On Networking, Attending the SCBWI Winter Conference and Eating Hot Pot

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.

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13 thoughts on “On Networking, Attending the SCBWI Winter Conference and Eating Hot Pot

  1. Not attending that conference, but going to a local Chicago one in the spring.

    I attended a young adult books conference last year that was mostly for educators and librarians, and that was really cool just to be in the room with so many people excited about kids books. It was open to anyone, but everyone I met asked me which library I worked for or what grade I represented. Nope, just a fan and an aspiring writer! One woman must not have heard the “aspiring” part and looked around the book table and asked, “So what have you written?” I told her I wasn't published and she looked confused. Oh well! I made some other friends there who I've since seen at book signings in the area and we chat on twitter.

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  2. Lol, when I read Hot Pot, you had me worried for a minute! I'm like, you don't eat pot, you'll die!!! Haha.

    And I like this culture. Sounds a lot like cave woman. Direct. But I don't think I'd survive. I usually say about twenty words instead of three, lol.

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  3. I attended my first conference last year, and I loved it! I think the key to really networking well is to sincerely be interesting in people. I'm with you, it can feel false if you feel like people are only interested in you for what you can do for them. I hate that!

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  4. Hope all goes well for you, Melissa, and that you enjoy the occasion.

    My thoughts … echo your own. I am not that sort of person and prefer to know where I stand with someone. I could never have been a sales person in business, unless I was promoting something in which I truly believed … and then I would add that the person did not need to order or sunscribe or whatever, if he/she did not want to. I find it hard to promote my books as well.

    My next thought is that if you are just yourself that people will respond to your personality … and you can just listen politely to those who are talking 'crap'.

    The Spanish are a very direct people – and I like that about them, which is part of why I enjoy living here.

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  5. I've never been to a conference, but I've made up my mind to attend one or two when my book comes out next year. Me — I'm a social wallflower, standing in the background, not knowing how to enter a conversation and not feel like an interrupting buffoon. It's a bad habit I've got to kick, being too shy to converse with strangers. Conferences seem like a good way to go about it.

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  6. I'm not a comfortable networker either…I don't mind small talk, etc, but I feel like I suck at any interaction that isn't agenda-free, on my part at least. I don't mind other people's agendas, though that doesn't mean I buy into them either.

    Have fun at the conference! Wish I could go.

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  7. I feel quite the same about “networking.” I hate to shmooze…but your approach is a good one. Enjoy meeting new people who have the same goal as you. Please take notes and post 🙂

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  8. I'm with you aguja. I would make the worst sales person. I both welcome and dread the day I have a book to promote. Perhaps I shall move to Spain (Have I told you, I am travelling to Northern Spain in May?)

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  9. I'm really uncomfortable being in a situation where I'm supposed to be “networking” with people I don't know. It's not so bad if you're all at least sharing a common interest (like a writing conference), but in my day job I've been thrown into things that are basically like a “mixer” where people from a lot of different professions are thrown together to network.

    It's ghastly.

    I think it's good to attend those things with a buddy so you have someone to help you brave the lions den!

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  10. I really hate small talk, but I genuinely love meeting other people who are excited about writing for kids. I have found that the meeting and greeting at SCBWI events feels so much more sincere than “networking” at other events. It's not fake and schmoozy, it's a bunch of excited and nice people who are happy to be there and meet each other.

    I hope you have a great time! I go to the summer conference every year and I love it.

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