The Terror of Networking

Why do I shy away from networking events?  What is it about the word “networking” that gives me the shivers??  I am a fairly confident person, but hate the thought of “networking”.  Is it fear of the unknown?  Is it the fear that everyone will know each other and no-one will talk to me (a bit like being the new girl in the school playground) – I’ll look like a lemon?  Is it bad memories of previous networking events – like the time I charged in late and stressed, knocked over someone’s glass of wine, the glass smashed, and I wanted the ground to swallow me up (“hi, I’m Marie – nice to meet you all”).

Some people love networking events.  Others, like me, need courage to go.  But, they can be a really good way to get your business known and gain new business (as they say, people buy from people).  It can also be a good way to pick up knowledge from those with different skills and experiences to yours, which may boost your sales, reduce your costs or just make your life easier…

So for network phobics like me, what can make it easier?

  1.  Go with a friend.  Don’t stick to them all night, but use each other as a crutch (not literally) if either of you needs to.  Make sure you look welcoming when you are together though, or you will frighten everyone else away
  2. Go to an “event” with a purpose, eg a speaker you are interested in.  That way it won’t be a complete disaster if you really don’t speak to anyone.  Use specifics of the event to break the ice – “have you ever heard [ ] present before”, “do you know much about [ ]”, etc
  3. Research networking groups which seem like you and fit your business and which appear, perhaps from their social media, friendly.  There are lots and lots of groups to choose from so don’t choose a bunch of suits if that’s not you (or your business)
  4. Concentrate on talking to people and finding out what they do (everyone likes to talk about themselves), rather than “selling” your own services.  Take their business card and follow up the next day (they’ll remember you as that really nice person who listened rather than bored them to death)
  5. Just go for it!!  And smile (“fake it til you make it”).  What have you got to lose?

I’m off to network tomorrow night – with a friend.  It’s on a topic we are both interested in (and I am hoping there will be alcohol to ease the nerves).  I will have a smile plastered on my face.  I’ll let you know how I get on.

And if you see me at a networking event hiding in a corner too shy to come out, please come and say hello.  I suggest you hold tight to your glass of wine though…

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