Schmoozing for Dummies (like me)
According to Merriam-Webster:
The definition of schmooze (intransitive verb)
: to converse informally : chat; also : to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner especially so as to gain favor, business, or connections
Schmooze. The word sounds sleazy, doesn’t it? In an onomatopoeia kind of way.
Me? I’m a terrible schmoozer, too busy trying not to hyperventilate to dig down for the Charm and Wit. See, here’s the thing about effective schmoozing. It requires exhibiting ooh-gobs of the aforementioned C&W. And talking. To strangers.
Some writers are plenty chatty, but I’m not one of them. Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. I’ll talk your ear off if we’re pals (just ask Debra Mayhew, my friend and roomie at last weekend’s WIK conference), but I’m circumspect if we share only acquaintance status. My problems with schmoozing include shyness (my friends would never believe it), claustrophobia in crowds (a terrible malady if one wants to work a room), and general self-consciousness (“Holy cow, what if I have broccoli stuck in my teeth?!”).
So what is a non-schmoozer to do? Well, in a perfect circumstance, someone like me can still give out and collect a respectable number of business cards. Unfortunately, those perfect situations are hard to come by. But! Fortunately for me, this past weekend’s SCBWI/WIK (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators/Writing and Illustrating for Kids) conference was such an environment.
When I walked into the dessert party on Friday night, my shield was up. Oh, I smiled and nodded—and wondered how soon I could escape. But I’d forgotten a key factor. Writers are, as a rule, a warm and friendly crowd. And, hey, I’m a writer! I can do warm and friendly.
So, before Saturday’s keynote speech and workshops and manuscript critiques, before any of those things designed to teach me about the business of writing had even begun, I learned something important: One doesn’t have to be a born schmoozer to schmooze.
To be a successful schmoozer you need only three things:
- A sincere interest in learning about others.
- A genuine desire to listen.
- **An authentic smile.
(**If your fear of The Schmooze has your smile resembling the red lips from the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” posters, circa 1975, you need more help than you’ll find on any blog. Good luck!)
As it turns out, buttercup, those three things will get you through, even if you’re not a schmoozer. In fact, they are a great substitute for that elusive C&W. Maybe even better.
So, are you a born schmoozer, or do you require a “Schmoozing for Dummies” manual? Do you enjoy “The Schmooze” or do you avoid it like anthrax? If you are a schmoozer, do you have any tips?
See you next for Book Blurb Friday!