As a marketing and events professional, people assume I am a natural extrovert. Someone who plans all of these social events must be a natural at making small talk, making introductions, and working a room, right? Imagine their surprise when I tell them, “No, I’m really more of an introvert.”
The truth is running events gives me a reason to attend without necessarily having to come up with small talk or to feel bad if I decide to find a quiet place to sip my drink and observe.
Gradually, I came to realize that most of my biggest fears about networking were misguided and that by following a few simple rules, I could benefit as much from these events as the people I’d invited. Soon I was even going to (and enjoying) events I wasn’t planning!
You don’t need to meet EVERYONE at an event
Seriously, some events have hundreds of guests. Coming away with one or two meaningful conversations and their contact information is worth far more than a purse full of business cards.
Don’t count anyone out
There are a lot of people at these events who are selling a service or a product that I am not necessarily looking for. That is no reason not to talk with them. Perhaps we have something else in common, a love of animals or we grew up in the same small town. I may not need what they sell right now, but I never know when I or someone I know might have a need and I have the answer right in my network. For that matter, I never know when one of my new contacts might be able to introduce me to someone I’m seeking.
Good things happen when you least expect it
As I became more comfortable at these events and stopped attending with a mental checklist of how many people in a certain industry I needed to connect with, I started to relax and allow my genuine self to come out. The conversations became more meaningful and the people I met became more likely to stay in touch. My network has grown exponentially and it is full of interesting and talented individuals who I am proud to say I know.
Sometimes you do more networking at other types of events
A great place to meet like-minded professionals is often a workshop or seminar on a topic relevant to your industry. These types of events often have time at the beginning and during breaks specifically for the attendees to get acquainted. You immediately have at least the subject matter being discussed in common and can start a conversation by inquiring what someone thinks of the speaker or mentioning some new information you enjoyed hearing about. Check your local event calendars to see what events in your area might make sense to attend. There are even opportunities to learn more about networking for business. This April event at Service Credit Union’s Portsmouth Headquarters features Diane Darling, a national expert on networking and business relationships.
So stop hiding behind your smartphone, grab that stack of business cards and go make some connections. Chances are, in addition to growing your business, placing your brand in front of important players in the community, and making yourself known as a valuable connector, you’ll also have a really good time.