When it comes down to it, if I even think about NETWORKING I feel uncomfortable, self-serving, or a bit nervous and anxious. That little devil in our head can cause us so much strife. It's unreal! If I let my nerves take over, I can turn networking into a nightmare.
Those of us who know the value of networking, yet cringe at the thought, have to remind ourselves that our fears are UN-real. Whatever fear is running rampant in our heads is that False Evidence Appearing Real, unfounded fear. Networking is just a simple process with two or more people sharing information about themselves and their business in an effort to generate more clients/sales, even new partnerships.
When you enter a networking event, these people are strangers. Of course, if you think about it, everyone you meet anywhere starts off being a stranger. At a networking event, it helps to remember that the other attendees are just people too, here to network just like you are.
The task may seem daunting for those who aren't natural networkers. But everyone has a role, talkers and listeners alike. If you are more comfortable listening, do so. You will hear opportunities to share your value at the right time. Remember to keep your perspective: networking is just another skill to master, and this not the place to make a sale.
Why did you come? Not because it's about you at all -- Networking is about building relationships and finding common ground. Remember you're there to build a rapport and make a connection.
Ask yourself, why are we all here networking? Hopefully you've thought strategically about what you want to take away from it. You're in a group of like-minded professionals to develop and build a mutually beneficially community, and a networking event is the most efficient and fun (yes, it can be fun) way to do that.
Keep in mind -- Would you rather meet someone at a networking event and sell to them once, or never sell to them, and have them refer you five to ten times?
Ironically, even though I have sometimes built up an unreal fear of networking, I do enjoy talking with others. I have found, though, that I need to review these ideas in order to confidently and strategically participate within the networking event, and to even enjoy one. I remind myself that the other attendees are there to network also -- together we are all building a business community. I concentrate on the skill of balancing listening and talking -- listening for opportunities for our business, as well as for what other businesses have to offer us. I do not concentrate on "making a sale", but instead on letting as many as I can know who we are, and who I am.
Sharing with others gives us a great opportunity to learn about people, the things they know and do. How many times has someone else's story resonated with you to the point that you can't help but want to share it with others? Networking opens up a world of other's stories as well as a change to tell your own.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on networking. Do you find it to be a nightmare? What tips can you share for easing networking anxiety?