I must admit that this week was possibly one of the best I have had in my entire life! Well, my networking life. Listen, I am the self-acclaimed socially awkward type. Sometimes my conversations don't flow as I would like it to, or I just don't make the impact I intend to during a networking event. Well, this week, I did something that worked for me. And I am a step closer to being better at networking.
Step Outside the Comfort Zone
As the socially awkward type, I often shy away from networking sessions especially if no one I know will be there for me to lean on. You know, like bringing along a friend who you can chat up with because you don't know how to start a conversation and with who. Well, let me tell you, attending networking sessions on your own can be intimidating but it is an excellent way to push yourself outside your comfort zone.
This week I attended an international conference and managed myself so well that I decided to share the approaches I made that helped me to make the most of the session. What worked? My conversation flowed, I added some value and I left something I wanted others to remember about me.
1. Attend networking sessions/events tailored for you
If you are new at this networking thing and trying to figure your way around, find a session within your interests. In my case, I attended a GIS conference, because that's that my area of work/interest and then I found sessions from the conference that related to who I really am and had have interest in.
For instance, I attended a young professional social during the conference, because that's where I could meet people who I could relate to the most, since we have something in common. Finding networking sessions tailored for you means, it has something you can both gain from and also add value to; my advice, don't just attend networking sessions because it's happening. There are tonnes of networking sessions for everyone, so choose wisely and make the most of it!
2. Have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve
Don't just attend a networking session because everyone is going, and you want to be apart of the crowd. Instead, be clear about what you want! What do you hope to achieve from networking?
Like you would imagine you can gain so much from networking sessions, such as building contacts and creating the foundation to meaningful relationships ... so before you head out to a next networking event go, create a list of things you want to get from the session and what you hope to bring.
Don’t just attend a networking session because everyone is going.
For me, attending networking sessions, I typically want people to be more aware of my brand and what I have to offer as well as meeting persons who I can foster a relationship with for future collaborations. The purpose for each networking session may vary, so be clear about what you want to achieve, but to do that, you have to be clear about who are and what you want!
3. Be YOU!
The key to success at any networking session is being yourself. There is no other way. As one of my closest friends would always remind me, "be yourself, people will pick up on the fakeness." And I will add to that, don't force yourself to fit into a particular group. If you find that people are not so interested in you or your brand, don't force it. Sure you can make some tweaks here and there, but if people can't accept you as you then so be it.
When you are your authentic self, people are naturally more drawn to you. So be you and the bring the version of you to the session.
4. Be confident
Second to being yourself and succeeding at any networking session is being confident. Normally, I would ensure I look and feel my best at a networking event as this usually helps with boosting my confidence. Confidence comes with being sure, without being self-absorbed.
I find that persons are more willing to listen to someone who is confident about themselves and what they are talking about. While confidence is great, one of the mistakes I find that some people make is, being so overly confident they talk on and on, often times unnecessarily, so much that becomes annoying ... don't make that mistake. No one likes someone who talks excessively at a networking session, well not me.
If you are anything l like me, socially awkward. Chances are that no matter how long you’ve struggled with making the most of networking sessions or the kind of torture you’ve put yourself through to make your conversations flow at networking sessions, I’ve been there.
There is no one less likely to succeed at networking than me. By no means am I the social butterfly as I am low-key and would rather being behind the scenes. I have always spent most of my time away from social events, especially if no one I know is going to be there. But I have made an effort to step outside my comfort zone, to put on my big girl panties and make the most of networking events, and you can, too.
So, if you are second-guessing if you should attend that next networking session that could potentially help you to grow in your career, don't! Part of growing is leaving the comfort zone. As I said, If I can do it, you can too!