Last Week’s Networking: A ReviewPosted by Antonia
Last week was networking week for Write Ahead. We attended both the FWE Garden Party at the VAG on Monday, and the BuylocalCanada.ca launch party at Venue on Wednesday. The two events showed us how different one event can be from another and how each is effective. They also brought to mind questions of networking etiquette.
On Monday, Jessica and I changed out of our cycling gear into our summer dresses and heels for the FWE Garden Party. Armed with reusable magnetic nametags from Imprint Plus, a local company headed up by two savvy businesswomen, we wound our way up the Vancouver Art Gallery escalators arriving at the covered rooftop patio. It felt like the first warm and sunny day of summer and this was the perfect place to be. Vendors promoted their wares as a delightful catering service wound around the guests offering tasty mise en bouches and beverages.
I must admit that seeing all of these well-dressed, entrepreneurial women was intimidating at first, but I quickly realised that the atmosphere was inquisitive, supportive and cheerful. We mingled and chatted to women who’ve been in business for thirty years and listened to them croon about their professional nostalgic milestones. We hoped that we’d be able to make similar celebrations down the road. We also met women who had just launched a business or were just thinking about it. They were at the event to meet like-minded people and to shoot ideas around. And all you guys out there, just an FYI that this event was not only for the girls. Although the minority, there was a solid male representation at the event. I give kudos to these guys because they knew that FWE was the place to be on Monday evening.
After the announcement of the new FWE CEO, Jill Earthy of momcafe, the flowing wine helped to enliven an already jovial atmosphere. I noticed that heels were shed and dangled in the hand not holding a glass, and talk became much more casual. This triggered thoughts about networking etiquette. How comfy can you afford get in a room full of strangers? When are you being too formal or not formal enough? Most people would say that this is based on a common sense response. But I find that strangely, common sense is not as common as we’d like to believe. Thoughts?
This leads me to Wednesday’s 5:30pm BuylocalCanada.ca event, which contrasted heavily with the FWE Garden Party. First off, the event was at Venue, a local nightclub on Granville Street. They even had us line up outside the door. This was reminiscent of when I, at age 20, used to do the same thing at the same location, when it was called Plaza Club. When we were granted entry (and no they didn’t check my ID this time), we were prompted to make a donation to the Michael Cuccione Foundation, were given a nametag, 2 free drinks and a raffle ticket for an ipad. In we went. It was dark, there were coloured lights and music was playing.
The crowd was prominently men: in suits, in jeans, game faces on. In this environment, it seemed easier at the outset to schmooze with people. In fact, the atmosphere reminded me of an after work bar in Toronto, Schmooze, that caters to the downtown business crowd and mixes networking with copious cocktails, loud music and partying. The evening, punctuated by a presentation about the sponsored charitable foundation, a panel, and an explanation about the new business, involved much mingling, introductions and small conversations.
I noticed that at some point mid-way through the event, people began to coagulate into little groups of 3-5 people, making it difficult to enter into a conversation. How does one interject? I wonder about the etiquette regarding this. Also, the party versus business question came to mind again. I know that in Japan, networking has a long term appeal and business negotiations can go on for months or years. These courting phases usually involve meetings surrounded by food, drink and entertainment. Germany does something similar, often hosting company entertainment and events in less-expensive, neighbouring Hungary. So, I’m led to understand that networking is sort of like partying, and may very likely overlap with it in many ways. And the best recommendation that I can give myself in that case is: just go in, be yourself and don’t make too much of an effort to be the coolest or the most popular, rather, remain respectful, polite and in control.