The great part about being in a marketing team is that you get to attend really fancy conferences in exotic locations such as Vegas, Phuket, Monte Carlo and so on. There are exceptions to all rules, and as always yours truly is the exception. I’ve only done one event in New York so far (and I’m still hung up on that…. I start crying when I watch Friends because the show was in New York). On the flip side, I do get to evaluate a lot of events where higher ups can go to. (I just think of it as vocational training to become a stoic detached travel agent)
As part of the evaluation process, one tends to look at a lot of criteria. Pictures from the event are one of them. I was recently checking out pictures from an event last year and noticed something – All Indians, irrespective if they’re working in the US, or there on a business trip from India, always look like they’re trying to give you their business card, or are happy that you gave them yours.
I went through over a 100 pictures from the event that showcased the speakers, the booths, the parties after wards. Every Indian is standing there like they were in-front of the Taj Mahal with their significant other on their 5-year wedding anniversary having that ‘We’re excited, but this is a public place so we’d better stand beside one another and look constipated instead of being romantic’ look about them. People from other nationalities are busy having fun wearing wigs, fake moustaches, dressed in casuals and talking over a beer. But most of my fellow countrymen are wearing suits and are armed to the teeth with their business cards. I came across one picture of an Indian chap who looked happy and was smiling, only to spot the corner of business card in his jacket pocket.
I’m not sure why this happens. Is it because a large part of the workforce doesn’t know how to switch off from work? Is it because our idea of networking is gathering business cards to send out emailers rather than get to know people at a slightly more personal level? What is it that makes my fellow Indians want to run about collecting and handing out business cards as though they were the Easter Bunny with his eggs? I remember this colleague whose sole purpose to attend an event was to ensure he gave out at least 100 business cards. He managed to do that at an event that had only 40 people!!! (Valet and bell boy got lucky I guess… they probably called him for an enterprise grade business solution related problem they had)
Why can’t we have fun while networking? Why can’t we treat people like people and not ‘prospects’? A friend of mine was once pulled up by the higher chain of command for having a casual conversation about the city she did her post-graduation in with a ‘prospect’ that happened to be from another college in the same city. It’s ridiculous as to how we insist on talking about work with prospects all the time. I apologize if I come across as naïve to you “experienced sales people” and “captains of industry”. I’m not sure why I apologized because neither group has time to read this blog because they’re off somewhere handing out a business card. Aren’t these the same guys who write things like ‘I’m a natural-born extrovert’ in their resumes? (Like us caesarian-born extroverts are any less). And that translates into ‘will give soul to get business card’. Maybe that's why they don't send me to many events.
A word of advice to my people attending office related gigs, have fun, network, but for heavens sake don't make handing out cards your sole objective. Quality vs. quantity.
By the way, below is a picture of me at an office party. Don’t I look like someone whose business card you want?