August 25, 2011

This has been my summer for schmoozing! I need to be out there because we have a rotten economy that’s forcing us all to become more entrepreneurial. With that in mind, I am on a mission to forge connections that will build a supportive community for my work.

So far, it’s been fun — unlike the drudgery of the pre-Internet days.

Making initial connections has gotten easier. The process is also less expensive. And everyone is definitely more creative. Here’s what I’m learning:

Schmooze Tip #1: is a solid resource.

This national website offers a revolving calendar of events. Start by choosing your topics of interest and geographic parameters — e.g., would you travel 25 miles for an activity, or 100 miles? Patient sifting through the junk and clutter can lead to discovering appealing options.

After checking out the playdate meetup for unleashed small dogs and a local hiking club, I decided on my first-ever meetup: A summer social sponsored by New York-based members of the Online News Association.

The meetup was at the Sky Room (330 W. 40th St.) Getting in was free; we paid for our drinks. It took me a while to get into mingling at this rooftop lounge near Times Square. Thankfully, most people were friendly so it was worth attending. I also liked the palm trees.

There were duel meetups on the roof last night, each with very different crowds. In addition to ONA, the Wall Street traders were gathering — which explained the presence of too-tan women in too-high heels, wearing too little clothes.

Staying on the ONA side, I spent two pleasant hours talking shop about e-publishing, reporting trends and online marketing. I also learned that porn stars who don’t have tattoos command higher salaries — the ultimate useful information.  :)

At the Online News Association meetup with co-host Eddie Vega of & Gregg Sullivan of

Facebook can be helpful.

Schmooze Tip #2:  Facebook works!  

Facebook found me a new part-time teaching gig. It was posted by people who are friends with my friend, “48 Hours” producer Paul LaRosa.

After he emailed me the contact info, I moved on to back-and-forth emails with my new future boss. Within 24 hours, our discussions were complete. By the way, even though Paul and I used to work together at the News, we hardly knew each other then. Somehow, a decade later, we friended on Facebook and started chatting away.  :)

Today’s business cards stand out.

Schmooze Tip #3: Printed business cards still matter.

Even tech-savvy players whip out business cards. Not plain vanilla throwaways but jazzy numbers with colored borders, distinctive images and design-y elements.

The most interesting ones are printed on heavy stock. Some are odd-sized rectangles and squares. Others have information on both sides.

Schmooze Tip #4: Personal gestures still count too.  

My favorite schmoozing gurus say that forging personal relationships are still measured by the old gold standards. Can the chatting lead to a one-on-one drink, dinner or lunch? Sending and receiving handwritten notecards will always be a classy touch. But following people on Twitter is also useful. Between the mix of old and new, there are plenty of alternative.

Schmooze Tip #5: Join some organizations and pace yourself. 

I’ve recently started joining professional organizations. The membership fees are cost-conscious values ($40 and up) and I can write them off on my taxes. All the groups offer both annual conventions and smaller events during the year.

My dance card currently features memberships in ONA, South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) and Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). (Note: These groups welcome folks of all races.) I have one other membership:  OCA-NY, which is an organization founded by Chinese Americans. Over the next few months, I’ll be expanding into more organizations that vibe with other passions in my life.

Now, I’m looking at a fall calendar featuring interesting events and conversations. There’s no excuse for sitting home and feeling like a lonely loser. From now on, my mission is to get outta the house.

And here’s one more shot, taken during the AAJA convention in Detroit.  :)

Hanging out with: Helen Zia (author/activist/journalist); Paul Anger (Detroit Free Press editor/publisher) & me; Roland Hwang (American Citizens for Justice vp/attorney)