The enigma that is networking events

After unsuccessfully fighting the incessant urge to attend at least one networking event per month, a recent weekend found me occupying space at a book café. It’s simply a forum where literati meet and apart from gossip, being the normal pastime for the common mwananchi, discuss books. Books don’t read themselves. Books don’t exchange themselves too.

Attendees also exchange pleasantries, ideas on a certain theme, their products, their phone numbers and even announce more book cafes. If things work according to script, these happen in that order and somehow in between, there’s a coffee break with real coffee. That’s noteworthy. The last time I had a coffee break experience, I was on internship in a government office. The drill was simple; loiter around the corridors for half an hour finding my way back to my back-breaking seat in front of the PC.

I didn’t know however that I’d be saddled with the burden of knowing ‘what-to-say-to-who’ while obviously pretending their shoes are nice before they blurt out how expertly I tied the tie. The most interesting part was where we had to queue up for a self-serving of bananas and couple up to continue with inane chatter, like monkeys, after the sit-in sessions.

Well, such events can be an uphill task to a generation that is largely masked by social media. I’m that sorry segment of humanity that fits themselves in their little bubble, huddled at a corner, solo, at a networking event. In fact, I was intimidated to sit next to a pair of lads who seemed to be finishing each others sentences as they traded inside jokes. Either way, before I could decide that I and networking events have no real potential, my hand rose up to volunteer to ‘chair’ the after-break session. Head, shoulders, knees and toes had to obviously adjust to the new turn of events and follow suit.

Professionals value their networks, I’d say. Big fish get to brush shoulders with the small fry in the industry. Business cards are swapped and opportunities unveiled. Seemingly, a frenzy of employee poaching takes place. That’s not unhealthy.

Writers, and their publishers or such ilk, are not so professional because our event started like a foggy rumor shared via Whatsapp, culminated into a date-and-venue issue and ended amidst a heated argument on how the government is so poor at telling lies. That’s the take-home. In the least, you get to know how the writer of column X, book Y or blog Z looks like while making sinful judgments if they wear track pants when not in an actual athletic situation. Quite interestingly, you realize some people are ugly but can make you laugh a lot. Sorry.

Moreover, you should know what’s in your pants too. I ended up pulling out a used straw-tube while reaching out for a pen in my pockets. But unlike phones, messing up is as old as human. How to crack networking events? – Be good, do good, look good.

Networking events can be real fun. If you’re still bragging of your drinking prowess at the pub, you’re a loser.

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