I don’t know how we met. Or where. Or when. But it was good to meet you. It always is.
Trying to Connect
Two years ago, I attended the FOCUS event for film makers, at the Design Centre in Islington. For a freelance composer, seeking new connections and opportunities, this was a little daunting at first. However, it soon became clear to me that, actually, we were all just people trying to connect. And conversations were struck quickly, especially – for some reason – in the cafeteria.
I say ‘for some reason’ but, with hindsight, the reason is clear. When people are at ease – away from the rigours of staying attentive during protracted seminars or discussions – they become more relaxed and open. They are also more inclined to talk about personal matters, rather than instantly dive for their business card or résumé.
Modified Yet Familiar
So, it was interesting, this year, to experience both attending the event in person and also taking part in online networking sessions. Both have been affected by recent events. Indeed, the latter would probably not be happening at all, were it not for the pandemic. And behaviours are curiously modified, yet reassuringly familiar.
In the case of live interactions, I found that casual meetings over coffee relatively harder to come by. We have all become used to keeping our distance, to a greater or lesser extent. So, given the opportunity to isolate, even within a communal space, many default to that behaviour and remain within their established bubbles.
Interestingly, however, the scheduled drinks events had a very different air about them. This was possibly because of the alcohol, possibly because these were ‘official’ networking opportunities or perhaps simply because everyone was on their feet and more readily able to move (towards or away from others – depending on the need). Here, people mingled freely, mostly unmasked and with a steady Brownian Motion of fluid interactions.
Some took the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. Others ‘worked the room’, handing out business cards like students flyering the Edinburgh Fringe. The rest of us overcame innate awkwardness in order to meet new people and, hopefully, forge meaningful relationships.
Taking part in the event’s online ‘speed networking’ sessions was a very different experience. Most appeared comfortable within their on space and reasonably relaxed about confronting new people. This was, perhaps, aided by the knowledge that one could terminate a call at any time and simply move on if needed.
On the other hand, a technical issue meant there was no way of sharing information on the screen or connecting profiles. So, there was increasing pressure to quickly give out some form of contact information. This, whilst simultaneously establishing whether there would be any real point in following up the fleeting conversation.
Playing The Game
However, whoever dreamt-up the idea of ‘speed networking’ clearly understands human nature well. The fact is, we all form opinions of one another frighteningly quickly. So, whereas three minutes felt like the blink of an eye, this did seem like long enough to discern whether both parties were genuinely interested in one another – or just ‘playing the game’.
As with the live sessions, some participants took charge, whilst others were more passive. So, one call could entail a rather alpha figure explaining who they were and what they had achieved, in bullet-point fashion. Another would begin with a gentle enquiry into what the other caller had been up to lately.
How Are You?
In most cases, though, the conversation began with a simple ‘how are you?’. Followed, mostly, by ‘and where are you?’. Which was nice. It felt as though we all genuinely wanted to put one another at ease. And, perhaps more reassuringly, most were happy to reveal their own mixed feelings about this strangely constrained form of meeting.
Everyone is More Confident
Which brings me back to where I started. It’s always daunting to enter a space in which – I assume – everyone is more confident than me. However, it generally becomes apparent, quite quickly, that this isn’t true at all.
We all have our strategies and mechanisms for overcoming insecurities. Often, the most outwardly brash characters are those that are least at ease within themselves. We just need to give one another a little space and time to reveal who we really are. The less we try to impress, it seems, the more we really connect.
Honestly, Good To Meet You
So, I’m genuinely pleased to meet you. Whether we got chatting over a coffee, at the bar, in a seminar, or online, I’d love to get to know you better. I know you have a fascinating story to tell. Because – doesn’t everyone?
Now then, did I tell you what a great composer I am…?!