Hey Marketers: Can We Talk About Networking Events?

July 24, 2018

Networking Events

Editor's Note: The original version of Kate Mallord's post appeared on LinkedIn.

I just got home from an event full of people who work in similar roles to me, who clearly share similar interests (it was why we were there), and they almost certainly all speak the same language.

So, can someone please tell me why I spent the entire event nervous, clammy (the stage before beading with sweat) and fighting the urge to bolt for the exit?

I am rubbish at networking. This might surprise some people as I’m an Extroverted Introvert. I try my hardest to exude confidence, but really my internal monologue runs something like this at every networking opportunity I go along to:

“Should I stand here?”

“Oh there’s the drinks. I can definitely do that first”

“Ok, where do I stand now?”

“They look like nice people, should I go over?”

“Argh! They’re already talking to each other, should I just hover?”

“Hovering’s weird. Keep walking”

“Erm, where are am I walking to? Quick appear as if I’m looking for someone.”

“Yep, that was convincing — not.”

“Ok stand alone.”

“Hah! Get the phone out and look at emails. See, I’m too busy to talk to people, even though that’s why I’m here.”

“Oh, please let this presentation begin soon, so I definitely won’t have to start a conversation with someone!”

Then the announcement... Ladies and Gentlemen, find your seats

“Thank goodness!”

And then once the event is over, I head home wishing I’d actually had the courage to introduce myself to someone…anyone!

When I got home and shared this story with my husband, he said, “Everyone hates networking. It’s just one of those cringey things that are ridiculously beneficial for your career, a bit like passing exams.”

That sounds awful, doesn’t it? But it got me thinking that perhaps I can do some research, learn more about networking, study and practice, and I’ll eventually pass as a functioning sociable professional. I’ve starting by reading a few blogs and checking out the courses on LinkedIn Learning.

Here are the top three networking tips I’ve found so far:

  1. Bring a co-worker or friend as your networking partner. This is one of my favorite ways of stopping the internal monologue, which also helps with self-confidence.
  2. Commit yourself to helping others. “Be it a restaurant recommendation, a tech tip, or a book suggestion – you will appear more human and people will want to help you in return.” This comes with the added bonus of providing a valid reason to reach out afterwards to share your tip.
  3. Don’t apologize. Really hard if you’re British, which I am, but apparently it makes you seem unprofessional.

I can’t guarantee any of these will work, but I am going to give them a try. But while I’m practicing, if you see me at an event please, oh I’m begging you, please can you come over and say hi?

And if you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them.  

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Illustration: Kate Mallord