At the risk of sounding like a self-styled lifestyle guru, I want to say a few words about authenticity, also known as not being a fake or being yourself.
I’m having one of those ‘after work events’ weeks. Tonight there were lots of options, last night there was my favourite ‘meet-your-peers and sample some snacks and drinks from the host’ event Media Mingle. It’s just that time of year – launches, end of financial year parties – the list is endless.
I find these events either fabulous or dire, and often it isn’t about the quality of the catering (even though superior nibbles certainly helps). What so often kills events for me is networking.
On a good day, I can network with the best of them. I can introduce myself to randoms, explain where I work, hear the business pitch… wish I was somewhere else… leave as soon as possible.
This is the thing. I’m a person. I’m not a potential revenue stream. I’m not the person who buys advertising in my company. I’m more likely at the party for the already mentioned several times food, than from a desire to have someone corner me and try to guilt me in to a) buying their product b) giving them free stuff c) promoting their product even though I’ve never used it.
I’d like to follow up the angry sounding paragraph above with the qualification that this week has been delightfully void of such instances. I have chatted with people about their work and mine, music, the Rugby World Cup theme song horror (don’t they like non-boofheads?), interesting projects and opinions on all kinds of things… but not once did someone cross the line into pushy/desperate territory.
What I think it boils down to is that we are interested in people more than products, conversation more than pitches and friendliness more than networking. I think authenticity creates connections with people far more than listing credentials does.
I’m all for ‘fake it till you make it’ on occasions when you need to project confidence. It makes sense that people wear a veneer at parties or events when surrounded by strangers. But when you go in with a firm belief that people are likeable and interesting, without any agenda other than a determination to enjoy yourself, then the chance of enjoyment, relationship building and (dare I say) even networking skyrockets. But really, the enjoyment factor is the most important.