How to Start Networking

Mixers. Business luncheons. Meet-ups.  After fives.  Doesn’t matter what they’re called, the purpose is the same.  They are opportunities to network.

Some people relish the idea of stepping in to a room full of strangers, working that room, throwing their sales skills into high gear.  But, for others, networking events are more like necessary evils.  For those people, that means show up with a stack of freshly-printed business cards, giving away at least three to each person we make eye contact with (so the stack dwindles that much faster), and then spend the rest of the time keeping our mouths full or on our phones so that we aren’t available for additional questions or conversation.  Man, what a waste of time!  Seriously, what can we expect to get out of that?

First off, accept that networking is a must.  If you want to advance in your current career or grow your own business, you have to network.  But what, really, is networking?  Merriam-Webster defines it as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically :  the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”  Look again at that last part, cultivation of productive relationships.  In other words, we have to interact with others in meaningful ways.  It’s not a one-time deal.  It’s not something that’s going to happen just because we’re dropping business cards left and right.  There are no awards given for collecting the most business cards in a morning.  Nope, we’ve got to have productive relationships.  Those take effort.  The problem is, too many people quit before they even get started.  Just the idea of walking up to strangers to introduce themselves and their business sends people running for the hills.  But, why? What’s the big deal?  FEAR, that’s what.  Specifically, fear of rejection.  Isn’t it crazy how we can put so much stock in what a stranger thinks of us?  But that fear, that thing that makes us second guess why we even showed up, can hold us hostage.  Friend, I’m here to remind you that that is no way to live!

Fear keeps you in a place you don’t want to be, in a job you can’t stand, keeps you from moving toward your dream.

Easier said than done, right?

Hey, there’s a reason the polls say people fear public speaking more than death!  And you’re right, it’s not easy.  Believe it or not, I’m not “Mr. Showtime”.  It’s true, I do love meeting people and hearing their stories.  But honestly, I really like being home.  But if you are serious about wanting to change that about yourself, if you really want to overcome that fear, you absolutely can.  How?  Like just about anything else in life, it takes practice.  The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.  Will it be awkward at first?  Probably.  Getting out of your comfort zone usually is.  You just have to know and believe that it’s worth it.

Now you’re asking “WHAT do I do? HOW do I get over that fear?”  I’m glad you asked!

In one of my videos this week, I mentioned to my daughter what I call HOST MODE.  See, when I’m at a networking function, I absolutely act as if I’m the host of the event.  I welcome people as they come in – I introduce myself, I take a couple of minutes to find out what they do and why they came, I might introduce them to someone I already know, and then do it again for the next new person coming in.  It’s not insincere and it’s not a front – I really want them to feel comfortable.  Hospitality doesn’t stop at our own front doors.  We can (and should) be hospitable wherever we are.  So, I try my best to put people at ease.  Remember, the purpose of these get-togethers is to cultivate productive relationships.  That’s harder to do if only one of us it talking.  And here’s something else – when we focus on the well-being of others, we focus less on ourselves.   That’s just how it works.  Which means this – I can’t stay fixated on my own fear of rejection if I’m tuned in to others.  Watch people as they come in, and it’s not hard to find the ones that are new to the group or just new to the whole scene.  They are probably the ones avoiding eye contact, gripping their portfolio or box of business cards for dear life.  I’m not thinking about me when I approach them.  I’m thinking about putting them at ease, helping them relax so that they can make the most of the event.  In reality, it’s a win-win.

So you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t really go to a lot of those events anyway…”  Maybe you don’t, yet.

That’s ok.  Do you pump your own gas?  Do you go out to eat?  Buy any groceries?  What about the gym?  Believe it or not, you have opportunities every day to practice talking to people you don’t know.  So, let’s start small.  How about you decide that, starting today, you are going to say “hello” to five people you don’t know.  Then, do it every day until it becomes a habit for you.  On paper, it sounds so simple, right?  Maybe too easy, so that it sounds like it won’t work.  Try to trust me on this.  Meeting the needs of others is key to successful business relationships. It’s something my brother and I always try to keep in mind when we sit down with someone who wants to sell us their house.  We don’t want to take advantage of anybody.  For us, it comes down to this: Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)  The great news is, you can start this today, and it can start with “hello”.

[ctt_author author=”310″ name=”Jake Enriquez” template=”2″ link=”U16OE” via=”no” ]Meeting the needs of others is key to successful business relationships. [/ctt_author]
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