Hello, My Name Is...
Ew, right? I mean, there can be an icky-ness to the whole networking thing... the flesh-pressing, the high-pressure sales-y stuff, the 'so-what-do-you-do?' and gawd, will this guy shut up a second and maybe hear what I have to say? And no thanks, I don't want to be in your downline, or buy life insurance.
I've been fortunate to be a part of a group that is striving to take out the icky and make these events a focused and highly valuable resource for holistic practitioners in the Greater Philadelphia area. I've written about it before here and here.
I was at one again last night... about 25 people squished into a circle in the upstairs space of Creative Healing Arts in West Chester, PA. Some I knew: Bob Butera, director of YogaLife Institute (now forever known as "Famous Bob"); Jeanie, owner of CHA; Laura, half mime/half MLM-er; Allison, massage therapist; Curtis, 'peaceful productivity' guy mentioned here; Jim, sweat lodge and Byron Katie-workshop facilitator; Sharon, acupuncturist/knitting nut.
And then a few new faces (for me): the Yoga Laughter couple, singing bowl guy, a psychologist, a woman who does Matrix Energetics (!!), another woman - Reiki gal - who's hosting an event I will TOTALLY be at. And more.
So, what makes a good networking event?
Sometimes these things don't really take off. Or are, as I said, icky. So, what seems to happen at CHA that leaves everyone buzzing for days afterward?
- Promotion: They let people know it's happening. A lot. And often. Emailing them. Calling them. Asking them to bring friends.
- Nametags: Kind of a cliche' staple for these sort of things, but seriously? It does help.
- Sign in sheet: This helps the host keep track of who was there, their contact info and request additions to the newsletter list.
- Structure: Having a manageable time window (this one is an hour and a half) seems more doable for most busy folks. CHA allows a brief time for people to wander in, say hi, and then they go upstairs to the more open space. There, someone (usually Bob) will state the intention and the guidelines, which is to go around the circle and allow everyone to give a brief 3-sentence introduction. This piece is crucial and becoming more ruthlessly adhered to, as people love to share what they do and will go on for hours if allowed. After the intro and important updates concerning the Philly Wellness Council's activities, we are free to connect with whomever we want for the remaining time.
- Snacks: Not necessary, but certainly welcomed. At least beverages.
- Atmosphere: CHA is lovely anyway. But Jeanie takes extra care to make sure the place looks nice, the paper products are stocked, the lights are just right, and the music is 'network-y': lively but very much in the background.
- Location: It helps that CHA is accessible to many areas, even if in "the Wild West" end of the Philly area.
It was a productive night, and I think I'm getting used to the whole talking-to-people thing. At least after I've been there about an hour or so. One of the highlights for me was announcing in the circle of introductions that I will soon be a part of the 'practitioners circle' at CHA, and was given a round of applause! Yay! As well as getting to hang out a bit in the gorgeous office I'll be working in, and scheming with my potential office-mate about how to keep Jeanie's cushy armchairs from being taken out of that room.
There's still a ways to go, as Famous Bob was informing us, in terms of creating an administration, preferably paid, to organize and keep the momentum going behind successful events like these. Philly Wellness Council is starting to pull it together, creating an organized and energetic holistic presence in the Philadelphia area, and I have to say, again, when I sit in a room as I did last night, I beam a little just be a part of it all.