The Networking Game

Early on in my career, I attended an out-of-town conference. I was the only person from my company, and I didn’t know a soul there. On the first day of the conference, I was invited to join a “networking event” and soon found myself wandering aimlessly through a crowd of strangers.

Drink in hand, completely alone, it seemed everyone else already had a buddy, and they were busy chatting, laughing and generally enjoying themselves. Meanwhile, I tried desperately to blend in — or rather disappear into the floor boards.

Agoraphobics aside, this scenario has got to be the definition of unpleasant for many people. And yet, for entrepreneurs, salespeople, marketers, or anyone on the job hunt, networking can be a necessary evil.

Over the years, I’ve become a lot more comfortable walking alone in to a crowd of strangers at conferences or other events. First of all, I’ve come to realize, I won’t be the only person who is on my own. Smiling helps, and most of those who are solo are thrilled when you walk up out of nowhere and introduce yourself. If you can learn to be comfortable with yourself and look somewhat approachable (face free of tense scowls and creepy, fake grins) others may even approach you!

There is an art to networking. I’ve learned that networking, like many things in life, is about quality, not quantity. If you leave an event having made just a few meaningful contacts, it’s worth so much more than collecting 50 business cards from people you barely remember.

Social media is the next evolution in networking. While it has removed a lot of the fear from networking, meaningful connections can be harder to make, as we’re bombarded with friend requests, Tweets and various e-invitations to this or that. The upside, of course, is the incredible reach and the ability to connect with like-minded people from anywhere in the world.

As part of my book marketing strategy, networking is something I now spend a fair bit of time on. I must confess, though, when I first started out, the whole thing felt like “work.” Even sending Tweets from Twitter felt like a chore. But since delving into the world of on- and off-line social networking, I’ve connected with some incredible people. Somewhere along the way, networking stopped being a chore and became truly enjoyable.

After all, networking is about meeting and connecting with people – ideally, people who have something in common with you – and what can be better than that?

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5 thoughts on “The Networking Game

  1. I agree, networking can be quite an unnerving prospect for many aspiring business owners.

    Online social networks have certainly made life a lot easier and, as long as you build on those relationships you make online, this can make real networking events a lot easier to bear.

  2. I have been to many networking events myself and have not known a soul there. I almost welcome that as it forces me to step out of my comfort zone and actually “network!”

    I totally agree with your suggestions about appearing approachable, smiling, etc. It also helps to almost eavesdrop on other conversations and smile & nod along with them to at least engage and interact. Someone will typically approach you if you appear interested in what is going on. If you sulk in a corner, people may think you are there for the wrong reasons and won’t want to approach you.

    Great tips – thanks for this post!

  3. Hi Tina

    Interesting post and very true. I have been doing quite a lot of ‘shameless self promoting’ since the release of my book last year.

    My philosophy is that noone will promote my work with such interest and gusto as me! So, even a few times when I have felt slightly uncomfortable about it, I have mentioned my book and blog and have often been surprised by the positive reception I’ve received!

    You do need to pick your audience a little. If meeting someone in a person-to-person setting, get chatting about other things first. You will soon know if the person might be receptive to hearing about your work.

    Having a business card with your blog and email address is useful at this point, because you can slip them a card, then move the conversation to other things so you are not monopolising the entire conversation with yourself and your work (remember other people like to talk about their favourite topics too – ie themselves, their work, their kids or their pets).

    Anyway Tina, thanks for the thought-provoking post and please note that your link is now up on my blog at http://www.kitchenphilosopherblog.blogspot.com. Hope it helps.

    You and I are a great example of e-networking – that’s how we met!

    Cheers

    Catherine Warnock

  4. Initially, I used to be overwhelmed by the number of people and the complete lack of information I had about them, being total strangers.

    Over time, I decided I couldn’t hope to meet everybody and started to stand next to the group that seemed the most interesting until I could contribute to their conversation. In the meantime, I listened and observed. All the time, I kept telling myself that making one new contact is better than nothing, two are better than one and whatever I managed in the time I had was good enough.

    Also, I’ve moved from trying to sell to creating relationships, in which both sides benefit, not just me, but also from trying to find an immediate business benefit to making human contact and trusting that the business will present itself in good time.

    Networking is a lot more fun now, but you’re reminded me to smile. I know what to work on next. Thanks, Tina.

  5. Social Networking has erupted Internet offering free worthy traffic, connected business owners, connected teens, connected grandpa’s and even kids from every corner of this world. Social Networking lays a foundation for website owners to broadcast from their rooftop with the infinite range covering almost the entire world about their products,business,services,productions,creations,inventions etc.

    Social Networking’s tendency to revolutionize the internet when combined with online IM’s like IMO definitely redefined the Internet marketing. Social networking can be called as flawless advertising media since no one gets affected,criticized, none are made to empty their pockets. Also nothing guarantees the advantages social networking offers since the results are always directly proportional to the effort put in.

    No Internet guru can deny the fact that Social Networking has the power of richest connectivity,multiplies your visibility online, resurrects your traffic, deliver instantaneous impressions.

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