This week I’m heading off to the IABSE Future of Design conference (still not making any damn commission). However, unlike most of the events I’ve been to in my semi-professional career, I’m not coming with a cooperate plus-one. In fact, I’m heading off into the dark unknown without a designated buffet buddy. This means that to be anything but a flounder in the sea of dynamic business cards I’m going to have to Network; a word that chills me to the core.
It’s the Catch 22 of all the tedious “initiatives” that are founded on a reasonable idea; it’ll be no fun if you sit and ignore everyone, but if you start talking around you’ll inevitably be Networking.
A quick search online turns up 24 tips of how to have a conversation without the other person hating you; but these “7 Habits of Intolerable People” rub me up so much the wrong way. But why? Taking that I’m heading for a whole day and a dinner of it, I thought I’d do some waffle-led soul-searching. Pick up your RJ45 crimp-tool (what a geek…); we’re going to talk about Networking.
That fact is that, as an engineer, my levels of cynicism are simply too high to tolerate being networked at. It’s that modern “humans are resources” approach to interaction that leads to the clever idea of making your workforce feel empowered by forcing them to do something apparently empowering. There’s just something disingenuous about formalizing interaction.
By extension the introduction of Networking has added a layer of dishonestly to the whole affair. Previously you could go to a conference and just talk to people; maybe you’d make a friend, or get to know someone. Editorial Opines by “thought leaders” have, however, like the Daily Mail to a multicultural society- seeded dubious but incendiary rumours that ‘the other-side’ are already being “proactive and creating a list of people [to Network with]”.
What makes it worse is, as with the queue that forms in-front of the checkout desk for an EasyJet flight; once one person does it, you’ve got to start Networking too- or face the life equivalent of having no room in the overhead compartments. Perhaps this is just the healthy outcome of always being picked last for sports; but there’s something of the playground in it all.
To round it off, it also makes it difficult to genuinely pull off interested, or worse- make an invitation, without comparing unfavourably to George Lucas’ treatment of Starwars (really: what a geek). It’s the Catch 22 of all the tedious “initiatives” that are founded on a reasonable idea; it’ll be no fun if you sit and ignore everyone, but if you start talking around you’ll inevitably be Networking- dammit.
That said; if you are going to the IABSE Future of Design conference this Thursday. I’m going to be there, on my laz [Ed. technical term; to be awe-inspiring]. Looking like this (see left). So why not Say Hi so that I don’t have to dynamically network at people and make a tit of myself. Honestly- I’m only half as unlikable as I sound.
You never know- you could well escape one of my terrible jokes.