Let’s take the ‘work’ out of networking
Do you hate networking? Does the idea of attending a networking event make your skin crawl? The thought of meeting strangers, handing out your business cards and promoting yourself can make the most extroverted person gauge their eyes out. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Many years ago, as the Executive Director of the Jeune Chambre de commerce de Montréal (JCCM), a vibrant business association for 18-40-year-olds, I attended about 250 networking events in the span of about four years. We organized presentations with guest speakers, wine and cheese events, golf tournaments, trainings and workshops, awards ceremonies, and so much more! Of course, it was my job to attend, but in truth I really enjoyed it! I loved meeting so many people from all walks of life and I have kept in touch with many of them since then. And most importantly, we had a lot of fun!
So, how do you take the ‘work’ out of networking and bring in the fun?
1 – Attend an event you’ll enjoy
You can meet people anywhere! So why is that when we think about networking, we think we have to go to some stuffy and boring event with stuffy and boring people? NO! Find an event that interests you and that lights you up! Depending on your networking goals, the event may be one with colleagues in your field, or perhaps an event where your ideal clients hang out. But nowhere does it say that it has to be boring. I’ve had a lot of fun going to gastronomical dinners or paint-nights with other business women. You never know who you’re going to meet!
2 – Go with a friend
As extroverted as I may seem, I still prefer going to an event with someone. No one likes to be standing around alone while others are in small groups, looking like they’ve known each other forever. But remember, the goal is to meet other people, not just hang out with your friend. My challenge to you both is to network for each other! It’s so much easier talking about how good my BFF is at what she does than to toot my own horn which often feels really awkward.
3 – Meet one new person
Now, I’ve seen my fair share of people leaving an event with huge stacks of business cards. But to be honest, that’s not how I like to do things. I much prefer connecting with one great person during an event, rather than meet a whole bunch of people for a few minutes each and mutually forget each other the next day. Networking is about making great connections – and then building on them going forward. And not every new ‘friend’ will buy your stuff – if that’s your goal, you may be disappointed. However, you may meet your next great supplier, an amazing employee, or that person who can connect you to that CEO you’ve been dying to meet…or even a future spouse! (True story – keep reading!).
4 – Get involved in a committee
Volunteering your time in an organization is a sure-fire way to make many great connections. Yes, it does require your time and energy, but if you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you get to have fun and meet people too! At the JCCM, our events were run by hundreds of volunteers who joined committees and worked at making our association a huge success. So, if you play tennis, get involved at your tennis club! If you enjoy wine, organize a wine tasting event for your association. If you have a cause to which you donate money, perhaps donate your time too and get involved. Associations, events and clubs are always looking for people like you.
5 – Listen
Do you know what makes a good networker? Someone who listens and is truly interested in learning about other people. Now of course this should go both ways. I’ve left conversations thinking ‘Wow! That person didn’t ask me one single thing about me – it was all about them!’ But in general, great connections are made when both people feel that spark about the other person! So, put away the idea that you have to ramble off all of your qualifications, and just be interested in the other person and get to know them better. If a true connection is formed, they will be interested in you too.
What type of activities are you interested in? Are you a member of an association? Is there a cause you donate to? Check out their upcoming activities and sign up! Let me know in the comments which one you’re attending and how it went.
And remember, be yourself and HAVE FUN!
Oh yeah – about that true story about meeting your future spouse! At the JCCM, I kept bumping into a guy at various events. 18 years and three kids later, we are still very thankful for our networking skills.
Next week, check out part two of my three blog post series on networking: Networking goals: what are they and do you need them?
If you’re interested in moving past the blocks that are stopping you and your business from growing, give me a call! I offer free 30-min discovery calls to see where you’re struggling and how I can help!