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Old October 11th, 2005, 02:36 PM   #1
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Schmoozing 101

I'm not sure if this should have gone in "Taking Care of Business" so move it if that is the case.

I'm going to a schmooze session as part of the Vancouver International Film Festival. I have to say this, I am not good at schmoozing. I enjoy myself with food and drink as much as anyone but as far as schmoozing with a goal of promoting or making contacts, I'm not so good at it.

I dress okay, smell okay. I can shake hands, I got the business cards and I can tell people what I do (and ask them what they do), but then after that I feel like a wallflower.

I know some of you are great at this. Let this serve as my crib sheet. Please!
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Old October 11th, 2005, 03:26 PM   #2
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Get really really loaded, then when you get nervous, throw up on the event organizer's shoes. Everyone will remember you then ;)






Just joking.

This is actually a problem most people face, and is a really big problem among my students who are attending professional events.

I'm the same way as you are, but here are some tips I've found helpful.

Relaxing is most important.

As you are in line (like at check in) introduce yourself to someone and ask what they do, if they have a common interest then you are golden, or if they ask what you do, open up and share - but don't get too pushy.

I remember a great guy from Atlanta who had a company called Paradigm Productions. On his name tag, he always attached two dimes (pair-o-dimes). It was a great conversation starter because people would ask, "what are those dimes for?" then he could go on about his company.

Sit at a table with strangers and introduce yourself. Surely people will ask questions about what you do.

When I attend a user group meeting, I usually sit at a table with no one I know and talk and get to know them. Learn a couple of quick one liners or "clean" jokes that may break the ice.

If you are trying to sell yourself and get a job, then don't do the following:

Person A: Hi, I'm Bob, I run a small production company.
You: Here's my business card - call me if you need help on a project.

This is a conversation I had many years ago that helped me land my first job in Atlanta:

Person A: Hello, haven't seen you at one of our meetings before.
Me: Yes, I'm new to the area, I was told this was the best place to meet fellow professionals.
Person A: Yes it is. What do you do?
Me: I do a bit of everything. I mainly edit and do graphic/animation work. But I can also shoot. And you?
Person A: I'm a producer working on corporate projects for some of the large companies in the area. I just finished a job for ****.

Blah blah blah, more small talk follows as we got to know more about each other. Then...

Person A: Oh, Scott is looking for someone to help him shoot a project next week, you should see if he needs help. Let me introduce you to him...

And so on.

Granted this was literally the BEST CASE scenerio, but chit chat and going under the radar is a lot easier to swallow than, "give me a job".

But then you already knew that part ;)

Hope that helps

Cheers
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Old October 11th, 2005, 03:57 PM   #3
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There are no "rules" to shmoozing, only sins. Two sins, in fact.

Sin #1: Not wanting anything/not having anything to say. If the shmoozer is in a crowd of people for the purposes of networking, it's implicit in the equation that he or she is out for his or her own profit one way or another. Usually the intent is to meet people who will be able to benefit one or another of the shmoozer's goals--the shmoozer needs someone's input on a certain project, say, or is looking for career advancement and hope to impress a potential employer. The annoying shmoozer will either have no such interest or will be so embarrassed about it as to repress it, causing him or her to clam up. The last thing the influential people in the room are interested in is being swarmed by shy guys who linger adoringly but fall silent when it comes to their motivations.
Sin #2: Wanting too much/having too much to say. It's the flip side of the coin. This sort of shmoozer shmoozes with an agenda at the fore of his or her mind and cares for little other chit-chat, considered to be a waste of his or her too-precious time. Though deals are never drawn up and alliances are never forged in the middle of cocktail parties, this type of shmoozer has expectations otherwise, and burdens the crowd with his or her anxieties of not accomplishing such-and-such mission objectives by the end of the evening.

Successful shmoozing is sort of a balancing act between these two ambivalent counterpoles, but to steal a page from Dale Carnegie, the secret is to be generous with one's one interest. The way to get what you want is to give what others want--so show genuine enthusiasm for learning what other people are up to... put yourself in their shoes... try to look at their problems and projects from their angle, rather than prejudging them with your own set of lenses. The shmoozer who uses the selfless path to the happy medium will find himself making friends and exchanging business cards in no time. $0.02.
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Old October 11th, 2005, 04:04 PM   #4
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Robert- There are waaaaaay more sins than just those two. In fact, I have violated many at my wife's company Christmas parties ;)

Speaking of which... If there is alcohol, be sparing in its consumption. Always stay away from the tequilla. If she is cute, wait to make sure she isn't the host's wife.
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Old October 11th, 2005, 04:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Knecht Schmidt
Successful shmoozing is sort of a balancing act between these two ambivalent counterpoles, but to steal a page from Dale Carnegie, the secret is to be generous with one's one interest. The way to get what you want is to give what others want--so show genuine enthusiasm for learning what other people are up to... put yourself in their shoes... try to look at their problems and projects from their angle, rather than prejudging them with your own set of lenses. The shmoozer who uses the selfless path to the happy medium will find himself making friends and exchanging business cards in no time. $0.02.
I like this a lot and it nails down some of what I dislike about being on the other end of schmoozing. Some guy who shoulders his way into the conversation and barfs over someone they just discover has access to something they need.

And I hate obseqious fanboys. Thankfully, this is industry not a convention.

My main goal is to make contacts but I also don't want to be bored.
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Old October 11th, 2005, 04:46 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Forman
Speaking of which... If there is alcohol, be sparing in its consumption. Always stay away from the tequilla. If she is cute, wait to make sure she isn't the host's wife.
Heh. Just a glass of white for me. And I have my girlfriend's permission to attend.
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Old October 11th, 2005, 04:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Loh
Heh. Just a glass of white for me. And I have my girlfriend's permission to attend.
Just tryin ta help you out... learn from my many years and experiences, and you can do well! Just wished I were wiser at a younger age ;)


Come to think of it... those younger years were way fun!
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Old October 13th, 2005, 04:07 PM   #8
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Next question: tie off or on?
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Old October 13th, 2005, 05:06 PM   #9
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Hi Keith,

This is not an answer to your tie question. It's just one (maybe last) strategy to avoid getting and showing your bored at such an event. A trick I use - especially if I don't know anyone where I am going, is to approach it like a documentary shoot, like you are there to covertly document the event. Observe the people around you, and check-out the location (even if it is someplace "boring") as if you were working out how to best film them.

This has a few advantages, the most important is that it puts the event and the people at the event in "your movie". From a psychological standpoint that is very high ground. This strategy may not directly help you make contacts, and if you over-do-it you can make a down-right fool of yourself, but it may help prevent you from getting bored, which in turn, will help you to attract and maybe recognize people of interest.

uh ... don't ware a tie. Good luck.
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Old October 13th, 2005, 05:50 PM   #10
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Interesting approach. A long time ago I was a reporter and that quickly made me unafraid of asking questions and freed me from the irrational fear of looking stupid (of course, ask *me* questions and I can't say the same).
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