In grade school I wrote a play called A Lesson in Manners. Besides winning an award (thankyouverymuch), it made me think about manners. I continued this week to navigate the new world of social networking, in which business is now conducted in nightclubs and under the influence of multiple cocktails, and where I find myself going a little heavy on the social and lacking somewhat in the networking, at least as the two intermingle. Nevertheless, I go boldly forth, traipsing on every networking rule laid before me. As I will find out, I’m certainly not the only one.
Thursday, November 13, 6:30 p.m.
The din from the Weekly’s Party on the Patio at Blue Martini blares in stark contrast to the discreet, understated gathering in a back room at Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Café at Town Square. This is the Status Group’s free networking event, held two to three times a month at varying locations in addition to their first-Tuesday event at the Stirling Club. Greeted at the sign-in table with a proffered shot of complimentary Pavé liqueur and a data-mining information card meant to ascertain my business needs, I divulge immediately that I’m neither buying nor selling anything. I instead bend the ear of the Status Group’s Allan Goldner, who started the event up a year and a half ago. The unique purpose here is to introduce the business-minded public to Status’ current clients. Thus, anyone you meet at Status is bound to be just that more serious about success, having hired Status’ consultants and passed a litmus test of sorts—the Status Collective.
The cocktails, the apps and especially the company are all lovely, but the main course here is the business. Keeping thing interesting, a flagging economy has definitely changed how Status operates. Whereas a year ago, says Goldner, Status was focused more on developing businesses, providing 300 years of experience among 22 consultants, today, he says, turn-key feasibility studies are selling like hotcakes, and the focus has shifted to first finding funding for those developing businesses. Ye olde paradigm shift, you may call it. I collect a handful of business cards—a shop-owner, a state senator—and move on.
"In this economy we need to lean on each other more than ever," says Sonja Graff (yes, née Flaherty, formerly of the Weekly!) of Mach 5 Marketing and Public Relations, hosting tonight at I’m So Popular LLC’s fourth Social Mix social networking event at Mix Lounge. Michele Capo’s free mixer is for the “upscale business professional.” Colton and I chat up Jonathan, fresh from Michigan who says, “This is my first put-my-foot-in-the-pool sort of thing," about his entrée into the networking scene. He reveals that he’s a banker. Colton and I take him for cocktails at Company and Noir to help him forget that fact.
Back at Company the following week, this time with Qudsia, whom I met at Joel Jarvis’ B.U.S.E. networking function weeks before (hey, this shit does work!), we set up at the bar for Blackberry, Pure Management Group’s third-Thursday free networking affair at 5 p.m. We are greeted with a complimentary cocktail, appropriately, the Company Affair and since Qudsia doesn’t drink, I help myself to hers while we wait for folks to show up. And wait. And wait. By 7 p.m. there are maybe 20 people. It’s "hit or miss," says the bartender, emphasizing quality vs. quantity. But, un-promoted as Blackberry currently is, it’s rather like a prom, with folks sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the lounge area, others standing by the bar, and little interaction between the two. This party needs a host and some structure, which I’m told it is soon to receive.
But it’s at the NetParty launch the following Thursday that I uncover the mother lode, the very seat of hybridized business/social networking so seamless as to be one masquerading as the other. With over 700 RSVPs for their launch tonight at Blush, NetParty welcomes Vegas to the fold, their 17th city launched since their New York events began over 12 years ago. New cities were being opened at a fairly steady rate until recently, says NetParty VP Lynn Reich. Since the economic downturn, “there’s more uncertainty ... there’s more of a need to increase your Rolodex.” NetParty will move around Vegas every few months and will continue to be free, at least for the first couple of events, says Reich.
Qudsia and I are checked in, greeted and labeled “Media/Entertainment” according to the seven possible color-coded business categories. Others include Health, Technology/Science, Business, Public/Private Service, Financial and Legal. Here, the focus is on business first, party after (I call it the networking mullet).
Observing the partygoers like birds, Qudsia and I note the high level of networking aggression and laser-focused ambition in the room, in stark contrast to the clubby lighting, cocktailing and roving photogs. Sure, it’s a crossover event, but as one brings one’s A-game to the club, so too have they brought their business chops. Some, like Reich herself, are seasoned pros. Others, not so much. Kevin interrupts us rudely and exemplifies my point about butting in. Another gent greets us, business card before his name. And still another, a California attorney, no sooner solicits my business than he threatens to sue me if I use his real name. So we’ll just call him “Dick.”
Dick seeks out networking events when he travels, a fairly effective method, he reports, for drumming up business. He vice-grips our hands, once more soliciting our business and renewing his threat. I silently add that little move to my already budding compilation of social-networking etiquette, which also includes “Don’t wear anything you could theoretically go-go dance in.”
Read the do's and dont's of Vegas networking in Social Networking 101.