Networking outside that comfort zone
I used to be a smoker, networking was easy. Packed into the smoking area like sardines, all with the commonality of being freezing cold, conversation tended to flow smoothly between me and my fellow outcasts. Everyone always seemed up for a chat which made networking feel incredibly comfortable and relaxed. Those days are gone, and with the introduction of warnings on cigarette packets, smoking isn’t such a social sport.
So once I quit the lung darts, I had to find new ways of networking. A new level of self-confidence to hold my self up in a room full of other professionals. I joined BNI (Business Networking International), and it was great. Every Wednesday morning like-minded individuals would catch up and have breakfast. Meetings were structured so that each person had time to speak and represent their business, no one slipped quietly into the background. By seeing the same people every week and learning about their business, I was able to establish great relationships. My second experience of networking was pretty awesome.
And then came the third. A room full of strangers and me, feeling like “Nigel no friends” in a room full of professional chat and groups of people who seemed to have known each other for a lifetime. How was I to infiltrate and network in this environment?
Well, I did the unspeakable. I just walked up to a table for 2-3 people and said: “Hi, I’m Kath from KHB”. Like a kid in the playground (because this is definitely the image that best represents it) I just introduced myself as though I were about to ask them to play an excellent game of tag. All that followed this entirely faked confidence was showing a genuine interest in these strangers. Hey presto, before I knew we were liking each other’s Facebook pages!
I quickly learnt the dos and don’ts of these types of events. The trick is not to get caught up at that same table for the rest of the night. I try to “work” the room, terrified initially, my confidence increases after each introduction. The more introductions I made, the more unstoppable I felt.
I think it comes down to these top tips