Despite these difficulties networking nearly always had positive results. Either a connection was made with others who could benefit mutually by working together, or names were dropped as potential partners. Good ideas were supported; bad ideas were put to rest. At the very least refreshments, a meal or drinks were had by all.
The explosive popularity of electronic mail has changed all this. Networking has become an almost instantaneous connection. It has opened communications between people unlikely ever to get the chance to meet and has eliminated the barriers inherent in working with divergent groups of people. Electronic networking also has the same positive results, but in the process has expanded our knowledge base exponentially and has greatly broadened the scope of our networking efforts.
In the past month I have helped readers contact possible suppliers of specific products, connected with photographers more than a 1,000 miles from our office to inquire about rates and availability, and asked a couple of people if they'd be willing to be interviewed for articles. I have sought and received editorial submissions for future issues and have sent an identical message to several recipients reminding them of deadlines. All of these tasks were done right from my desk, without regard for distance or time zones and at the time these projects best fit my schedule. I didn't even have to remember to wear a tie!
But before we get too enthralled with technology, let's be fair. E-mail has a downside. Let's not forget the importance of a handshake, or looking someone squarely in the eyes. E-mail will never replace human contact, or the need to meet face-to-face. The Pacific Home Fashion Fair in San Franciso, CA, last month, was an excellent chance to meet, even confront, others and finally put faces with names. Valuable contacts were made in exhibitors' booths, hospitality suites, restaurants and lounges. It was just too good an opportunity to pass up.
I always look forward to meeting readers, advertisers, retailers, suppliers and fabricators at our industry events, and fortunately the Boston Curtain & Drapery Show will be here soon. In the meantime, you can always e-mail me.