Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week! Beyond, you know, doing good work, networking has been the single most important activity that has helped me build my business.
Networking matters regardless of what you do for a career, frankly. Meeting other professionals in and out of your field makes you part of a beautiful community.
But the funny thing about networking . . . getting started is the hardest part.
Much of networking is the art of meeting people and being friendly and building connections. Honestly, that comes easy to me. Making friends comes naturally.
But there’s a certain level of awkwardness at the start of so many networking events. Few of us relish being the new girl or the new guy and until things get a little cozier, it’s just a bunch of people standing around in a conference room shelling out business cards with one hand and balancing coffee or a cocktail with the other.
My trick: To get over the initial awkwardness of networking events, I look for someone who needs a friend.
A quick glance around the room and there’s almost always someone else who is alone. Someone else who feels perhaps just as awkward as I do. Sometimes it’s the man at the registration table, sometimes the woman pouring herself a cup of coffee. Smile big. Say hello and extend your hand.
Let conversation flow naturally. But if you get stuck . . .
– What do you do? Where do you work?
– How did you get into your field? What brought you to Company Q?
– What do you do when you’re not at work? Any community organizations? Hobbies?
– Have you ever been to one of these events before?
– Where are you from? Live near here?
– What’s this season like for you, in your industry?
– So I’m new to town. Where’s the best place to get pizza/tacos/sushi around here? (Only if you’re actually new to town, clearly.)
Don’t pull a Jeopardy on the poor guy and answer with questions. Give and take, like any conversation.
And if all else fails, try the ultimate conversation-extender: Tell me more about that.
Before you know it, that physics law takes over: a body in motion stays in motion. Once you’ve met that key first person, you’re on a roll. Meeting my first new friend gives me a generous shot of confidence — confidence that carries me through the rest of the event.
What’s your favorite networking tip?
(PS — Are you an Inspiration-Driven Communication client? Have you been? Want to become one? To celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, I’m offering 20% off any new projects we launch this week! Email or call me if you’re game.)