I was at a two-day conference (all done now, uff). Thankfully it was here in Mumbai so at least I don't have to tear my hair out thinking about how to manage it all. These things are generally in Delhi or some such; I absolutely hate going to Northern parts in December as its so awfully cold there . I invariably look absurd as I end up needing to wear my thick American winter coat, Plus there is the whole deal with what to do with my girl and her school and her lunch and what not. Anyway December is the time for all such situations and I go to at least one every year. This year, I am glad that it happened here in Mumbai.
I am also reading, for some strange reason unknown to me, the book called 'never eat alone' (amazon's page). I strongly recommend you DON'T read it, its most ridiculous, but somehow I am unable to stop reading it (imagine having in your hands a very badly written murder mystery, its like that). I picked the book up (no idea by the way how it comes to be here in our house, I surely did not buy it) thinking that it has sound advice for new-age couples (Wow! in my heart I think I am young I guess!), and talks about work-life balance and so on. But it is not that at all! It is about this really scary concept called networking! Ugh!
He has a section called Conference Commando where he talks about how to make the best of a conference. I don't think he is completely wrong. I used to struggle with how to talk to people at these gatherings, most especially when I was looking for jobs and so on. I also generally like to do what needs to be done when at a conference. So this section was somewhat relevant I thought. The rest was all garbage because I thankfully don't seem to need to do the things he refers to (I would have quit my job in a heart beat if so!).
Anyway I was going to be at this soiree this week, and the topic came up in his book, so I read more and more of the book. He talks intensely and for reams of pages about how to build your network and how to fill your calendar, and the most important art of 'following up' after you first meet a person. Mostly he emphasises that rather than looking at the meeting as an opportunity to further your lot, you should try to make friends with the person and find mutual interests. Which is a good point, makes sense.
But somewhat mid-way in the book he reveals that his marriage broke up and that he was very upset about it. That is when I went, hmm, perhaps it happened because you were too focussed on filling your rolodex and paid less attention than you should have to a more important relationship. But whatever, marriages break up for a number of reasons and it is presumptuousness to think that it is because the person was too busy working. The thought does have a pleasing simplicity to it, though!
I go to this conference and am just sort of looking around. First tea break comes. I hang out by myself, soaking things in. Wondering what my agenda should be (and when I should break out so that I can make it back to my office for a meeting I don't want to miss). And this guy whom I know from another context has the gall to come up to me and say "shouldn't you be networking? talking to all these people?" Okay, deep breath here. I quickly retort "i am here, they are welcome to come and network with ME" which is all just bluster of course, I don't even know, just irritated with unsolicited advice.
In the end I cut away from him, sat separately, and talked to the two people I thought would have interesting things to say (one of them did, but then it also resulted in him almost convincing me to go to Chandigarh later this month blaaag it will be so cold there; and the other was a complete idiot and a waste of skin it turned out). And many people must have heard me say my cocky dialogue because I was collared by several people. So Ha! But I was still a bit irritated all of yesterday as I convinced myself that all the men together were collaborating in exuding a male smell. Just to make me feel alienated.
Today, the second day, started well. I was in a better mood and less worried about the smell (therefore, it was not there). And the annoying advice guy was late so I went off to the front of the room and was hanging out and listening to the talks and chatting up with a couple of people. Break time again, the guy walks up to me and goes 'Good Morning' Innocently I say Good Morning Are you doing okay Enjoying the talks etc. He says 'Did you just come?' Well, I could have just arrived. No big deal. I have bigger fish to fry. Perhaps. But you know, sometimes, there is a look, there is a tone. I was so done with this guy.
Other than that the day went real well, I learned a lot, I met some very nice people, which I did not expect. Many of the presentations were made well and everyone had interesting things to say. Again unexpectedly, I got a lot of questions on my presentation which meant that people were listening (despite the tough 3 pm post lunch slot I had). I have even wound up my notes from the conference - just blurbs on what various people want from us to pass on to my colleagues who could not attend- and made it back in decent time to pick up the girl from the creche.
Most importantly, I wore a sari and bindi and was all very comfortable although I had to spend the whole entire day in it. I wore a grey Mysore silk one which was a good choice all told...