Hate Networking? You are not alone!
So this week, Hayley, the process queen behind the scenes at our events, admitted she hates attending networking events that are not her own! (And do you know what – so do I)
How can this be when we both love greeting new people at our events and welcoming our long standing members at it every month at our Lunch time networking event?
So what is it about “Networking” that we hate so much AND what makes us think we are alone in feeling like this? This is a key question for us at The Business Network Chester.
Well – I have to admit – after reading the brilliant book “Quiet-The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain I think I may have the answers.
In Susan’s book she argues that actually – rather than fight ones introversion, we should accept it and maybe even be a little more Eastern in our Business Outlook. In addition she calls upon Extroverts to do more to step into the world of introverts and help them – to the benefit of both parties.
She cites the Far East way of doing business as one where by people are treated with respect; listening and understanding is much more revered than “telling” (or even selling) and getting ones own point across.
Introverts and Networking and the need to do an “Extrovert” (perceived) activity
Introverts in the West have to cope with societies expectations to be “Bold, brash, larger than life” to achieve success. It starts in schools, where children are constantly being told to speak up, contribute, stick their hand up – and are almost frowned upon when they do not conform to these demands.
So, whilst some of us, many the majority of us think to Network is to walk into a room with “Jazz hands” saying “Hi – Look at me – I’m here, lets network!”
Well here is the Breaking news – we need to stop this thought right in its tracks!
For one – its a completely “Fake” way to network – no one wants to do long term sustainable Business with someone that is so fake and inauthentic.
Introverts may well be labelled “shy” reclusive, unsociable even. However, what is fascinating about Introverts is their ability to listen; their ability to ask deep questions; and the ease with which you can feel comfortable with them – so long as you reciprocate and match and mirror your approach and style to them.
Introverts appreciate depth in relationships, and will only reveal themselves when its safe to (according to them).
I’d go as far as to say that Introverts are the Meerkats of networking.
- Meerkats are loyal to their families and friends.
- They stick together and live according to their values.
- Their behaviour reflects an innate idealism and desire to coexist peacefully.
- They are curious about everything that goes on around them and are open to new experiences.
Extroverts and Networking – The Energy spots in a room
Extroverts by contrast – can be, (if they do not keep their natural volume, gregariousness and desire to meet as many people as possible a little hidden), be a real off put to not only introverts but extroverts. We have all been at a networking event where someone may dominate the space, or conversation and wished that you could just escape. This is where extroverts sometimes use their enormous energy to dazzle and stimie the introverts in the room.
So Extroverts – your challenge is this – to listen and understand – to appreciate and maybe even pause to admire that introverts that have empathy, good (if quiet and gentle) communication skills. They will sit back and listen not lead; you will need to ask them gentle questions that allows them to reach a level of comfort before diving into details or “cross examination”.
When an extrovert networker can adapt and make others feel valued and welcome – and be more gentile in their approach amazing things can happen.
The meeting of minds to get win-win results from networking
So how so we overcome this default – I can’t do it/don’t like it attitude to networking?
Well here are some tips – for you Introverts AND Extroverts. If we can all adapt a little bit – introverts being “braver” extroverts being – more introvert, then amazing things will happen.
Tips for Introverts
- Plan ahead –
- Give yourself enough time ahead of the event to gather together your Business cards. Have 10 or so and make a mental note of how many you want to share at the event.
- Think about what your 2 minute talk will be focused on. (craft a 2 min talk click here)
- Think of some conversation starters or Questions you can ask others (ideas can be found here)
- Be present – take 10 deep breaths before you exit your car/enter the building
- Recall who you met last time – reach out and meet them ahead of the event for a 121 or a quick 10 min catch up and go in together
- Set out your success factor – meeting 3 new people, or, reconnect with 2 people, or arrange 2 121 meetings, find a good supplier or referral partner – Have a focus that is not about “Selling”
- Body language
- Remember – Networking is as much about how you look as well as what you say
- Breathe and smile
- Slow down your speech by opening your mouth, enunciating clearly and pause for breath!
- Shoulders back, head up – make eye contact
- Smile – nothing beats it
- Forget Networking – its conversations, its helping people, its connecting the dots, its about finding like minded people who are willing to help
- Listen and be curious about others
- Act like the host – be a connector for others
- Be open minded – you JUST do not know who other people know!
- Ask natural flowing questions – don’t follow a script
- At the event
- If you agree to have a 121 book it there and then!
- If you find you are not connecting naturally with people – then it may be the people there – not necessarily YOU!
- It’s OK to approach a group and ask “can I join you” – the way they welcome you will tell you alot about whether or not that is the right format/group for you.
- If you do not feel you can do that (and thats OK) ask the Host to introduce you to a welcoming group to ease you in.
- After the event
- Follow up! make that 121 meeting, send the follow up information, just say how nice it was to meet.
- Connect on Linked in – a great way to remind yourself how people look/who people are!
- Connect on the social media channels that work for you
- Book onto the next event
- Think about what other people you could connect/invite to events
A Plea to Extroverts –
You can be big helpers to introverts – so don’t dismiss them – share with them your skills and views and help nudge them along to gain more from the event – and in turn you will win over a fan for life!
Try these alternative ways to “Network”
- Make the first move
- Be mindful that what you may find easy is really hard for other people – so go with a gentile helpful demeanour and see who you can help?
- Be calmer
- You may have to tone down your natural effervescence and confidence to make a connection with someone that may well be quaking in their boots! Reach out and help them without forcing it – a gentle nudge sometimes is all people need
- Gently encourage
- If you see someone on their own, gazing at the wall or plans, or phone – go and introduce yourself and help them move around the room.
- Don’t be dismissive
- The quiet ones may well be your next best connection – so yes they may not be larger than life BUT – that does not mean they cant connect you to a new set of opportunities
- Match and mirror
- If the person you are with is quietly spoken – take them to the edge of the room so they are not in the noisy hurly burly. Then speak and listen in a gentile matching manner.
We would love to hear your stories and views on Networking experiences – please share and let us know what tips work for you.