I have to go to a strange place and meet a room full of strangers…
For people who dislike or feel irked by networking, the social anxiety is real. The idea of having to speak–either to someone you don’t know or in front a group of strangers–can be a daunting and scary experience. That’s why public speaking is cited as one of the biggest fears. It can be a terrifying experience.
But once you get past that initial fear–and if you do it over and over again–the payoff is there. If nothing else, you would have been successful in honing and tuning one of the greatest instruments of all: your own voice.
1. The Right Pool
There are plenty of fish in the sea, but depending on where you choose to fish; you’ll get a certain type of fish. Deep ocean fish–due to their environment–are a completely different catch to freshwater fish.
To a fish, it is not scary to be out in the open waters looking for something to nibble on. Why is it scary for you, then? It’s a wild world and we’ll all creatures of nature.
Fish are highly sensitive and attuned to their environment and we need to be as well. That means having an active hunting strategy that you use to go out there and get some fish. The best–and most common way–to network is to go to events where you can meet like-minded people.
You can strike up a conversation with anyone or everyone–which some people do. Or you can silently observe the people around you before deciding on who you’d like to speak with. Both ways work. Find out what is suited to you and your personality.
Be polite and cordial and take interest in the people around you… I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve said, “I’m a writer.” Only to have people respond with something like, “I don’t like to read.”
That stops the conversation in its tracks. The first step is indeed having the courage to step into the right pool. The second step is not getting eaten within the next two minutes.
Oh, well… It’s a fishy world out there…
2. Exchanging Details
If you do meet someone that you enjoyed spending time with and talking with, do exchange details. In sales, this is what is called closing. Imagine having a wonderful conversation and then going your separate ways. You may later think, “Oh, it would be great to see that person again. Wonder if I’ll get to see them again and so on.”
There is no need to have such thoughts. If you want to stay in touch, all you need to do is ask. You can do something formal like exchange name cards. Or you can exchange numbers. Or you can stick to social media like Facebook and Instagram and so on. I generally prefer either exchanging numbers or name cards. Social media can come across as insincere, at times.
Believe it or not, you can actually tell a lot about a person after the first 10-15 minutes of conversation–if you’re paying attention to the other person and not to yourself and how awkward you’re feeling and what you’re going to say next.
Well, I just hope you bring home a fine-looking fish.
3. The Follow Up
Lastly, it is vital and imperative to follow up. You can say, lovely to meet you blah blah. But that doesn’t keep the conversation flowing.
- Is there something you remember about them?
- Is there a common interest?
- Is there a way to reconnect over a common interest?
- Or maybe the person you met does something that you’ve always been interested in and you’d like to discover more.
The follow up is like taking the fish out of the freezer and leaving it out to thaw so that you can actually eat it. Fish usually have a shelf life and are best consumed as soon as possible. So don’t wait too long to follow up… Or you may open the fridge one day and be greeted with mould.
Catching the fish is only one part of the process. Then you have to make sure it doesn’t get smelly…. But that’s another story for another.
Congrats, then. You have successfully caught a fish!
A Fisher of Men
Networking is daunting for most beginners. For those who have it down to an art, their social networking sites show the hundreds–if not, thousands–of people that they know.
Everyone has their own strategy when it comes to networking and for some, less is more…. For others, more is more… It all depends on you and the kind of fish you’re interested in. Are you a tuna person or a dolphin person? Do you want to eat the fish or just play with it?
Figure out what suits you. But till you cast your net out, you never know what you might find.