How to Conquer the Scary, Necessary Beast that is Networking

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In the last few weeks I have made it a point to up my networking game. Previously, I engaged in a really rough networking style where I would pack a week with events and spend the rest of the month emotionally exhausted. I had to take a step back and re-evaluate this style and reform it in a way so that I am still getting my name out there while balancing self care. I accomplished this with the help of some swimming analogies, naturally.

Last week I attended the Failing Forward event through Creative Babes. I am sure I will write a post soon about Failing Forward but this event was just gorgeous. Per usual, I sign up, I am excited, and then it is the day of the event and I am thinking…hmm how can I get out of this?! The anxiety begins to build and I almost talked myself out of this few hours of pure inspiration. I left so lifted and refreshed that I would have kicked myself if I had not gone. So how did I make it through this event where I didn’t know anyone going in, I had a full crazy day of work before, and I was starting on a less than optimistic note?

First, I set my intention. I was going to put my day behind me, paste a smile on my face, and fake it til I make it with the shaky confidence I was feeling. Second, I took baby steps. It really helped that the moment I stepped out of my car I ran into one of the founders of the group whose positive energy was contagious. Her welcome just reaffirmed why I was there. I signed in, got myself a drink, and meandered through the different tables. I made myself available for conversation with as light and airy of body language as I could, hands at my sides, phone in my pocket, smiling. I also was dressed in clothes I am extremely comfortable in. This just so happened to include a script Ohio shirt from Homage which sparked a conversation with a fellow table meanderer.

The key in these first conversations when dipping your toe into networking is ask questions. You may be a little nervous still and not ready to assert yourself, so ask questions, get the other person talking, and really listen. Listen for a common interest or something that you find unique or cool and elaborate on that. This conversation is a double ice breaker. You are meeting someone new and you are breaking into the evening. After this conversation you should be about knee deep in the networking pool. Your confidence, or your liquid courage, has started to kick in and you are ready to maybe start approaching other people. It is ok to still be a fly on the wall here for a bit. Listen to conversations happening around you, open your eyes to what people are doing, then dive in!

This one badass woman next to me pulled out needles and started crocheting. Talk about a conversation starter. The woman on her other side and I were instantly shooting questions at her which lead to great conversation and me handing out my card super organically. To me, organic, meaningful conversations are key in this kind of setting. I get we are basically speed dating, but I am not good at that, so if I can have 2-4 really interesting conversations and make a little deeper connection with a small group of people my night was a success.

I took some of these tips into my event on Wednesday. Spring Into Self Care was all about letting yourself relax. There was yoga available and massages if you wanted them but it was really just a nice group of people there to talk, test some of my food, and learn a little bit more about how I can support them as a health coach. It was a true test of “go with the flow” because people trickled in meaning I couldn’t give the opening Hello! speech I had planned. Instead I got to engage with 2-3 people at a time really walking them through my business and getting to know them a little more. I followed the example of the founder I met at the previous event and tried to greet everyone at the front door or soon after arrival. I wanted everyone to feel like they were welcome and to not be afraid to mingle or ask questions. This to me created such a fun atmosphere of jokes, laughter, and left people with a feeling of contentment and friendship I hope is always associated with Sentzational. It is my ultimate goal to leave interactions making the other person feel both seen and heard. To be totally present in the moment.

I think that is one of the best things this grueling networking game has taught me. The more authentic you are the more people respond to you. Also, understand your brand and identify how you want to be seen and heard and then find groups that align with your vision. If you do these things networking won’t feel like work or be a stressful experience for you.

I also recommend, even if it seems scary, go to networking events alone. Not having a life boat made me more keen to find common interests and talk with other people. Creating allies and friendly faces in these situations is essential.  If you host your own event, however,  have a few ringers in the crowd. These can be clients, friends, or both. Having people in the crowd who both know you and your product is a great way to put you and your other guests at ease. It allows you to spend quality time with everyone at the event without having to man a station and it lends itself to creating that instant comfort vibe I love.

Let me know some of the tips and tricks you have found to make networking a breeze or if any of what I mentioned above helps you!

-Katie

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