As any small business owner knows, networking is a huge part of business. As soon as I started Prairie Scribe, I joined a number of networking organizations and started making the rounds to get my business known in the Winnipeg community.
Most of this networking was fruitful. I am by no means a social butterfly, but I can walk up to people I don’t know and start a conversation. I found the trick is to find a conversation that doesn’t look too engrossed, as I hate interrupting something important. Once I’d met a few people, I would also join conversations that had one person I knew, to ease my introductions to the other participants. I’ve met a number of friendly, knowledgeable business owners this way.
I have only once found my networking attempts completely thwarted. I was at a local magazine conference. The event had a number of people milling around, including many standing on their own, but I couldn’t seem to get conversations started.
I approached a few people who seemed surprised a stranger was talking to them. They acted uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say, leaving me to fill the conversational void. I also approached a few duos, and after exchanging names and “what do you do” answers, they went back to their two-person conversations, leaving me on my own again.
I then retreated to standing by myself and watched the other solo attendees. None of them looked comfortable and they all seemed to be looking for someone to talk to, but not one would approach another. Even the people working the conference tables weren’t interested in talking to me.
I did finally find one freelance graphic designer who had some social skills, and felt like I’d been rescued when we had a lengthy conversation. Still, once my session was over I made a beeline for the door. I’ve never been so happy to leave an event. This happened almost two months ago, but it still puzzles me to think back to that day. I’ve never had similar troubles before or since, for which I am grateful.
I thought this might serve as a good reminder for those who don’t feel they are adequate networkers. I don’t think you could be any worse than those conference attendees. And if you have ever been one of these people, stop! You look more ridiculous sulking by yourself than starting a conversation with someone. Even if you do have trouble making meaningful contacts, the experience won’t be the end of the world and practice will certainly make you a better networker.