Networking for non-networkers

I HATE networking. To me, it falls into the same category as speed dating – I just feel awkward when I’m put in a room with a bunch of people with the sole intent of chatting them up to close the deal (I’m talking about networking here, I’ve never done speed dating).

I’m quite an outgoing person, but I clam up at the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers and breaking in. I think most women are useless at it – case in point: every single women’s only networking event I have attended, people only seem to talk to people they know. Seeing as I know noone, I have to walk right up to people and try to start conversations that seem to only ever be met with one word answers.

What I’ve learned

Don’t network. Make friends

I’m never going to be a networker, but I am a friend-maker. I attend events now with the intention of meeting one cool person. I don’t care if they have anything to do with my business or if I never have the remotest possibility of working with them at all.

Somehow, that takes the pressure off. It’s amazing what snippets of gold you get or fun nights you have when this is your intent. Quite often, you do end up meeting people who can help you out business wise anyway.

Use your one liners

Man it’s tough. I try to have a stack of one liners (told you it was like speed dating) that can break me into a group. I have accumulated these by watching men do it. Seriously, guys get networking! Mine are fairly dumb (but I’m still learning) like ‘hey, have you been to one of these before?’ or if there is food somewhere, i wander over and grab some and make a joke of it – this clearly only works if they are snacks provided and not someones private meal.

The one thing I’ve noticed is that when you are alone, no one notices you. You know how you stand there feeling like every eye in the room is focused on you and wondering why such a loser bothered to turn up? Well it’s a total lie. Even if you break into a conversation, say something dumb and fail dismally… Chance are, no one will even notice. This means you get quite a few chances.

Let them talk

My biggest worry is that I will run out of things to say – which is weird, because in all my life, I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen. However, if you ease the pressure on yourself and spend a good portion of your chats ASKING the questions, you don’t have to spend as much time answering them. This way, if you are nervous, you have time to regroup your thoughts and come up with sparkling, witty comments that describe yourself in a way that makes people like you. This is something I find really beneficial.

I was told once that if you ask others questions and talk less about yourself, people walk away thinking you’re the most interesting person in the room. This is because you talked about them, which to them is the most interesting topic in the world. Simple but exceptionally good.

Be brave

It’s like when you go to a country where you know no one. You can be someone entirely different. Well, if you’re in a room, and you know no one, it’s like another country. So be the brave version of you. Take a chance that you wouldn’t take if you had your best friend standing beside you.

5 thoughts on “Networking for non-networkers”

  1. A good networker IS a friend maker – its not about schmoozing but about connecting people. Going to events just increases the density of potential friends to connect with other friends and saves time!

    Other stuff I’ve learned – go up to other people on their own, just like you they’re wondering how to start a conversation. Groups of three are OK but two’s are best avoided in case they’re buddies. Also find the host and get them to introduce you to people…and if you can’t find the host, be the host -act like you’ve organised the whole thing and, in an extension of your ‘be brave’ suggestion, bowl up to someone, get a conversation going and then suggest you bring someone else in, or take your new buddy across to another group. I don’t mean lie, just pretend like its your job to introduce people and watch how relieved and grateful they are …

  2. Thanks Marie Claire,
    I figured, if you were reading, I’d get some good tips out of you – You’re totally right, one thing you do so well is befriend people and make them feel interesting everyone one I know who has met you (which is basically everyone) says the same thing.

    Hi Mike, love your blog!
    You’re right, some days, you can walk into a room and know you’re going to have a good time… Other times, you wish you were at home in front of a good movie with a cup of hot chocolate, and you need to remember the basics! :)

  3. Very interesting post Nat – and something that I can struggle with. Funnily enough I surfed in here from your comment on Rod’s blog about tech being sexy (there is no mention of allowing html here so I won’t try to link to it).

    Great pointers, particularly the letting them talk, this is something I am bad at (being a volumous talker myself).

  4. ha ha yes, some people have been known to yell when tech is associated with sex…

    Ha ha yes sometimes the letting them talk thing is the tricky one – I’m an avid talker! Except sometimes around strangers, but then make up for it by nervous chatter… Can you win?!?

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