You hear it all the time: it’s not what you know but who you know. But if you find “networking” as a necessary evil of doing business, you’re probably doing it wrong. So let’s look at eight ways to overcome your aversion to networking so you can make it truly rewarding.
Many people’s aversion to networking comes from the idea that networking is selling something: you, your company, etc. But networking is about building relationships so start thinking of it as meeting new people with the goal of building both new and existing relationships.
The first step in building a relationship is finding a reason to care about the other person; whether it’s their passion for building new companies, work helping the local community, or love for their family, everyone has something good to care about. Focus on finding it over the course of your conversation.
Knowing what to say to a stranger is often the scariest thing about networking, so develop and practice a 30 second elevator pitch about who you are, what you care about, and why you’re there. Notice I left out “what you do”. Not only will this be revealed naturally, but talking about what you care about is a far more effective way to build a relationship than to list your job title.
Take advantage of smaller crowds by arriving to an event early. You’re not as likely to feel as much pressure, you don’t have to insert yourself into existing conversations and everyone is open to talking to strangers. And no one says you have to stay the entire time.
Lines are a great forum for starting conversations since people are generally alone, and even with their mobiles, it’s a pretty captive audience. Find a line, any line, and strike up a conversation.
If you prefer to listen than talk, then use this to your advantage by asking questions that lead to real conversations rather than simple responses. Questions like, “what gets you up in the morning?” reveal a lot more than “what do you do?” so you can find a reason to care and make a lasting impression.
Hate networking, host a networking event. Seems contrarian, but is actually brilliant because it takes the pressure off you to make connections with others, since they will want to connect with you. Help your fellow networking haters by proactively introducing people to help the conversation get started.
#8. Follow Up
If you’re not following up after a networking event, don’t bother attending. Following up is easy and as simple as an email saying you enjoyed meeting them, a specific anecdote they shared, and would like to stay in touch.