So I am lucky enough to have friends (woo go me! people see through my weirdness and like me), but I didn’t ‘try’ to make them (Just to clarify incase you now think i’m an obnoxious twat, I don’t mean I am so awesome people just come to me), I mean, I just act like me and people either like that or they don’t. I think everyone is like this….and all the best friends are made without you even realising you are ‘making friends’. Networking is a whole different sitch.
Networking is unnecessary (Disclaimer: it’s clearly not unnecessary, otherwise business people wouldn’t continually bang on about how useful it is… and if i was any good at it i would probably think it’s great….but as i’m not…it seems entirely pointless to me). To me, networking is designed to make normal people (i think i’ve just described myself as normal!) feel like inferior losers. Mostly when i have to attend events and i look at the agenda, it is not the workshops or lectures or even group work that bothers me…its the breaks. 20 minutes for coffee!!…no one needs 20 minutes to grab a coffee, wee and sit back down…so you are forced to endure 18 painful minutes of standing around trying to avoid eye contact with various strangers, failing and then having to ask unnecessary questions like ‘oh how did you get here?’, ‘where are you from?’, ‘weather is awful isn’t it?’ over and over again. (or hiding in the toilet or going for a walk in the middle of nowhere…which is invariably what i end up doing)
I realise i am not alone in my dislike of networking at events, but it seems to me that most people can hide it better than me…it doesn’t help that one of the default conversations is about kids and i don’t have any….(when you start comparing your dog to other people’s children it gets messy). Anyway i recently went on some networking training and now i’m an expert (clearly that is a lie). Here’s some top tips for successful networking:
- When you introduce yourself, do it like James Bond (cos that won’t make you feel awkward at all) ” Hi i’m Anna… Anna Theaker”
- When you shake hands with someone, make sure ‘your fleshy bit touches their fleshy bit’ (ewww…shaking hands will never be the same again)
- Always enter an open 2! or a 3 or a 4 or a 5 for that matter (find a gap in a group and squish yourself into it – nod along to the conversation even if you have no idea what they are talking about)
- When you are introducing someone, if you don’t know their name, point at them and they will say it, as if by magic (if this doesn’t work you look like a dick, but i am assured it’s fool proof)
- Don’t give someone a business card unless they ask for it (as if i would, i don’t want strangers having my number)
- If someone is boring you, don’t just walk off and leave them standing there like a loser, suggest you go over to get some food from the buffet and then accidentally on purpose lose them in the crowd. (I happened to have a cold this day…so genuinely had to keep dashing off to get a tissue…i think this is probably frowned upon as a method of ‘losing people’ but largely preferable to snotting everywhere i’m sure)
- Find out stuff about people and use it to start conversations (but not in a stalker-ish way)
- The weather, how you travelled here, what you do, the food, the venue, the agenda for the day etc, are all acceptable starting topics. (Not ‘how much you dislike networking’…which ironically has got conversations going for me in the past)
- Take a hint – if a person is clearly not interested in continuing a conversation, leave them and find someone who is (obvs sticking to the above mentioned ‘exit strategy’)
To conclude, i think what i’m saying is…networking is not for me. At least being taught how to network is not for me. I get what i need out of these events…and usually i end up talking to more people than i ever think i will….but i do it being me…not being a ‘networker’.