I have gone out, I think, every night this week.
This does not come naturally to me, all this mingling. I did it pretty well when I was 20, and it was the way to meet boys; now that I live with a boy and understand that they bring their laundry with them, I don’t find the prospect nearly so exciting.
But I go out because it is one of the ways to meet clients. My biggest failing as a Realtor, I think, is that I am not one of those work-the-room people. My mother is — back in her prime she was a Clintonesque politician who had to meet and charm absolutely everybody. But I grew up being dragged to election picnics and Jefferson-Jackson day dinners and get-out-the-vote rallies and I think one of the charms of being an adult is having a quiet evening at home.
Unfortunately, however, there are bills to be paid, and keeping my own company does not pay them. So periodically, in addition to whatever chumming I am doing electronically and with postcards, I find it necessary to get out and meet other people.
I just try to do what good networkers do, to find out who they are, and to charm them, and to give them my card.
The easiest way to do this, I have found, is to go to a charity event. If you’ve given cash at the door to a good cause, you’ve automatically established yourself as someone worthy of respect. It’s respectable to circulate and network, and when you and whoever-it-is you’re meeting run out of things to talk about, you can both make general noises about how great the work of the charity is.
The best event was on Monday (Monday! That was an event that drew a young crowd, a crowd with stamina enough to go out at the beginning of the week.) It was a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, and I was invited by a former client of mine, so I thought I had better go. Turns out the inviter did not show up, but I ran into other clients of mine who were very, very impressed by how socially active I was.
And one of them remarked at how good I was at working a room! That just goes to show you those gurus who say it’s all about attitude are right. I knew I was faking confidence and enthusiasm, and that I wanted to be home finding out how my latest Agatha Christie ended, but to Anne-Marie that read as true confidence.
So I shared my rule with her, and I’ll share it with you (forgive me if it sounds like it came out of a teen magazine, it probably did): You have to meet three people. In my adult version of this rule, whenever I go to a party, I have to get three business cards.
Now in this game that I play with myself, there are very few rules about how to get the business cards (actually, only one: Getting the business cards of people I already know is cheating). But it’s nice because it means I don’t feel stuck at a party forever. If I don’t want to be there for two hours, I don’t have to be.
The other thing that I find happens, by switching my focus from “oh, gosh, what am I going to say to people?” to “I wonder who the first, second and third people I meet will be?” is that I start to enjoy myself. Usually not with person #1, who is generally happy to get away from me, since I’m blathering on like a complete idiot; but often either person #2 or person #3 turns out to be someone I can have a conversation with.
It’s easiest, I find, not to go straight into my “hi, I am a Realtor” schtick but to find out about them, their jobs and their kids and their dogs and what movies they like. That way, I at least get to talk about dogs and movies — which isn’t a bad way to spend work time, and hey, it’s for a good cause.
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.”