Networking is an often misunderstood term. It usually conjures images of a room full of “business types” at some sort of event where people are hoping to connect with people or prospects to grow their business. At their worst, they are awkward and you leave feeling like everyone there was trying to sell you something. At their best, you meet some nice people that you might actually partner with at some point in the future and you learn something while you were there.
Recently, I have come to use networking events a bit differently. While I used to always try to go networking events with a friend, the last two that I have attended I didn’t know a soul and for me, that has made all the difference. No friendly face to cower in the corner with – just me and my story in a room full of strangers. I am not super outgoing by nature so such a strategy certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone. But that’s the whole point. Things were a little “stuck” in my business and that wasn’t a comfortable feeling either. So I did something even more “uncomfortable” to shake things up. I decided to let the event flow to me and just see where I was after 2-3 hours. In both cases, I had a good time, met some great people and actually became a “member” of the group and have returned – no longer a stranger! If you would like to try the “I don’t know anyone there” technique, here are a few pointers. It’s all about intent and mindset.
- Go in with humble confidence. Not arrogant or pushy – just a feeling of “this is the perfect place for me and I will make some interesting, useful connections here.”
- Ask yourself, “Who can I serve here? Who is going to be happy to meet me today?”
- Be patient. At one of the meetings, I made a very important connection for my business and it was at the very end of the session just as I was about to leave.
- See the possibilities. Treat that room full of strangers like an artist looks at a blank canvas. Be strong in your intention but allow the energy and flow of the room to guide you.
- Don’t forget the basics like a firm handshake, a smile and always look people in the eye when you greet them. Ask about their business first. If they are polite, they will return the favor.
So, next time someone asks you to an event for “networking” tell them, “I’d love to, but how about we pretend we don’t know each other!”