I plan to concentrate on the meeting-new-people aspect and avoid the veil all together.
Thoughts on networking? Are you attending this conference? Please, please let me know if you are.