In business school I went to a bunch of networking events. They were more like the March of the Penguins, a room packed with students in black and grey suits with flashes of white cuffs and collars, shuffling around making small talk over warm wine and fruit platters. They became a chore, two hours of mumbling awkwardly with people whose pursuits and interests just didn’t jive with my own.
Fortunately since then I have learned networking can be far more fun, and more successful – for a given definition of success. Want to chit chat? You’re fine. Want to make connections that can strengthen your career? You need to aim higher.
If you aren’t familiar with Paul Nazareth, you need to acquaint yourself with this superhero. One five minute conversation with him will set your mood to “awesome” for the week. His LinkedIn profile is something to be reckoned with, and his blog posts always offer great insight to the nonprofit and networking cosmos.
So when I saw he was hosting a networking session I knew I wanted in. No stuffy room of suits here. No. We started in a sweltering and commotion-filled Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown. What better way to break the ice than by getting sauce all over your face and finding out, in front of strangers, if chicken feet or tripe is really your thing? I don’t think anyone could be intimidated by me after seeing how many Char Siu Bau I can put away (spoiler: it is lots). We made our way up the street to Top Phung, a kitchen supply store, where I scored some silicone freezie molds. Mango cardamom lime freezies are chilling in them as I write this. Then, goodies in hand, we met with Audrey Ooi of Tasty Tours who (get this) gave us a tasty tour of bakeries in and around Kensington Market! I found out fast that she, and several others at the event, were food and history nerds. Kindred spirits! Learning about the goodies we eat and the places in which we eat them was a blast, and inspired me to write an upcoming blog post about food (food is awesome).
Turkish Delight from Akram’s Shoppe in Kensington Market
Anshei Minsk Synagoge in Kensington Market. Clare McDowall was right to point out the day was full of my favourite things: food, history, and architecture!
Massive sesame balls from Ding Dong Pastries on Spadina (they had a special on – 6 buns for $3. Impossible to miss!)
After we wrapped up the tour a bunch of us continued to The Grind House Cafe, which not only has yummy coffee and food, but is currently hosting a collection of my art. I can’t lie, it gives me a huge confidence boost when I see people cast eyes on my art for the first time. Well, when it’s a positive reception, anyway.
This networking event was great. I mean, just so great. Not only because the day was about a lot of food, but because I was giddy to touch base with everyone I had met. Before I got home I had notifications from LinkedIn and twitter and email from some of my great fellow networkers, and as soon as I was home I sent a bunch of my own similar messages. I’m not sure what other networking event gets you so comfortable with other people so quickly. Paul knows how to connect people!
If you ever find out Paul‘s organizing another one, sign up. You’ll meet incredible people, and have a heck of a day.
Also, dear fancy networking event manager people — take a note from Paul’s book!