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The new networking

10/18/2010

Beautiful Readers,

I have always found the idea of social networking icky overall unless it is completely above board. Above board as in, “hi, my name’s Alix, nice party huh? Would you mind if I told you about something I’d like you to spend money on?”. Especially in it’s smoothest, most social form, networking seems totally disingenuous to me like the business equivilent of air kissing.

I mean business is business and social is social, right? So when did this crossover thing “networking” become normal? It makes people who might just want to get to know you as a person, wary, and forces people who want to buy what you’ve got listen to innocuous social chatter when they might prefer to just know what you have to sell.

And yet here we are. And it’s unlikely my eye rolling is going to change anything (and makes me seem rude at parties), but perhaps there is a solution, and last night I was introduced to one that seemed appropriate and charming.

The annual Wellesley College alumni association meeting is a dry affair involving someone at the podium talking about the usual roster of alums’ awe inspiring achievements and humbly acknowledged victories followed by an assorted cookie platter and a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

In the past I have always wondered what to talk about in the hang-out portion of this event. I think about wellness a lot and tend to believe it has applications to many different topics-plus it’s one of the few things I feel I can really contribute to any conversation-maybe im just getting to be a wonky wellness bore and should do more reading so i have other things to talk about–but an evening without fitness or alternative medicine would be rare for me in any social environment.

But yet, I feel self conscious when I end up as conspicuous wellness guru at these kinds of events– but whats a woman to do? Folks ask me stuff once they know what I think about all day. And people love to talk with me about their own experiences with fitness and wellness – which I thoroughly enjoy. And those conversations often lead to things that connect directly to my company no matter how hard I try to keep the conversation strictly academic.

And sometimes these conversations even lead to sales. As in, she says ” I don’t know, I’m having trouble sleeping, and I’m feeling really stiff, and slightly depressed, and somewhat stuck in my life right now.” at this moment I am blinded by the bright lights and loud buzzer on the sign flashing ‘YOGA’ above the speaker’s head.

But in my little world-Yoga equals Beth (the very best, most professional yoga instructor I have ever had the pleasure of learning from-with a suburb sense of humor to boot), and Beth works for us, and next thing I know I’m waxing poetic about how the answer to the woman’s concern is Beth, and since Beth costs money and I get some of that money, I may also be closing a sale. Drat! Or hooray? I’m not always sure.

I guess the bottom line is- I wish I could do this stuff for free. Healing arts, right? Sounds like something that should be free doesn’t it? But unfortunately my landlord doesn’t work in the healing arts and nor does Beth’s. And Time Warner Cable doesn’t work in the healing arts and there’s no special healing arts card to use at the supermarket.

But I think the Wellesley Alum meeting handled the networking issue beautifully this year. After electing officials to do things alumnae do-the President of the group asked if anyone had an event they wanted to promote or a business they wanted to talk about. And a handful of us did! And talked about them. And that was that. And it felt great.

An opportunity for such a frank disclosure of what pays the bills for you can really make all the difference. Several people approached me right afterwards to tell me about their favorite trainer or how tai chi had changed their lives, a couple people asked for cards and a couple people gave me theirs. And then the party started in earnest.

I was free to talk about anything I wanted without people wondering what I was up to. I waxed poetic about my love of allergy shots (they work and they are often covered by insurance) Talked about guys (de rigeur) asked about a volunteer thing coming up, and had a discussion with someone about hosting a wellness themed event for alums. Hooray for the freedom to swim between the wellness stuff I love and also happen to get paid for, and all other kinds of topics I care about, without all the awkward ‘I hope they don’t think this is just a sales pitch’ pauses in between!

And for those of you who might feel uncomfortable with ambiguous networking opportunities, like I do — my best advice is just go for it at your soonest opportunity. Announce to the largest group you can find as soon as you are comfortable- what you do to bring home the bacon, and then be free to mix and mingle, with no angle, and no raised eyebrows, about anything you please.

Thanks, again, for reading,

Alexandra (yes, that’s right, it’s long for Alix, and I’m starting to like it more) Florio
President; Beautiful Fitness
www.beautifulfitness.com

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