It took me forever to get comfortable attending networking events. I used to think these gatherings were not for me, but better suited for salespeople who wanted to land their next client. I often felt like a fish in a barrel waiting for one of them to reel me in with their schpiel.
As a writer, the whole situation actually makes for good material. Each attendee has a backstory and a reason for being there. Some have a game plan or no game whatsoever. A few work the room with ease while others consider themselves successful because they got up the nerve to walk through the door.
When attending these events, I always took the “fake it til you make it” approach. I’m not a wallflower, but I’m not a salesman either. I am pretty good at small talk, so my strategy revolved around feigning self-confidence and walking up to someone who looked just as uncomfortable as I did, say hello and start up a conversation. Most of the time, it was a good experience–although there were some duds. We would practice our elevator pitches on each other, play the “do you know so and so” game, and then exchange business cards. Later, at home, I would find them on LinkedIn and add them to my contacts.
I met one of my good friends at a conference in Boston over 15 years ago. We were among the first to arrive, sat down together and introduced ourselves. As we made small talk, we found that we had a lot in common and we haven’t stopped talking since. She is an amazing person who encourages me to be my best self. I’m so glad I decided to sit next to her.
I have actually met a lot of friends in the same way–through networking. You just never know who you are going to meet and how you can help each other out. The more events I went to–the more amazing people I met and the better I got at this networking thing. I even started to enjoy myself.
Nowadays, my goal is to meet at least half the people in the room. It doesn’t need to be everyone, but it can’t just be one person either. I ask questions and get them to talk about themselves.My ultimate goal is to see how I can be of help to them instead of the other way around. I think that makes a lasting impression on people and later when I connect with them on LinkedIn, they remember me and often return the favor.
What is your game plan when it comes to networking?