For someone like me, whose primary means of communication with the world at large is the written word (social media, texting, email, blogging, messaging, etc.), it isn’t always easy to get out there, in person, and network. But when one is trying to build a business, it’s necessary.
Since I lost my wonderful, fabulous job in February (due to budget cuts), I’ve been trying to get “out there” more to meet and mingle, talk about what I do, and basically promote myself to people, face to face. I’m very sociable in a room full of people I know. But put me in a room full of strangers, and it’s a completely different story.
My husband has been encouraging me to attend more networking events. I can see, of course, the benefits to all of these. But, as I explained to him, if I don’t know at least one person, I eventually find myself standing alone, feeling out of place, and wishing I could magically transport myself somewhere else. Anywhere else.
You see, I don’t seem to possess that gift for arbitrary gab. I don’t find it easy to walk up to a complete stranger or discreetly insert myself into a conversation, and have it appear completely natural. I am sociable, yes, but there is still a small sense of shyness beneath that smiling, confident outward appearance that, even at my age, can be almost paralyzing.
At the urging of a peer, I attended a women’s business workshop recently. I didn’t know a soul in the small group of 15 or so women, but enjoyed the topic and everyone’s input. They were from all walks of life, all ages, and a variety of interesting professions. Yet, at the end of the talk, as they all greeted one another with familiarity, and went off into little groups, I found myself standing there, alone, not knowing if I should politely butt in and pretend I was at ease, or quietly make my escape while no one was looking. The latter was very, very tempting.
Instead, I took a deep breath and forced myself to approach the woman who had been the speaker that day, and catch her eye. I introduced myself, told her what I do, offered her my card and asked for hers in return, and told her I’d like to get in touch with her to talk more about ways I could possibly be of help to her growing business.
Feeling a little more confident, I then approached another woman who owned a local small business, spoke briefly in the same line as I had with the previous woman, and handed her my card as well. Finally, I approached the organizer of the workshop, told her how much I’d enjoyed myself, arranged to get on their mailing list for future events, and thanked her. And I was out of there.
Should I have stayed and networked some more? Possibly. But I’d already put myself out there as much as I was prepared to do at that time. And I felt good about it. There will be more events in the coming weeks that will offer more opportunity to network. I’m told that the more you do it, the more comfortable you become doing it.
One can only hope.