Indeed, there is time … and it doesn’t have to be scary!
Avid readers of our blog will remember how my last article covered the topic of digital networking and how making connections from home isn’t just possible, it can be effective. Today we’re going to walk through ways you can confidently make the time and the energy to network IRL.
As our world is opening back up, our LinkedIn feeds are starting to fill with chatter about in-person networking events—from announcements of upcoming happy hours to pictures of folks getting to know one another at live or virtual summits, people are, well, having fun. But how do people have the time to network? How do people have the confidence to network? Our schedules are packed. It’s much easier to bury ourselves in projects (either professional or personal) than to carve out time to meet a bunch of strangers. Even still, the very idea of walking into a room (or even joining via Zoom!) can illicit fear and icy dread. While we can recognize the value of building and growing an ever-growing network as a tremendous help through navigating the highs and lows of a career, networking can feel like a time-sucking drain. But it doesn’t have to. Here are some tips to warm up a process that might have otherwise have left you cold.
Time Blocking Works
My calendar(s) look like some kind of wild digital Jenga: orange for this client, blue for another, and shades of pink for each kid…adding even a dash of another shade can send me into a frenzy. Making the time in an already packed agenda can feel impossible but I know that networking is important. One thing I do is itemize how long the networking event is expected to take:
- How long is the commute?
- How many hours will I be there?
- What will be my potential ROI?
If you’re asked to speak at a networking event, you might immediately panic and think there’s absolutely no way you can build a deck, create the content, or even come up with an idea in the first place. Instead, consider:
- How many hours will it take you to prepare the deck itself?
- If you spend 7-10 hours putting together a deck, can you repurpose it into future marketing content?
Compartmentalizing time for networking on your calendar is a great way to really see how much (or little) time attending an event will take. Segmenting the time dedicated to getting out of your comfort zone while acknowledging the time out of your week that will remain inside your comfort zone can be very helpful. Listing out the commuting time, actual event time, and time to send follow-up email and LinkedIn correspondence will help you see that 2-4 hours of your month will be spent on feeling a bit uncomfortable while the remainder of your month will be spent business as usual. Seeing the return can help balance out the discomfort and make carving out the time to network possible.
A Little Prep Always Helps
Prior to your meeting, look up the event and organization on LinkedIn. Is it viable? Are any of your 1st connections (or prospects) connected to this group and if they are, are they attending? Sharing via social channels like LinkedIn that you’re planning on attending a networking event is a nice way to create some positive buzz while committing yourself to block the time. Checking out past events and reading more about the organization can help bolster your feeling of “this is worth it” so that you don’t feel like you’re wasting precious time or mental energy on attending an event that won’t lead to a good return.
You Don’t Have to ‘Work the Room’
Contrary to presumptions about ‘working the room,’ you certainly don’t need heavy circulation in order to find value. If you’re on the introverted side, you don’t have to change or become someone else in order to be an effective networker. If you are attending a live event, scan the room to find the person who you feel you could “buddy up to” and get the most value out of just one conversation. Having one good, solid conversation with one person can yield to a great new connection and a goal—maybe this meeting you found one person, and the next meeting you can find two. Start small and be confident in that approach.
Walking cold into a room of folks you don’t really know isn’t for the faint of heart—but networking is one of the best ways to build your community, your personal brand, and gain relevant content to share on LinkedIn. Stretching outside of your typical comfort zone can help you prepare for future interviews too! Taking stock in your week or month and realizing that you only have to spend a few hours outside your comfort zone can help you push forward to make the important connections that networking offers…and hey, I hope that we can meet at an upcoming event!
A quick listen to a podcast or scanning through a helpful book can be just the resource you need to find some confidence to navigate your next event. Here are some helpful resources:
- The Marie Forleo Podcast: Networking for Introverts with Susan Cain
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- The Powerful Purpose of Introverts: Why the World Needs You to be You by Holley Gerth
- Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts into Connections by Ivan Misner & Brian Hilliard