I wrote this as an email originally, but I thought it was worth turning into a blog post because it might be useful for those who are venturing into new networks. Those who know me have said I’m good at networking – which is very nice of them of course – but what they may not know is how difficult I find it. Here’s what I go through when I walk into a room full of mostly strangers:
Networking is odd… there’s a bit of acting involved (and sometimes people over-act and it comes across as disingenuous and I hate that and can’t wait to get away from them) but the majority of people are exactly the same as you and me in as much as it’s a little forced and uncomfortable at first but as soon as you get past the initial “hello I’m blah blah….”, it’s actually fine, and easy, and you can breathe again. If I’m honest, despite having had plenty of practice, I still feel very nervous at the idea of going into a room full of people, but i’m told I’m very good at networking. Go figure?! Also I’m a bit naughty and tend to speak to the people I already know – but I think we all do that….
Now that I’ve stepped down as chair of the FFT, I won’t have to do so much hosting. Which is a bit of a relief because hosting is hard. Very hard.
Me: “Hello there, I’m Lorna….. * outstretches hand*….Um hello…. *peers at woman’s chest* er…. *squints and frowns at woman’s chest whilst trying to work out how to pronounce the name printed in tiny lettering on badge*…. erm… *mumbles something which possibly sounds vaguely like the name on the badge which, incidentally, is far too low down on the woman’s chest and is weirdly distracting*…. erm…. yes, so… ha ha… so have you been to one of our events before?”
….to which they answer simply either:
or more often than not
c) [with a look of mild disapproval on their face] “Yes Lorna, we sat next to each other at the last event and I gave you my card……?”
The ones who do networking well are those who carefully and slowly work their way from little group to little group and cleverly manage to also include people who are standing on their own. They also remember faces and names, without fail, and that’s what I aspire to be like.
The initial opener is a tricky one too. My friend K* is brilliant, she usually starts by telling people how she managed to put her top on back to front and has just had to go to the loo to swap it back round the right way, or about the time when she threw her drink in someone lap. Ice breakers ftw! I think the trick is not to feel like you have to talk about worky stuff. The most effective networking i’ve done starts out usually just finding something in common with the person I’m talking to – and it might be music or sport or hobbies or even something you both watched on TV.
Hey, I should turn this into a blog post!
So, some tips and experiences there that might or might not be useful. Practice makes perfect I guess. Oh and smile, a lot – that helps loads.
*initial may have been changed, or may not…. oooh, mysterious….