Article contributed by Matt Prohaska, Principal, Prohaska Consulting
What was it like for you in junior high? For me, it was…uh…not so fun. I was the shortest kid in my class, the only one to carry a handkerchief in my pocket for allergies, and eventually needed glasses and braces. Oh yeah, I had it going on. Kids that age, as you may remember, can be tough on each other. Even though it hurt at the time, a pretty funny line to me from a girl I had a crush on was “Hey Matt, do you want to go to the movies?” “Yeah of course,” I excitedly said. “Well, OK, have a great time then.” Cut to laughter from the classroom.
I remember the 7th grade fall dance was a big deal. Shannon Hale had just moved to Jamestown, NY from California. I had said hi to her in the hallway once leading up to this night, but no way could I ask her to dance. But there she was talking with a couple girlfriends and no other guys in sight. Maybe I could just go up to her. Well, let me think about it by hiding in the boy’s locker room (the dance was in the gym). I spent about half the night in there and by the time I got out, surprise, she was dancing with someone else.
One of our industry’s bigger dances starts today and runs all week, as Advertising Week comes to New York. 5 days, 200 events, plenty o’ parties, brands up the wazoo. Lots of potential Shannon Hales out there for you and your company, no matter what your role in your organization.
Time to get prepped, and not just like the cool guys did in junior high, with the skinny ties and the Drakkar Noir cologne. Check LinkedIn and Facebook to see who else is going. Plan your day in advance on where you want to be and when. I know it seems very old-school and analog, but it’s amazing how many people at networking functions say they ran out of business cards – easiest way to jot a note about the person I just met or a next step we discussed that nees follow-up. Have your answer ready when asked how it’s going at your company or on your own without rambling or being too generic. And think about setting a goal of meeting 5 new people and learning 5 new things every day. Conferences are always a great time to catch up with industry friends. But it’s also a perfect place to approach that new prospect, future employer, or new industry friend.
Not able to get to New York, or working 2 blocks from most of the action but can’t get out? Watch the live stream or highlights. Follow on Facebook or Twitter via @advertisingweek or #AWIX. Read your trades, industry blogs, and discussion groups to stay in rhythm with what is happening and who is saying what.
So get involved and soak it up. Very few companies will package up all the info for you or personally introduce you to all the right people. It took me a while to learn that the only way to guarantee the Shannon Hales of the world wouldn’t dance with me was to avoid ever asking.