I walked into a relatively empty pub on Fleet Street knowing full well that the only person I knew wouldn't arrive for another 45 minutes. A man looked up and walked towards me with a smile.
"Hello, I'm David. This is my autumn roundup."
"Hello, I'm Anne Ku."
"I thought it must be you. What would you like to drink?"
Two years and more than three dozen conferences later, I still haven't forgotten that old familiar feeling of embracing the totally unfamiliar. It's come back to me now: a big smile, firm handshake, and self-introduction. I would go into a room not knowing a soul. By the end of the meeting, I would feel comfortable among the strangers. By the end of conference, I would have exchanged business cards with most of the delegates and speakers.
"Who will be coming tonight? Energy folks? Editors?" I asked.
"Mainly people in sales, marketing, and IT. People whom I have placed in Reuters, Telerate, Platts, etc."
At this point, a blonde woman walked in. After brief introductions I asked her what she did. "I was at Telerate previously."
I'm used to that by now. I don't say what I'm doing now, but what I did in my last job. It's not politically correct to say,"I cycle, exercise, play piano, and work on my web sites. And I've never felt healthier and happier."
I walked over to the table where four men were chatting. I borrowed the Evening Standard (or Daily Mail?) newspaper. One article grabbed my attention. A neurologist and mother of two described how she dropped her medical career to become a rock singer. It reminded me of an economics professor I had met in Miami Beach a few years ago. She had quit to become a jazz singer. That's the kind of role model I admire.
Only one of the four men made eye contact with me. He introduced himself as the other person who helped to organise this networking event. I mentioned that I played the piano. Before long we were talking about music. He played the piano and the cello and sang. For me, discovering another musician in a room full of strangers was like discovering a diamond in the rough.
I called my friend Jeremy who worked close by. "Come over, lots of interesting people" I said. What I really wanted to say was, "Come rescue me. I don't know anyone here. And I don't know what I'm doing here."
By the time my friend came over, Victor had arrived. He was the one who suggested that I be included in the guestlist. He was the only one (I thought) I knew.
I was wrong. As soon as the pub filled up, I saw several familiar faces. It felt good to say hello and catch up.
Three hours later, I wove through the crowd in an attempt to leave. I didn't blitz through the room exchanging as many business cards as I would have under normal circumstances. I had a few quality conversations without going for quantity. I gave copies of my Bon Journal newsletters or Freepint article to the people I knew for feedback. Next time, if there's a next time, I will bring more copies. I've become my own publisher. And this was the perfect place to get reader reaction!
18 October 2002 Friday
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