If you look at the Small Business Shamen schedule, note the periods when the stage will be quiet. During these biologically necessary periods, most people will mill around looking for a familiar face to kill time with, check their email, or pretend to be really, really interested in the lunch menu.
Don’t do that!
Promise me right now that you will shamelessly introduce yourselves to complete strangers — to people who asked interesting questions, to the mayor and the panelists, to those who work for interesting companies or who have exotic accents or…I don’t know… are wearing better-than-average shoes.
(This is one of my worst things. I tend to stand straight up with back to wall as if awaiting execution. This work-the-room promise I’m asking all you Shamen to make, I am making myself: I will be a networking Shamaniac! I will meet interesting people and learn interesting things. I will bring business cards and breath mints.)
Follow the advice of Susan RoAne who literally wrote the book on working a room, which she craftily titled How to Work a Room. (These creative people: how do they do it?) In a section called “Make an Entrance” she writes the following:
When you arrive at the event, take a deep breath, stand tall, and walk into the room. Hanging out in the doorway creates a fire hazard, a traffic problem, and the impression that you’re timid.
True story: when I was young and absolutely nobody, trying to make it Big in Hollywood, an actor friend invited me to a party given by Playboy magazine. When we got there — in fact, when we were only a few feet from the door — he informed me that he had not technically been invited to the party. The key to getting through security was to walk in with absolute confidence, eyes focused on someone already inside as if zeroing in on an old friend.
“Treat the people at the door like furniture,” he said. “They only have the power to stop you if acknowledge them and give them the power to stop you.”
He cruised in like he was the guest of honor, waving at imaginary friends deep in the room and going quickly over to an elegantly dressed and apparently powerful man to apologize for arriving late. I got stopped and spent the next 30 minutes in the parking lot, sulking, before my friend came out to retrieve me, a couple of rocks glasses of good whiskey in his hands both to bolster my courage and use as evidence that we’d just stepped outside for a minute…probably to do something glamorously criminal.
This is my last request, as Official Shamen Blogger: own the place. The conference is yours for the taking. Come in with absolute confidence and meet everyone you want to meet. To get you into the swing of things, introduce yourself to me for practice. I’ll be the guy over by the wall, wearing better-than-average red shoes.