Sometimes it helps to be normal when networking

I ran across this very interesting post on Social Media Today called Social Media is Relational, not Transactional.  It points out one of the problems with standard networking:

But each followed the same prescribed format: quickly develop an artificial relationship by showing interest and asking questions, then leverage that relationship to sell a product. The net result was always the same, by the end of the conversation, I was offended and my time had been wasted.

Networking is tough.  There can be a hard push toward getting the sale, and instead coming off as artificial. When I offered to run the pitch conferences a number of years ago, I took a page from being a friend of an actor appearing at a science fiction convention.  Here, he’s got all these fans gushing over him, asking him sometimes really dumb questions about a 4-decades old TV show.  When I ate lunch with David Hedison and two other fans, we talked about the cat and kitten who were outside the window.  When I chatted with William Windom at his table, we swapped war stories as only veterans can do (he served during World War II.  I wrote a very nice article on it for an anthology, which then never happened).  Sometimes these guys need normal because they’re still people.

So, with the writer’s conference, it wasn’t about trying to get a foot in the door but simply providing a good experience at the pitch session.  I’d tell them what to expect in how the session was run, and throughout the day, come chat with them about the usual kinds of things, offer to get them coffee or soda or cookies.  Sometimes it was an apology when things got messed up or to tell them a writer was a no show for their session.  I always got at least one question about my book — an opportunity to practice pitching — but that wasn’t the intent of meeting the agents.  The result was quite surprising — the following years, when agents returned, in spite of having only seen me once a year or more ago!