I organize a lot of tech events in Boulder. They run the gamut from public-speaking shindigs to fly-by-night mini-conferences dedicated to video games. It’s something I’m not paid to do. Instead, event organizing is a hobby that allows me to meet lots of people in a short amount of time, absorbing awkward embraces and business cards along the way.
Over time, I’ve become pretty adept at befriending strangers and adding them to my social menagerie. I consider it less a skill and more a superpower, something akin to telepathic projection or the ability to transform household appliances into smaller household appliances.
We recently played host to many out-of-towners during Boulder Startup Week, a five-day salute to our startup culture that brought visitors from San Francisco, New York City and elsewhere. During this period of heightened networking, I spied a few locals committing social atrocities that could have been avoided. Allow me to help, folks.
As a public service, I want to share a few tactics for successful and aromatic networking within Boulder’s feisty tech community. There are many excellent people worth meeting, so arm yourselves with some neighborly knowledge.
Don’t be weird
We’ve all seen the bumper stickers in town that encourage fellow motorists to “Keep Boulder Weird.” I’m all for that. Weird is rad. Weird is responsible for the best music, the best food and the best films, such as “Ghost Dad.”
However, when meeting people for the first time, you should wipe the weird from your wardrobe. When I hand you my business card, don’t whine about how depressing it is to see my astral energy reproduced as a piece of a paper. Don’t ask me if I can hear the trees whispering my name. That’s weird. Unless you’re a Hobbit — that’s the only time talking trees are allowed.
Use your real name
This shouldn’t be a problem, but it is. Some folks insist on attaching fantastical names to themselves to project creativity or something. Online personas were cool in the early days of the internets, but the modern web requires a real name to accompany you in real life. You can shorten it, add an umlaut or insist on lowercase letters. Just make sure that it’s a real name.
I suspect the problem began when people started using words like “ninja” or “samurai” in place of “practitioner” or “specialist.” Just stop.
I’m going to break up with you
There comes a time in every conversation where it’s clearly time to part ways and see other people. Like the zombie apocalypse, it cannot be avoided. Usually it’s because our chatter has brought us to the forbidding wasteland that separates small talk from deep, meaningful confessions. Keep that noise to yourself.
When the scythe comes whistling betwixt us, don’t touch me as an overture toward prolonging the conversation. There are plenty of talkative fish in the sea, and some of them want to give me gift cards or free hoodies. I’ll be in touch, I promise.
I’m not the finest networker in Boulder, not by a long shot. There are men and women in this town whose laughter can make flowers bloom, whose shoes are free of scuffs, whose faces are free of scruff. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Think you can introduce me?