Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gossip Girl, OK Woman, At the PR Holiday Party Scene

I've been attending media, marketing and advertising holiday parties to network and also to check out what the business climate is like this year.

First off - everyone is scaling back. The status quo for many seems to be plan a happy hour, pick the venue, don't charge, and let everyone who comes pay cash for food and drinks. With the exception of the Independent Public Relations Association feast - the parties that did supply food so far skimped so much the pricing seemed really out of whack for what you got.

As for the photos - they are stock and the woman on the beach is what I picture in my mind as I sit here with a broken heating system. One can dream.

The One Party

Who: Ad Club DC, American Marketing Association and a few others.

Where: Eye Bar - Nice place, room a bit narrow

Crowd: A lot of vendors, ages mixed, older than I expected. Not many prospective clients.

Sponsor Gimmick: One of the vendors had a great idea - everyone who came in got to pick a card choosing from five endangered species. I was an owl. I had to get five other owls to sign my card (great icebreaker) and then submit it with my contact info to win an IPod Touch. There were a few other sponsors who had tabletop displays but some company presidents didn't even show. What's the point?

Cost: $50 ahead, $60 at door

Food and Drink: Open bar - three drinks came with it mixed and wine. Rack liquor. The invitation said the party included heavy appetizers. They were heavy alright - no one touched them. Sushi at the beginning and then they left the empty tray on the bar to make the rest of us feel bad. Food was scary - goo encrusted meatballs, some sort of fried Mexican meat in taco sauce that I could have gotten frozen at the market, vegetables and two different kinds of scary looking chicken wings.

Strategy: Think it may have been to get everyone to drink and then not feed them - 3rd drink impossible without food.

Anecdote: Left my car in a law firm lot a few blocks away after finding a parking lot attendant who asked for a bribe and put me in a Reserved Space. He explained in Spanish how to get out of the garage but I must have missed something because I couldn't figure it out. Couldn't go back up without a pass key. Got stuck down there until one of the lawyers saved me.

Time Spent: Lasted an hour - could have skipped it.

Washington Networking Group Holiday Party

Who: As listed above - no cool name

Where: Guarapo Nena in Arlington - private room

Crowd: Mixed vendors, I was late so didn't see much of it. The DC Networking Group has a very diverse group of people - this one had tech, communications, marketing, international and government people.

Food and Drink: Cash everything - the martinis were cheaper than in DC

Sponsor Gimmick: Why do vendors not have stuff - they just show up and run around and talk to people.

Time Spent: Was worth the trip even though it was a long metro ride. Someone came running out the door after me to invite me to another party. So stunned I gave him my card - he never got in touch. Alot of men - fewer women.

IPRA Holiday Lunch

Who: Independent Public Relations Society of America

Where: Maggianos at Tyson's Corner - and I found it - yeah

Crowd: The room was full - a mix of PR, printers, and other vendors. Draw was the food which was course after course of Yum and that wine came with the meal.

Cost: I think it was $50 ahead of time if you were not a member.

Bad Part: Way too much thank yous, and kudos to each other. If they hadn't done that I wouldn't have realized most of the people in the room were on the board and needed to be there. Sat next to an older woman who complained how much writers are discounting their fees - if you insist on paying seasoned people very little you won't get much. But maybe in this economy they don't care. On my right was someone starting a DC PR business who wreaked of cigarettes - what a turn-off.

Time: Two hours or so not counting getting there and back.

ASAE Holiday Happy Hour

Who: American Society of Association Executives

Where: Black Finn - Pseudo Sports Bar on I Street, DC

Crowd: Again a lot of vendors, several ASAE people including senior ones, and a mix of marketers. Also there was a bunch of college sports fans in the back watching the Georgetown game and yelling which was very distracting.

Anecdote: Watched a pretty young blonde and her boss who was probably a bit older than I am. Black Finn served a free round of beer shots then took photos of only her drinking it. Made me feel ancient. A business exec slowly moved in on her hanging around for what reason I wasn't sure, dense person that I am, until he could find a way to talk to her. When I left they were chummy at the table. For some reason I've noticed these ASAE happy hours often have lots of cute young women and not so young men who love them.

Charity: Toys for Tots and most people did come with an unwrapped new gift. Thank goodness for the closet of presents never given.

Time Spent: Probably an hour - left to beat the ice storm.

International Association of Business Communicators Holiday Party

Who: IABC DC - this group of communications professionals has some very nice people in it.

Where: Arlington, Hilton in one of their nice but small rooms

Crowd: Not as well attended as some but a good crowd. Talked to a lot of people - someone who just started at a clandestine federal agency - and said she reads its web site sometimes to figure out what's going on. Some guy from Burson showed up, zoned in on the few potential clients in the room, and ducked out. He said they're hiring. Don't understand why IABC doesn't care that only a couple of board members show up at it's major events - shouldn't that be expected?

Cost: $40 but came with a small cheese plate and some passed appetizers that left me starving. Cash bar with mediocre wine and rack liquor. Also a member's band played Christmas music - give them an A+ for Santa Got Run Over By a Reindeer.

Time Spent: Probably 1.5 hours. If it hadn't been freezing and I hadn't lost my car on some side street in Ballston it would have been worth it.

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