My father attended many events. One would almost call him gregarious, were it not for the fact that I know he enjoyed being by himself walking  or thinking. The events were varied. Business meetings, community meetings, local school meetings, bank board meetings, SAHETI meetings, ambassadorial meetings, church meetings and family events. Had he kept a diary it would have made fascinating reading about who he met and what they spoke about.

He did not complete the meetings with the record in a diary, but he did prepare diligently before meetings where he knew he would meet people who would be able to have some influence, not necessarily for him, but for the group he might represent. His preparation might be just innocently asking us about the children of fellow Parents Teacher Association members, so he could use their name or comment on their performance at school or in sport, to form a bond. My mother could contribute with details of the wife. In those days, it was chauvinistic: men drove the vehicle of school board management while the women did the fund raising.

His preparation for other events was much more organised. Before the days of Google and the internet, he would have his secretaries research high profile people that would be attending ambassadorial gala events. He would have a list of their names, the name of their wives and children, the schools the children attended or what they were studying at university, their birthdays and anniversaries, their political affiliation and their business interests. Some information he would have gleaned in conversation with others, and other information was researched by the secretaries. This would be typed on a foolscap page and he would review it in the bedroom as he dressed in his pressed tuxedo with starched white shirt. He had a good memory but he would review the information over and over and commit it to retention for years so that it was available should he meet this person anywhere in the world, or even someone close to them.

When he was at these cocktail parties he never seemed at a loss; he was always in a group, talking, and easily moved off to join the another group, greeting people by their name and adding some detail that made them feel special.

He expanded his networking and refined the relationship by inviting certain people home and working on the relationship. The special people were invited to Greece and allowed a glimpse into Greek philoxenia, the friendship of strangers. They would enjoy the soft blue Mediterranean, sipping earthy resin infused wine while tasting fresh fish still barred black and brown from the charcoal grill. Or they would sit in the village kafeneio drinking coffee or cognac with old men who educated them in the ways of life with their wisdom. Uneducated as they were, my father used this network as  a base and held this mix of Ancient Greek Philosophy and modern Balkan farming wisdom as a beacon in his life. His guests were sure to be exposed to it as well.

Wherever I travelled my father made sure I was to look up  some of his network. He prepared the ground for fertile harvest.

My Father at George Bizos' 80th Birthday fundraiser for SAHETI. He was instrumental in organising the event. Photograph courtesy of Jeff King

One thought on “Conversations about Networking

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