CILIP Conference 2017: Part 3 – The art of lazy networking

To the evening reception! This year’s event was at the Museum of Science and Industry and it was an impressive venue that I spent a nanosecond exploring before I started chatting.

It’s tricky to get networking at conferences right. The received wisdom is that as practically everyone is a stranger you can just go up to anyone and say hi to them. In theory that’s fine, but in practice it feels quite forced. Also, bowling up to someone and saying “HIIII!” in a decidedly tiggerish way really freaks people out. I’ve had some bad networking experiences at conferences that come back to haunt me in the dead of night. Part of the problem is that I try too hard, forgetting that it’s not up to me to make all of the conversational effort. Networking has to be a two-way process.

I have, in the past, encountered a small handful of people who fall into the category of ‘Just a bit rude’. Being socially awkward is completely fine and I get it. I probably understand that more than anyone knows, as I spent a considerable amount of time last year not being able to have meaningful, intelligent conversations with anyone. I generally find that librariany types are nice; we’re used to dealing with people after all, but that some find enthusiasm a bit wearing and I can go into YAY! LIBRARIES! WOOHOO! mode when I feel a conversation isn’t going well.

giphy3

It feels much more natural if you chat to the people around you in the lunch queue, or when you sit down at a session. As I don’t drink tea or coffee I don’t get to join the queues for those so it makes networking during the morning and afternoon breaks a bit harder. During the first morning break I felt a bit panicky – completely my own fault as I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to be outgoing, funny and generally great company AT ALL TIMES and it’s really hard to live up to that. I went for a little walk to calm down and resolved not to be so hard on myself. The rest of the day I networked like a demon and felt much better about it all.

It feels like a bit of a cheat but if you know one or two people really well you can rely on them to act as a social buffer. It also means you can be quite lazy about networking. At the evening reception I decided to calm the heck down and just enjoy it with people that I knew and liked. CILIP had organised a ‘getting to know you’ bingo game which I didn’t take part in myself, but I was able to assist some of the participants with answers to the questions. Later in the evening we were joined by lovely CILIP people and the evening got very interesting.

It’s kind-of difficult to explain my job to people and no-one knows what the acronym for my organisation stands for, so it’s a good talking point. I spent a lot of time chatting to the lovely Juanita about what I do. I sometimes forget what an interesting (and sometimes challenging but always rewarding) job I have. This means that when I am asked about my job, I can go on for absolutely ages. We also spoke about Fellowship, too and she was incredibly supportive. Prior to the conference I was seriously considering giving up on it, but she convinced me otherwise.

As a result of that I’ve made all kinds of interesting connections and some very good things could happen over the next few months. I’ve always felt before that as I run an unusual library, I don’t quite ‘belong’ in CILIP but maybe that’s changing.

Learning points:

  1. Don’t get into such a state about the pressure to network that it becomes overwhelming.
  2. Find ‘your’ people and spend time with them rather than trying to persuade the disinterested that you’re amazing (and making them dislike you more)
  3. If you look like you’re having a good time the fun, interesting people gravitate towards you (or they try to rescue the person you’re with. One of the two.)

Next: Day 2 of the conference. Likely to be very short as I was tired (see above)

 

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