I used to cringe a little bit when I first started going to networking events many years ago. I felt like a bit of a numpty. Walking into a room to strut my stuff, walk the walk and talk the talk. Was it all just a bit fake? A bunch of people in a room all after something for themselves. Was networking just a pile of bull? Would I be stuck next to a sleazy dude in a cheap suit with all talk no action. In that case it’s time for a sharp exit to the bar (ditching his business card in the bin on route).
I have been to SO many networking events over the years. I have hosted plenty too. With me what you see if what you get. I treat everyone the same, take it or leave it. It’s just the way I am and I can’t change that. I have been to some great events and hosted some too (my fashion show at The Bonham hotel will go down in history with all my old, wonderful clients). I have also been to some events that were lacking atmosphere and a little bit dull.
Things are different these days as I am not networking on behalf of a company that someone else owns. I now chose to go networking for myself and I do it for the following reasons:
- To learn from inspirational, hard working and determined people
- To tell people about my book and my blog
- To collaborate with and help others
- To promote mental wellness and help to make people feel normal
Last Thursday I was a little nervous getting ready to head to a networking event. Should I drive or go and enjoy some cocktails to “break the ice”. My husband replied
“You don’t need to drink, you are a natural at this type of thing”.
I am not sure if he was getting carried away as it had just been national compliment day. I needed to hear it though because although some think I am a natural, there was no denying that I was stepping out of my comfort zone and fluffy slippers for that matter. My new lucky Zadig and Voltaire boots would hopefully sort me out.
Off I trotted to see what type of event Orlaith from The Naked sales coach would put on. Would it be fab or a bit dull? Luckily for me the event totally surpassed my already fairly high expectations (I really like her facebook page – business is beautiful)
Everyone was lovely. The chat was great (phew). In fact, on meeting Orlaith she instantly introduced me to an author who has published 4 books. That girl is on the ball. She is as her strapline suggests: authentically awesome.
I also spoke to so many amazing women who are clearly passionate about what they do. I’ve got an exciting project with a couple of them in the diary #watchthisspace.
There was an open mic session (not the singing type I am used to taking part in). I ain’t gonna lie, I was only half a cocktail in so felt a bit shaky. Such a great way to find out about others in the room though.
One thing I now understand about business is that it’s so important to collaborate and help people. Business doesn’t have to be selfish. Yes – we need to work hard to progress and smash our own goals but when we help others it’s always a really positive thing. If you are always out to get something, you are not truly networking with people. I normally go by my gut feeling on that one if it’s all take, take. Also – you really are only interesting if you are interested. So don’t go to a networking event if you are not interested in hearing about others.
So to answer my question – is networking all a pile of bull?
It depends who you are speaking to. I think networking is great. It’s important to get out of the comfort zone and go and talk to people. Be it over coffee, cocktails, food or at a conference. Perhaps you can go and network over a play date with the kids. Get out and meet people. There is only so much you can learn from behind your laptop.
Thanks Orlaith for a fab night. The cocktails were bang on too #bonus. I’ll be back.