Friday, April 28, 2006

City Wide Drill as Networking Opportunity

I participated in the City Wide Drill on April 22nd. The City Wide Drill is a disaster preparedness drill sponsored by the Fire Department and utilizing the NERT squads. NERT stands for Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams and we NERTs are trained by the Fire Department.

We all know that when disaster strikes, the Fire Department will be overwhelmed and we are going to have to help ourselves. We live in earthquake country. It's a question of when, how soon, not if.

I like these drills. I always learn something and I always meet interesting people. And we have self-sorted. We are all interested in helping ourselves and our community. We believe in being prepared. We are willing to commit a certain amount of time and energy to learning and participating in activities that contribute to the greater good.

I ran into two people I hadn't seen in a while. One is a woman I see when I facilitate labyrinth walks at Grace Cathedral. And one is someone I met at a previous drill. And I met some folks I did not know.

I'm going to get more involved. I want to learn how to use a Ham radio -- you know that a lot of the language of the Internet, with handles and codes, comes from the Ham radio world. I want to learn more about setting up the command centers. So, I have a new node in my network and I'm going to pursue this connection. And what makes this so powerful is that it isn't about me, it's not about selling, it's about something other than myself.

My suggestion to you is: "Get out there. Do something. Participate in some community activity." It's up to you what that will be and what you can commit to. But it's fun, it's an opportunity to move in different worlds, and it's good for more than just the individual. Find your City Wide Drills and your NERT groups. Join them.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Selling your books: Making it personal

I have just posted an article on my blog, Cinnabar Books about how one author is successfully selling his book through his personal networking efforts. Check it out.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Networking + Fear. One of the reasons people attend my workshop and one of the reasons I personally find networking so difficult, so draining, is fear.

Fear that I won't succeed. Fear that no one will talk to me, or want to talk to me. Fear that even if I say "Hello," somehow I will be ignored or sent home. Fear that even as old as I am I'll be a "wallflower."

My tongue will get tied. My mouth will dry up. I'll be shot on the spot (or at least shot down) for having the temerity (the courage) to show up and participate. How dare I?

What is it that is so very fearful? Why are we afraid even when we know better and have positive experiences to balance out the negative ones?

I went to a networking event in San Francisco one night. It was called First Thursdays and I had agreed to meet an architect there. We have been introduced by a mutual acquaintance and this seemed liked a good place to meet. No long lunches, but an opportunity to use the time to say hello, gather some non-verbal information, see if there is anything to pursue that might be mutually beneficial.

The venue was easy for me to get to -- so I wasn't worried about spending a lot of time getting someplace and getting home. I'd been giving my workshops on networking for a couple of years and I knew a lot of tips and tricks about how to handle uncomfortable situations. So, I went. No worries, right?

I walked off the elevator into the ante room and the buzz, the noise level, was high. There was a lot of energy in the main room, lots of talking. I could feel it and hear it. I looked into this big salon area and I was immediately afraid. Straight into fear mode. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Fear. Wall of noise. Visually what I saw was groups of people standing around talking. It seemed to me that everyone was occupied, that all these groups were closed, that no one would appreciate me interrupting them. I was in panic mode. I could not do this.

I also realized I didn't have a clue what this architect looked like. Slim, heavy. Beard, balding. Nada. I had forgotten to ask him to wear a red carnation.

My mouth went dry. Thoughts ran rabidly through my head: I have to go. I can't do this. No one will talk to me. Everyone else knows someone. Everyone else is already engaged. The cliques are formed and closed. My gosh, it was just like grammar school.

I told myself, "You can do this. You can do this. You teach a class about this for gosh sakes."

So, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes slowly and opened them slowly. I decided to find a place to drop my coat and briefcase and to find the bar, the ladies room, and the food. I figured the easiest thing to do was to simply scope out the physical environment. Look at the room, which was lovely. The event was being held in The University Club, an old, elegant building on Nob Hill.

So, I walked into the bar, a more quiet place, got a tall glass of water, and moved again into the main salon. I then walked around the edges of the crowd, found a place to put my coat. By this time I had spoken to 1 person, the bartender. Yay.

I found the buffet table, and I picked up some celery (nothing creamy or messy to spill on my clothes)... and wandered again around the edge of the crowd. I finally relaxed enough to finally see that some other folks were also standing by themselves. I stood close to one and turned and said "Hello."

From that point on, I was in conversation. I talked to one person, then moved on and talked to someone else. I even got up my courage to stand near a small group (3 people) and "lurk," listen in, and eventually participate. One time, I lurked and then wandered off. No one had paid attention to me, so I moved on.

So, why did I tell that story? Well, it's about fear. And it's about fear showing up even when you know, really know, you can handle things. Even when you look comfortable, competent. Inside you may be feeling something very different.

That fear, that sense that everyone in the room knows someone, that no one will talk to me, that the cliques are formed and closed and I'm outside, that it is simply too hard -- can hit us all. At any time -- it can surprise us.

And it's about slowing down. It's about taking stock. It's about doing what you can and taking baby steps. It's about saying "Hello." Do something you are comfortable with.

I feel stronger when I have more information -- when I know where things are, where the exits, the escape routes, and where the ladies rooms are. I am also comfortable with bars and bartenders. I am comfortable asking for water.

Walk around the edges. Take stock of what is really going on. Look for what's happening on the edges -- where others might be standing or sitting alone. Where someone might be getting food.

Say "Hello." Break the ice. Listen. If they turn and glare at you, move away. Chances are they won't shoot you. Chances are there is at least one more person there equally scared, equally paralyzed. Say "Hello" to someone else. Give them that gift.

I didn't meet up with the architect. He wasn't able to get away. As a matter of fact, I never met up with that architect. I guess it wasn't meant to happen.

I general, I tend to shy away from events like this one -- large, un-purposed mixers. I am too uncomfortable. And I hate small talk. But it's important to get out there and deal with our fears. Just say "Hello."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Bea and Ethel in conversation

I love this picture of my mother, Beatrice, and her best friend, Ethel. I took this picture sometime in the 1960s or 1970s at our dining room table in Sacramento. That's my dad's hand in the foreground. My mother and Ethel were both school teachers and they were always talking about education, politics, and the system. It is such a great picture -- of two people talking and listening and sharing. It is the essence of human connection. I'd much rather do this than network, wouldn't you?


I give a popular workshop called "I Hate Networking!" in the San Francisco Bay Area. To get the blog started, I'm going to list some of my resources that others find helpful.

The first of these are some online communities you might like to check out: LinkedIN, which I belong to; Bay Area Link Up, which I also belong to; Ryze; Friendster; Tribe; My Space.

Networking, when done well and done right, is about developing relationships. It's about connecting and listening, and helping out. It's about exchanging value. I'll talk more about these ideas as the blog develops, but for now, think of networking as listening and paying attention -- not as selling and spewing your 30 second elevator speech.