It's 10:30-ish, and I'm just now dragging myself in from work. Actually, work is a relative term if you consider that I spent the evening at a cocktail reception and then enjoying a well cooked salmon filet on a bed of something that looked like mush, was really black eyed peas and roasted figs, and tasted absolutely marvelous. I've been out marketing.
The entire staff at my office has been drafted into the latest wave of developments to "market" our small medical case management company to the wider world. While I was quite happy to write copy for the web page and brochure, and help with the design for some print ads, I was less than thrilled when I got drafted to attend an after work reception designed for "networking" with member of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.
Hobnobbing with strangers is not really my thing. I can converse easily with people I know, and even people I don't really know but have some tangential relationship toward. For instance, if I'm at a church picnic, I can go up to people and initiate a conversation because we all have the shared bond of being church members. If I'm at a concert, or a fund raiser for a musical group, or even a dinner party at a friends house, I fell comfortable enough speaking to strangers because I know we have at least something in common, whether it be it an interest in music or my friends good food.
But to wander into a room full of business people I"ve never met and be expected to strike up a conversation while trying to drum up business - egad.
Let's just say ice water was been running through my veins all day long. This afternoon when it was time to go, I was dragging my feet like a five year old on the way to the dentist (without even the luxury of being able to whine about it).
At first it was about as bad as I imagined. There were a dozen or so folks milling around, clutching tiny glasses of sour white wine in one hand and juggling business cards in the other. My boss soon struck up a conversation with someone, and I hovered close behind her, glancing surreptitiously around in hopes of finding someone I might know. I felt completely invisible, because it was clear that she was the one with the power in our little duet. She's quite assertive and has a certain vision of the company she's eager to project.
Another woman joined our little group, and the coversation turned toward elder care, an area we're trying to promote in our business. Certainly I had something to say on that subject. And then I hear the magic words from one of these ladies..."My brother's a musician," she said offhandedly, "and plays in the Detroit Symphony."
I glanced at her name tag, and immediately recognized the last name. "Murry Okun is your brother?" I asked.
"Yes!" she said. "Do you know him?"
I fudged a little, because I don't, but one of my friends does. "My friend plays in the DSO," I replied. "David Everson."
"David!" she cried out. "I've known Dave for years! And do you know his girlfriend, Jill?"
"Well, I believe she's his fiance now," I answered smugly, knowing they'd announce their engagement to the family last week.
"WHAT! I just saw her! She never said a word! Molly," she cried, calling over a friend. "Did you know Dave and Jill were engaged???"
"No!" Molly shrieked.
Suddenly, I was no longer at a Chamber of Commerce function, but in the school yard of the junior high.
And - I was in.
My boss stepped back and let the conversation flow on about musicians, and girlfriends, and symphony functions. Finally we got around to talking about the business' these women were involved in, and then they started calling over their friends and introducing us around.
My boss took us out for dinner afterwards (which explains the nice salmon filet and the reason I'm home so late). She seemed pleased enough with the outcome of the event. "Boy," she said to me, "you know a lot of people, don't you?"
Not really. Thankfully, the music world is very small, and brings people together in some very unexpected ways sometimes.
I got lucky, and the evening turned out to be a little better than I had expected. Still, I'd rather stay in my little corner of the office and write copy for web sites and newlsetters and twitter feeds, all of which I think are in the offing as part of the marketing madness.