midlifedude

Man at midlife making second half matter

Archive for the category “reunion”

The Art (and Practice) of Self-Promotion

I attended my 35th high school reunion last weekend – but not for the typical reasons of reconnecting with old friends or catching up with acquaintances. I knew none of the few people I still am in touch with from high school would be there, and that I wouldn’t recognize the vast majority of attendees, let alone have had even known them in high school.

I went primarily to practice self-promotion and marketing, tactics at which I am not highly proficient, but which I need to improve to raise awareness of and generate interest in my two new books published by Sirenian Publishing. These are skills which I also will sireniancardneed in the future, as I plan to launch an independent counseling practice. Having just obtained Sirenian Publishing business cards, I wanted to see if I could work the two books I have authored into conversations and grease some palms with the information.

I’ll call my endeavor a success, having talked about the books (the novel Three Yards and a Plate of Mullet about a rookie sportswriter in Florida and the nonfiction political memoir Don’t Knock, He’s Dead: A Longshot Candidate Gets Schooled in the Unseemly Underbelly of American Campaign Politics) and given out cards to the eight or so classmates I spoke with at any length.

Sorry to sound so crass, Winston Churchill High School Class of 1981. However, it wasn’t completely an exercise in marketing, public relations and sales. I also attended to be social and with the thought of the possibility of meeting engaging people and establishing a new friendship or two.

It’s just that I know that I fall on the Introversion side of the Myers-Briggs personality inventory and that I don’t get energized by joining big crowds of people I don’t know in loud, cramped spaces. In fact, when I first walked into the reserved room at the restaurant and observed the scene of many strangers who 35 years ago had something in common with me engaged with each other in loud, animated conversation, my first instinct was to leave. I wouldn’t know anybody and I wouldn’t fit in, I thought. I walked straight past the crowd to the bathroom and then stopped at the far end of the bar and watched a football game on TV for a minute to compose myself, get in the spirit and prepare to plunge into the social melee.

It’s also that I associate high school with a difficult time of life that I never felt I could embrace – no fault of my high school classmates. Just before 9th grade, I moved, the result of my parents’ divorce years earlier and my mother’s struggles with her health and ability to function adequately as a single parent. I didn’t want to move to the new high school district, leaving the neighborhood and classmates I had known since kindergarten, and I resented it. It was difficult to adjust and break into cliques and friendships that had been established for years at the new school. I was an outsider and naturally quiet, and never really felt like my new high school or community were my places.

Luckily, just as I left my safe place at the bar to mill through the crowd and face my fear, I encountered a guy I recognized who was with his fiancé. We talked for 45 minutes while I drank a beer and they ate dinner. The ice was broken. That’s what it took to quell my anxiety, open up more, engage in the event and enjoy myself – while still subtly working on self-promotion (At least, I hope I wasn’t blatant. I think I had some tact.) All the classmates I met at reunion were exceedingly friendly and accepting, and I enjoyed conversations. I was grateful for that. As a former reporter, I asked people I met a lot of questions about themselves, so I wasn’t overly narcissistic about self-promotion.

The reunion was an event I wouldn’t have attended if I wasn’t an author. I just wouldn’t have been interested enough to make the effort. But the only way to become better known is to put yourself out there more, and when you do, good things you don’t expect and side benefits can happen.

I talked to a few people at reunion I would like to see again. They don’t even have to buy a book – but it would make me want to see them again more (final shameless plug)!

 

 

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Bursting the Bubble at Reunion

Next Friday night at this time I will be driving through North Nowheresville, PA, somewhere near Scranton, corporate home of Dunder Mifflin, on my way to my 30th college reunion at Colgate University in the tiny upstate village of Hamilton, NY.

It’s a seven- to Colgateeight-hour drive from the DC area, and I can’t leave until 5 p.m. because it’s the first day of summer session class for my counseling program. The reunion check-in office closes at 2 a.m., so I’ll be cutting it close and could be spending the night on a bench overlooking the campus pond.

I decided to go last-minute because I’ll have the opportunity to participate as an author in a book-signing event at the campus bookstore, my first public appearance to promote the self-published Three Yards and a Plate of Mullet.

Colgate is a beautiful campus in a picturesque setting, so I enjoy going back, except for the drive. The weekend is packed with activities, lectures and celebrations – the university does a great job welcoming back its alumni. And I enjoy seeing a small group of friends with whom I lived freshman year and with whom I participated on a particularly zealous intramural team through senior year.

But the vast majority of my classmates who will attend will be strangers to me – some people I never knew at all, and others I may have known as acquaintances but certainly not anymore with the passage of time.

So I’m going to try a social experiment during this reunion, especially since I’m going there to be a self-promoter for my book anyway. I’m going to try to step out of my comfort zone and my small bubble of friends and introduce myself and talk to people from my class whom I don’t know or barely knew. You see, everyone will be doing the same thing – socializing and hanging with the same people they did 30 years ago, and for the most part overlooking others who weren’t part of their group.

It’s human nature. Cliques don’t change. There’s comfort in cliques, comfort in what’s known. There’s risk in stepping out.  It’s not easy for a person like me, an introvert by nature but who still likes to be sociable and can flip the extroversion switch at times. I’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll come home with some new friends…and hopefully a few sales.

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