The very idea of networking can send some people into a cold sweat. As the event approaches they are dreading it. They try to think of reasons not to go. When they do go they will seek out someone, anyone, hopefully that they know already but worst case someone just like them… and hide in a corner with them for the event.
I recently read an article that tried to change the perspective on networking, from that “meet a bunch of strangers and make small talk” type of event, to a “relationship building” event. The premise being that finding and engaging interesting people is very different than small talk with a bunch of people that are of no interest to you.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Dale Carnegie
It makes a lot of sense, and anything that can take a little of the fear out of “networking” is a good thing. Here are some thoughts I have about networking:
Be interested in other people… VERY often you will be pleasantly surprised. As opposed to feigning interest, or going through the motions.
Remember that everyone you know (barring family) you had to meet for the first time.
Everyone at a networking event has something interesting to tell.
Think about the other people… not about yourself.
Ask lots of questions. Prepare a few in your head before you go. “Do you come here often?” is a little lame. “What do you like about these events?” might create more conversation.
Know that everyone, even the most comfortable networkers, has that same fear to varying degrees.
It does not take much to break the ice… a smile, a kind word, a thoughtful question.
If you are at some kind of networking event then you already have something in common with everyone else there… it is relatively easy to have a conversation with people who something in common.
Set yourself a goal to meet some number (give yourself a target) of new people when you are heading to such an event. Get others to introduce you; make sure to talk to people you sit with; find people standing on their own (they are likely feeling uncomfortable); circulate and find opportunities to talk.
Take a deep breath and go for it, you might just meet your next best friend or even a future partner! The risk is small, the potential is huge!
“Be genuinely interested in everyone you meet and everyone you meet will be genuinely interested in you” Rasheed Ogunlaru
Like most things in life a little preparation helps. Think about your strategy before you go (read something like these 10 tips at a minimum), think of some questions to ask people, set yourself some goals and then jump in the deep end… it really isn’t so bad!