For some people, the thought of networking instills fear and anxiety because they feel it doesn’t come naturally to them or they are not good at it. The good news is that networking is a skill and like all skills, it can be learned. One of my bug-bears however is contrived networking; where people attend events armed with the list of attendees, a target list of the people they want to connect with and an agenda of what they need to achieve with each.
I have a few issues with this…
- It feels all wrong from the get-go. It feels too much like hard work before you get started at all; it feels unnatural while you are in the middle of it and it and can get stressful and frustrating afterwards if you didn’t make the progress you wanted.
- It will not be an enjoyable experience; there is constant pressure to move on to your next
victimcontact so you can tick that box!
- It will be more obvious than you think that you are ‘working the room’
- Unanticipated interruptions will feel like deviations from your plan
- Will you really be listening to the other person if you’re overly focused on getting to the next person on your list?
Networking, when done naturally, should feel fluid and enjoyable. This is not to say you shouldn’t have a little plan or that you stay talking to the same person all evening. Of course you should have a plan but it should be more like “I’m going to go into this room full of people and be energetic and engaging, I’m going to listen and invite people to join the conversation, I’m going to be brave and sit next to someone I don’t already know“. Your plan should be loose and dynamic enough to allow for flexibility and enjoyment. Remember, others will want to enjoy networking with you too.
If you make networking fun, you will do more of it, fear it less and get better at it. The rewarding and productive part will follow naturally.