Posted by: Rukhsana Khan in: self-image
When I was thinking of writing this blog, I had to smile, remembering back to when I first started out in this field.
I’d get so nervous going to any sort of writer type party where I’d be meeting the ‘movers and shakers’.
I’d think strategy. How to get the ‘most’ out of the ‘opportunity’.
I don’t do that any more.
It’s all so phoney baloney! And I really can’t stand the fakery!
But there is a definite art to schmoozing, and in some ways I think I may have mastered it.
At least I seem to get a lot out of these types of parties now that I’ve stopped trying to impress people.
And yes, I think that’s the key.
Do not go with the intention of trying to impress anyone. That should help set you apart from everyone else who is trying to do just that.
Also, go alone!
When you go with friends, chances are you’re going to spend the whole evening with your friends.
People don’t like getting out of their comfort zones! So go alone if you possibly can.
Secondly don’t drink any alcohol.
It will cloud your judgment, or at least that’s what I’ve been told.
As a teetotaler, I have found that you actually *learn* a lot more, you gain a lot more from these events if your mind is clear and unimpaired by any sort of intoxication.
Even if I only go there to soak up the ambiance of such a function so that I can write about it accurately later on, stay away from the booze!
And also, remember, that the artistic community seems to draw to itself more than their fair share of…um…hmm…what I mean to say is people in the arts industry can be…hmm…how do I put this diplomatically?
I don’t think I can, so I’ll just go ahead and say it…people in the arts industry can be downright nuts! Flakey! Artsy fartsy! You need to keep your head about you!
So don’t drink!
I remember one time, at a party, I met this columnist who had really enjoyed one of my books, The Roses in My Carpets and we were talking about the impact of the book on kids when up came this high-powered lady, wearing a business suit, brandishing her business cards, scooted right between us, in the middle of an earnest conversation, and started spouting off her business model.
I’m pretty sure she must have gone to some workshop on ‘how to work a room’, schmoozing with purpose you could say, and me and the columnist just watched her do her schtick, make a complete fool of herself, and when she was done, she waltzed off to bother someone else, and we continued our conversation.
The object of schmoozing should be to make very real connections at a party like this. What that lady did was just plain stupid.
I have seen a lot of people do stuff like that, and it just wastes everyone’s time and is downright embarrassing.
To be perfectly honest, I might have tried that approach myself in the past, when I was just starting out and didn’t know any better. Needless to say I don’t do that any more.
The best thing you can do when going to a party like this is going to sound so obvious and maybe even counter intuitive. My best advice is to relax.
DON’T SUCK UP TO ANYONE! It’s not worth the price of your dignity!
I don’t care how desperate you are, don’t do it! You won’t respect yourself in the morning.
Basically my motto is to be honest!
If you haven’t read a person’s book, DON’T ever say that you have! Speak the truth!
And when in the presence of ‘royalty’ ask questions! Respectful, dignified questions that you honestly do want the answers to.
And this is the painful part, when you run out of things to say…SHUT UP!
Whatever you do, don’t babble!
You may or may not get the opportunity to make an impression. Let such an opportunity arise naturally. DO NOT FORCE IT! You’ll look like an idiot! (Another reason not to drink!)
The funny thing is that now I’m actually in the position that sometimes people try to suck up to me. I had one publisher once tell me how much they loved Big Red Lollipop. Then they went on to say that their child had grown up loving it!
I asked how old their child was and it turned out they were in their teens.
Big Red Lollipop has only been a book for three years now. The person was obviously lying.
I always take note of when people lie to me. It is a blot on their character, as far as I’m concerned.
Oh I’ll still deal with them, but I’ve got red flags waving in the back of my mind as I do so.
Oh to think back when I first started in the field. I’d be brandishing my business cards and barging into conversations too.
I still have my business cards ready! ALWAYS HAVE THEM READY! But I only hand them out if it comes up.
Some of the changes in my demeanor are probably a result of experience and confidence. When you’re not confident, it’s so easy to come across as over eager.
I would be bent on making as many contacts as I possibly could.
Nowadays I just drift with the tide, I strike up conversations with total strangers, and somehow I’m good at drawing people out.
For instance, went to a Christmas party just last Monday and started talking to a theater musician type, very talented guy, and I mentioned my gig with Dan Hill and the things I’d learned from it and then we got to talking about how people mis-hear lyrics and all the funny things that can result with that.
And then he mentioned something about ‘Free Bird’.
Oh, forgot to mention, it really really helps to be genuinely curious about people!!! So I asked him what the ‘Free Bird’ reference was, and he explained that it was a musician joke that at the end of a song set someone would yell out for them to do, “Free Bird”.
And when I asked him to explain he said he couldn’t, it was just a musician reference.
So curious thing that I am, I came home and looked it up on the internet. And Free Bird turns out to be a fourteen minute song by the band Lynyrd Skynyrd and it has this really long and amazing guitar solo in it, and yes, it’s a musician joke, kind of a tradition thing among musicians because the song is so long…
Not sure how and if I’ll ever be able to use that in a story but you might be surprised! You never know when these odd little references crop up!
So basically when it comes to schmoozing, relax, be curious, and have a good time! If you come away from a party having made even one really good connection, it’s all worthwhile.
And you never know where these connections you make will pan out. You just never know!
And really who cares?
Have a good time!
Be true to yourself, be honest and be curious, and it’s all good.
These days I often come away from a party having made at least two or three really good connections.