Trying out the networking concept of the “phone date.”

My friend Marci is a brilliant networker. She’s constantly meeting people and, what’s more, taking the time to make useful introductions for other people. Her new book One Person/Multiple Careers just came out, so she’s been working especially hard lately.

I’m not a natural networker, just the opposite, so I study Marci to see if I can figure out how she does it – and seemingly, so effortlessly.

The other day, she mentioned, “I set a phone date to talk to that guy.”

“Phone date?” I asked. “What’s a phone date?”

Marci explained that a phone date is a date to talk to someone on the phone – not necessarily right away, just sometime in the near future – someone you want to connect with, but who lives out of town or with whom it isn’t necessary to organize an actual meeting. (“Date” as in calendar appointment, not as in romantic date.) You contact the person through email, and make an appointment to speak.

I shudder at the thought of cold-calling strangers, but I vowed that I’d give it a try.

Well, I just had my first “phone date.”

I have to say, it was a bit awkward.

The problem was that I didn’t have an agenda. I just wanted to talk happiness shoptalk with another happiness person. But I think that the conversation seemed a little aimless (or maybe even pointless) to my interlocutor.

A phone date needs a clear agenda.

Also, because I asked for the phone date, I knew all about the guy to whom I was talking, but he didn’t know anything about me. That made it harder to have a good conversation.

But a “phone date” is a useful idea. It’s convenient, efficient, and done right, could be very helpful.

Because of the nature of my work, it’s very hard for me to meet new people. I spent most of my time sitting in front of my laptop, not saying a word except to mutter to myself.

I’ve been trying to work to push outside my usual circle, and especially to meet people engaged in the fields of happiness, writing, blogging, or publishing. Even though my first attempt was awkward, I’m pleased that I connected with another person in the happiness field.

I vow to give it another shot. Next week. Or maybe the week after.

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If you’re looking for a very quick overview on the subject of happiness, you might start with this post on Life Two.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Havana

    Great idea, Gretchen! Thanks for sharing your experience, even if it was awkward. In fact, I think that’ll be more helpful to your readers in the long-run… many people get discouraged when they fail the first time. Please post about your next phone date whenever it happens, I am very eager to hear how it turns out.

  • http://tisiwoota.blogsome.com L’el

    Here’s a suggestion for a phone date that a) will go smoothly, b) you’ll really enjoy, and c) will be an all-around great connection.
    My friend Siona Van Dijk is “Synchronicity Coordinator” for zaadz.com, a social networking site with a purpose. She also has a practice in counseling and community building: http://www.sionas.com/Intro
    To really get a sense of why you should talk to her, check out her response to the blog meme “What is your dream job?” http://siona.zaadz.com/blog/2007/3/what_is_your_dream_job
    She has volumes to say about happiness (especially in relation to community), and is unbelievably warm to talk to. You won’t regret it.

  • http://www.bearhappiness.blogspot.com/ Carley

    Hi Gretchen,
    I really enjoy your blog and was just going to post my own bit about the joys of meeting new people when I read your post. I find interacting with new people to be somewhat awkward too but it is a skill like all other things and just takes practice. The rewards for getting past the awkwardness can be immense though as you learn about new people, ideas and perspectives. Good luck with your next phone date!

  • http://profile.typekey.com/akm28/ TasterSpoon

    Kudos for your bravery. Talking on the phone can be dreadful, especially with a stranger, especially when you’ve requested their time. It seems much more pressured than an in-person conversation. All they have to go on is the brilliant, engaging things you say…or don’t say, as the case may be. They don’t have the visual cues to see how you’re trying, and natural lulls become so much dead air. That agenda tip seems crucial.

  • Jessica

    I do think phone dates are great for social ties. I like to make phone dates with friends far away as to avoid “voicemail jail” and actually connect with them on a semi-regular basis.

  • http://www.heymarci.com Marci

    Since I apparently inspired this post, I had to chime in!
    So glad to hear that this worked for you, but oddly, I hadn’t seen anything the slightest bit bold about making a date to talk with someone by phone. It seems much like setting up a meeting with a person that you want to meet when logistics makes an in-person meeting difficult. Perhaps the terminology I used (“phone date”) is what made it seem unusual. In any event, I’m glad the technique has got you out there connecting with more people. Anything that works!
    I do say that I wondered about the phrase “cold calling strangers,” because I don’t think I’ve ever done that. When I set up a phone date, it’s usually because someone has made an introduction — or a person contacts me and wants to chat.