Networking Events are bloody hard work if you ask me.
I’ve been to a few, wandering about with a weirdly flavoured crisp in my hand and a glass of warm white vinegar… or perhaps a strangely metallic orange juice. I might have a name label. If my name is spelled correctly I might wear it. If it’s not, I might just leave.
I look around the room for someone that I already know. If there isn’t anyone, I might just leave.
Sometimes a keen enthusiastic person might say “Hello! who are you?”. I am mostly horrified by this, and at the earliest opportunity without appearing rude, I might just leave.
Sometimes I make myself stay.
Sometimes I make myself talk to someone.
On these occasions I never give a good account of either myself or my work. I might as well have just left.
Sometimes, Private Views are like this too. If the work is good, I might stay. If I don’t like it, I might just leave.
All of these things I enter into with a sense of optimism, that can be seen on my car park ticket. The event runs from 6-8, so instead of paying for the hour I struggle to manage, I have paid for four hours, having in my head some ideal situation where I discover a bundle of like-minded souls who say, “Let’s go to the pub!” and we continue the scintillating conversation and live happily ever after.
This never happens. Or if it does, I’m not there, because they’ve all been waiting for me to leave before anyone suggests it, in case I decide to go with them and make it a miserable affair.
On the other hand…
I have a network.
My network consists of people with whom I have had accidental, incidental conversations with. These people might have said things to me in a corner of a pretentious exhibition, that have made me snort wine down my nose. They stayed with me to provide cover while I composed myself.
These people have, over a period of several years, been kind to me…offered wisdom and consolation… sworn derisively… posted interesting articles on Facebook… made pithy comments about my work on my blog… asked really difficult questions that make me think… shared cake… made me tea just how I like it (or not, but they have hobnobs, so it’s ok) … I have chatted about everything and anything. They have made a beeline for me and we have hugged… I have cheered and spilled milk all over them… I have sung songs with… played bad percussion with… I have laughed, or cried with them…I have held very serious political conversations that are ended with comments that cannot be argued with like “Yeah, but he’s a knob and his mouth frays at the edges…”
This is PROPER NETWORKING… this cannot be faked. The real thing. These are the networks that provide opportunity, support, friendship and love – yes – love… and I’ll take that over the professionally plastic sort any day.