Yesterday, I spent hours listening to speeches, panel discussions and presentations on architectural, engineering and construction marketing at the SMPS Build Business National Conference in Boston. I can’t say it turned out to be the most enjoyable day of my life. I felt alone, and was, much of the time, even though there were (brief) opportunities to renew acquaintances, connect with some new people and meet in person some people the first time I knew only online.
Unlike my first visit to a SMPS conference two years ago in Denver, where I enjoyed a fair amount of “wow” sensations — and truly felt like I belonged — today, the ugly pain of my social skills limitations returned to the fore. It proved to be a humbling experience. (And the one picture I had someone take of me didn’t reveal a terribly flattering image. It looks like I really need to watch my diet — the stomach is getting a little larger than it should be.)
There are several reasons for this disconnect. One is that I have never been terribly comfortable in public social circumstances. In rare cases, just the right mix of new and old allow me to feel comfortable and natural; capable of mingling and yet feeling close enough to belong. Most of the time, even though I should belong, I feel “outside”. These weaknesses are offset by my own family’s love and my (fortunate) writing skills. I can communicate well.
Can I cure these problems? Certainly, to some extent, I know the basics: Be genuinely interested in the people around you (in networking events especially) and do all you can to help and assist rather than sell and take. This attitude has always underlined my relationship within SMPS — I certainly don’t try to push any product, service or idea on others here.
But that positive doesn’t offset my awkwardness and humility. I can (and should) do better.
I’ll cover specific topics from the various SMPS sessions in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I have another 2/3 day at the conference, before returning to the hotel to reconnect with Vivian and Eric, have a dinner out, and then (with Eric) head out to a Red Sox game.