When I had my own consultancy business I used to attend regular networking functions as a means of meeting prospective clients and promoting myself. By and large I disliked these events. I’m not made for the superficial glad-handing that is part and parcel of these things. I don’t like to blow my trumpet too hard and hyperbole is not my go. Some of these events can be pretty feral. Most people are reasonable and friendly, but there are occasions you’ll struggle to get your hand back after a handshake, and it goes without saying that everyone wants something out of you.
I always made a point of going to catered events because it was only tolerable with a drink in my hand (though – to be fair – I met many interesting people, and even dated one). And I wouldn’t go unless there was an interesting speaker.
A good speaker or subject would drag me out even when I wasn’t trying to sell something, and this was another essential aspect of these get togethers. I presumed the opportunities of getting new business from these events was minimal, and was proven right, but the opportunity of learning something new and important and interesting was always an allure. It was my way of keeping across things as generally the subjects were cutting edge.
I went to another such event last night, the first in ages. I got the invite out of the blue as way back when I attended their previous meetings. It was in the city, there was beer on tap, good cheese and tasty hot food and – as it turned out – the topics were both useful and interesting (cyber-security in its different guises, and SD-WANs).
I sat there listening with my mind ticking over trying to put things into context and imagining how I would apply these learnings in a real world situation. I connected these things with other things I knew, putting together a conceptual picture. This is what I’m good at, but it’s not dissimilar from the process of writing whereby I take in information piecemeal and begin layering it, using my imagination to make connections and fill the gaps in between.
Before and afterwards I did the usual glad-handing, though without much commitment. I was more interested in hearing other people’s stories. As I did I found my mind whirring once more. Responses came automatically to my lips, experience informing my words. I heard myself and was surprised by authoritative and knowledgeable I sounded. It’s not that I don’t know, it’s just that it’s so rarely called upon these days that I forget I have that knowledge. Come the moment there it was, and I found myself much like the guy elevated to a higher level who finds his performance lifting to match the challenge.
I left thinking about much I miss actually using my brain in that way. Feels an awful waste, but whatever.
I walked to Flinders Street station in my suit. It was getting on towards 9pm and it was dark and city crowds dispersed for the day. In a way that was familiar as well – how many times have I headed home after dark coming from a CBD bar or dinner, or an event like this? Hundreds of times. Back in the day I’d have grabbed a potato cake from the platform kiosk for some sustenance on the homeward journey. Those kiosks are now gone in the name of alleged progress, so instead I indulged myself in a bagful of lollies from the lolly shop on the concourse. I chewed on them decadently as the train took me home, a book in my ears and an attractive woman across from me.