When I was a lot younger (a lot) I was the type of person who would prefer to hide behind a pillar (if there was one handy) or skulk in a corner (there are always corners available) rather than step into any networking situation whatsoever.
Words seemed to freeze in my mouth and I literally counted the minutes till it felt all right to leave.
I generally only spoke to people I knew, and the relief when I could finally say my goodbyes was enormous.
Then when I got married, it was even easier to avoid putting myself ‘out there’ as I married someone who, as he himself puts it, can chat up doorknobs. One of the best networkers I’ve ever known. He was the front man to my shrinking violet.
Then I put myself in the line of fire – deliberately. I took a job where part of my brief was running events, lots of events. I realised that the only way I was ever going to come out from the shadows of those comforting corners was to have no choice. I couldn’t hide behind pillars or skulk because I was the ‘go-to’ person at these events; I was the one who organised them from start to finish so my visibility was necessary and meeting new people was essential.
Talk about being thrown in the deep end – except it was me who did the throwing!
And it worked. Painful at first, but eventually I even began to look forward to every event on the calendar.
How was this transformation achieved? I wouldn’t exactly call it a transformation; more a progression.
The first thing I realised was that I was not the centre of the universe and therefore what I was feeling and thinking were of little consequence – it was what other people were thinking and feeling that was of paramount importance. I stopped worrying that I’d have nothing to say because the simplest solution was to get the other person talking.
I could go an entire evening barely talking by just asking open questions and tossing in the occasional comment. I didn’t have to think about how awful I felt.
The second thing I realised is that a lot (a lot) of other people felt exactly the same way and that I could help myself by helping them feel more at ease, so I developed my hosting skills of not only going up and introducing myself to total strangers, but also then introducing them to others as well.
The third thing I realised was that people really do like to be helpful. They don’t just go to networking events or events where networking might happen to get more contacts and potential business. They also go because their expertise might be called upon. There is something incredibly satisfying about hooking two people up who could benefit from each other’s know-how.
The fourth thing I realised is that even if I didn’t become bosom buddies with most of the people I met, it was fun to rootle around to find something we had in common which made chatting so much easier.
Of course, these realisations didn’t happen all in one go, but added together make up the heart of why business networking is no longer something to be endured, but something to relish.
Come along to one of our Business Networking courses and learn more about the above four-point plan and loads and loads more. You, too, could become one of those people who can chat up doorknobs.
Check out Impact Factory’s Business Networking courses.
By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory