Last night I attended a networking event that reminded me why I’m usually a lot more selective with what I attend. It was like something out of a Charlie Chaplin slapstick – yours truly starring as Chaplin.
It started with a drive through peak hour traffic at the end of an already long day. After crawling through the bumper-to-bumper, I missed the turnoff and ended up circling through more traffic to get around the corner and back to where I started. My spirits actually lifted slightly as I struggled to find a parking spot, thinking this must be a popular event.
Pleased that I still managed to get there only ten minutes into the event, I walked up to the registration desk located outside the main room. A couple of old biddies gave me a vague welcome and as they hadn’t asked my name, I located my own name badge, to find they had given my business an entirely different name. I grabbed the nearby black marker to fix it, less than proudly pinning on my makeshift badge.
As I walked into the room, I was hit by two things: the smell of defrosted samosas and the empty greyness of the place. It was DRAB. A few people already looking tired and bored dotted the room, clinging closely to the team members, husbands or wives they arrived with. Great.
Still, after years of mixed networking experiences I know how to handle this. I walked with purpose up to the nearest group of ladies and introduced myself. They struggled to read my name badge. They all worked for the same bank and looked like they’d all had a hard day and hadn’t looked in the mirror before arriving at this business event. At least they were friendly; sadly, groups of women are not always so welcoming to an unknown female. Seriously it’s like an African savannah.
I waved away the tray of sausage rolls that came by, the smell near overwhelming me, and wondered why no-one had come by with a tray of drinks. Then I heard the tray of drinks behind me – a glass crashing to the floor and looking around I caught the rest of them sliding sideways down the tray to follow the first. Ouch.
Did you ever see one of Chaplin’s short films set at the circus? I actually felt like I was stuck in that cage along with him. As I stood towards the back of the room watching everyone pretending to listen to the speaker while checking their phones or looking around for more mini quiches, I cursed myself for not having chosen a spot near the door.
Tragically, before I could make my escape, I was destined to stand on aching feet (not to mention the handbag headache – if you’re a sucker for big handbags, you’ll know what I mean) through two more less than inspiring speakers (one lady at least attempted some jokes) before a man I’d met before came forward to say hello. At first I was pleased to have the opportunity to make conversation with someone whom I sort of knew. That was before I remembered that he is the sweatiest man in the world – reminder arrived as his cheek slid across my face in greeting.
Before I could leave I had a very lovely lady spit in my face while speaking to me – and I don’t mean a tiny drop near my eye, I mean a whole spray – and I bumped into a lady I knew and didn’t like very much who proceeded to quiz me rudely so she could ascertain who was the most successful business woman, and I accidentally locked eyes with a sleaze bag whom I suspect had been looking my way for some time. Still not managing to locate a drink and seeing the crowd dwindle even further, I decided to make my escape. I physically shook off the spit, sweat and negativity of this room of baggy suits and sagging shoulders – WHAT THE HELL WAS I DOING HERE?? – ripped off my crappy name badge, ignored the gift bags no doubt stuffed full of advertising, and practically ran through the car park in search of my car. I got home starving at 8pm with no dinner organised and dying for a shower.
A funny story maybe, but very sadly true. Ladies and gents, let this be a warning to you: consider that you are better than many of the ‘opportunities’ out there, and be selective.
To say the least, your time and energy are too valuable to spend eating bulk-buy frozen party treats!