I like people. And I like meeting new people. But I don’t think that’s the same thing as networking. I was talking with a friend of mine at lunch before leaving for a conference involving “networking.”
“The fact that it has the word ‘work’ in it, is an indication, it’s not supposed to be fun. Am I right, or am I right?” I asked.
“Oh, you’re right, girl. But you gotta know how to work it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.
“I’m just saying, networking is about gettin’ out there and meetin’ the right people.”
“I can network, I just don’t like to.” I said defensively.
“Hmm-humm.” She said with one of those “Girl, you are lying through your teeth” side smirks that involves a half cocked eyebrow.
“I can! I’m actually pretty good at it.” I said lying through my teeth.
Now, a polite friend would have let it drop there, both of us knowing it wasn’t true, but Evette is not one of those friends. She’s the friend you go to when you REALLY want to know the truth, because she can lay it out like a chemistry teacher breaking down the periodic chart with scientific truths and charged chemical reactions!
“Tell me about one of your networking successes.” She demanded.
Ten minutes later I finally blurted out “I talked to Carol Burnette!”
“You did not!” she began.
“I did too. Remember, it was at the Fox Theatre ten years ago and a few of us talked to her after her program…” I continued with revisionist history firmly in place.
I could see the gears spinning as she tried to recall what I told her all those years ago.
“You’re talking ‘bout the time she took questions from the audience and you were up in the second dress circle?”
“It may have been. I don’t remember.” I said standing to search for the waiter.
“And you yelled out a question while she was still talking?”
“I didn’t- it – the microphone wasn’t working!” I explained.
“Oh that’s right.” She agreed and proceeded to laugh loudly as she retold the story. “That’s why you started yelling! And, the security thought you were a heckler and tried to have you removed!”
I gave up looking for the waiter and sat down, hoping her laugh fest would soon pass.
“I think I know what your problem is.” She said seriously. “You don’t know what networking means.”
“Networking means talking to people you don’t know, so you can sell them something they don’t want, while trying not to be boring or intoxicated.” I said, confidently regurgitating a networking 101 blog I read.
For some reason she thought this was hysterical and fell into another fit of laughter, drawing the attention of a friend of ours entering the restaurant.
“Evette! Shay! Hi. What’s so funny?” Kimberly asked coming over to join us.
“It’s nothing.” I said, spotting the waiter coming from the kitchen and waived profusely.
“Shay thinks yelling at someone on stage is networking.” Evette said laughing.
“Like when you heckled Carol Burnett?” Kimberly asked, trying to understand.
“What? No! She’s just – she’s joking. See how she’s laughing? How’s Benjamin?” I asked Kimberly, trying to change the subject.
“I don’t know. I just don’t think this long distance romance is going to work.” She said thoughtfully.
“Long distance? I thought you lived together.” I said.
Evette stopped laughing and we both looked at Kimberly confused.
“It’s the long distance romance, that’s the problem.” She reiterated. When we continued to look dumbfounded, she whispered “We’re only having sex once a month. Don’t you think that’s a pretty long distance in between?”
Evette and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. If networking were as easy as getting together with friends and laughing at each other, I’d do it all the time.
Epilogue: My networking skills failed once again while at the Austin Film Festival when I only managed to network with a homeless man that wandered in and a call girl looking to get “discovered.”