There’s a fine line these days between networking and not working, and no one seems to want to find out just how fine. Pockets and pocketbooks bursting with business cards, they attack networking functions at nightclubs and bars with varying amounts of ferocity and restraint. The worst characters come across as desperate, as if to say, “Make me happen!” Others, those who know how to work it, leave you feeling smarter, savvier and handsomer, all for having discovered this great new contact, whose self-possessed smile will no doubt spring to mind the next time someone utters, “Anyone know a good tax attorney?”
Tuesday, November 11, 5:30 p.m.
“I’m new, I have to start somewhere,” says Qudsia, an account executive with Lamar outdoor advertising. This is her first visit to B.U.S.E. (“Business professionals/owners, Up-and-comers, Socialites, Entrepreneurs”). She’s not on commission like many folks one comes across at functions like this, but we agree that bringing in business is rarely frowned upon. So she poses neatly at the Charlie Palmer Steak bar, sips a pineapple juice and exchanges cards with her neighbors.
B.U.S.E. is a social-networking club, one that started up years ago at the Turnberry Towers’ Stirling Club, went on hiatus and returned on September 23 at Charlie Palmer’s recently remodeled spot at the Four Seasons. Helmed now by Charlie Palmer Steak CFO Richard Femenella and The Link LV president Joel Jarvis, B.U.S.E. attracts a full complement of 150-230 attorneys, paralegals, politicos and entrepreneurs each week, older professionals in their mid-30s to 50s. And tonight is ladies night.
I take my free drink ticket to the bar, where Qudsia is chatting up a travel agent. Travel … billboards … it’s a match made in heaven! Maybe they’ll keep in touch, maybe not.
It’s intoxicating. One person says they need something, say, a widget, and you’re able to say, “I have a widget!” Or maybe you know where you can get one. You swap numbers and promise to talk. Months from now you’ll delete it but for now, you’re best friends, fully aligned in scope and goals. And you’re gonna get him or her a widget, dammit!
There’s the rub. What’s to keep us honest? “There’s more social going on here than business,” says Jarvis. “What I find is that it’s really about creating friendships.” He explains that once you’ve made friends, you’re far more likely to follow up. Sure enough, within minutes, Qudsia and I are plotting a billboard campaign for not-for-profits with Jarvis. But will we follow through, or is it just politesse oblige?
- The Executive Lounge
- Meets Tuesday at Lavo, 5:30-10 p.m.
- RSVP required
- The Executive Lounge
- Meets Tuesdays from 5:30-9 p.m. at Charlie Palmer Steak
- No RSVP required
- BUSE network
- Place Guide
- Charlie Palmer Steak
- From the Archives
- Despite all odds, “movers and shakers” ignore the election (11/4/08)
Across town, two more dons of the social-networking scene are overseeing their own flock at Lavo. Jimmy Foster, a founding chair of B.U.S.E., and Eamon Springall, founding chair of the monthly, members-only Vegas Young Professionals group, circulate through the 300-500 people who will flow through Lavo tonight for The Executive Lounge.
Still in its infancy, The Executive Lounge attracts a hipper crop of tastemakers, connectors and decision-makers, also in their early 30s to 50s, but owners as opposed to middle managers or account execs. Operated more like a secret society, Executive Lounge has certain rules that must be adhered to, lest one should find oneself on the wrong side of the velvet rope.
Together, B.U.S.E. and The Executive Lounge represent the ying and yang of Tuesday’s networking scene, both free but both still far cries from speed networking or Toastmasters. Whereas The Executive lounge fosters a closely-managed, exclusive respite for seasoned business professionals, BUSE encourages a come one, come all open-door policy to maximize diversity of opportunity. Just take your pick and find your crowd.
Attendees are expected to follow proper etiquette, remaining “calm, collected and lucid at all times. We encourage sipping drinks, not slamming shots.” Energy drinks and tabs abound, and Red Bull goes down like scotch at a wedding. In business or cocktail attire, we should “respect the privacy and space of our fellow Members.” At no time will we approach a private table or join a conversation unless invited to do so. And the random, feverish or insistent distribution of business cards is forbidden. “Sophisticated behavior required” warns the greeting sign. Success demands that we embrace it: “Social First, Business Second.”
Barging in is something I definitely have become attuned to, with there being a sexist element to it as well. After three weeks of attending both B.U.S.E. and The Executive Lounge, I find with exasperation that men (and to an only slightly lesser extent, women) have no qualms about barging in on a conversation underway between a man and women, whereas tête-à-têtes between men go on uninterrupted throughout the room. I would say something, but clearly whatever the barger has to say is way more pressing.
Foster and I toy with the notion of why people need networking events so badly these days. He opines that networking forces people to talk. “These people probably haven’t talked all day.” We text, we e-mail, we Facebook and Twitter, but we rarely pick up the phone. I’m guilty as charged.
For the second time tonight, someone suggests, “Let’s do lunch!” Hesitating, I would normally respond “I don’t do lunch, I do work.” But having established a friendship over three weeks—as the Lounge’s bylaws suggest, and a pleasant enough task—I accept in the burgeoning spirit of social networking. I also make a mental note to call Qudsia.