The necessary evil of networking

I like meeting people. In fact, in love it. In a world where facebook and twitter mean that you can interact with the world from the crusty safety of your pajamas, there is nothing as powerful as actually seeing people’s faces, striking up a real conversation, listening to them and maybe even putting on some glad rags for the occasion.

Dinner plans, I’m keen. Drinks, start my bar tab. Housewarming, I’ll bring the bubbly. I’ll happily get on board for the odd art gallery opening, book signing or music gig. But if someone tells me that I’m going to a networking event, my mouth goes dry and I experience the stage fright of a wobbly teenager.

mad men networking inspiration

Studying Don Draper’s skills is becoming a great excuse to watch Mad Men re-runs

This is by no means ideal. Having just launched a phone recycling business, Jeremy and I are doing our best to meet people and broaden our community in the city. Business cards are swapped as frequently as Jeremy once traded baseball cards. There’s lots of elevator pitches and hand shaking to be done. The whole experience leaves me in a cold sweat and, just writing the words, I’m beginning to feel a little hot under the collar.

I sense that my speech has something to do with it. I’m sure it plays a role, it makes me a little more apprehensive, a little less ready to launch into the fray. But I don’t think that my stutter plays the staring role, more a ready and willing understudy. I know I will stutter meeting someone new, I have a 95% chance of stuttering on my name at least, and that certainty is almost reassuring, I have some idea of what will happen, how the conversation with the stranger across the room with play out.

So, if not the stutter, what is it? Why the aversion to the business chat? I think it has something to do with the honest fact that I’m not brilliant at it. It is not that I’m not passionate about the company. I am deeply passionate about it but when I start my pitch I feel uncomfortable, aware of my crassness, of the blatancy of my approach.

I have friends in the city who are champion networkers. The type who laugh and banter and only when you leave at the end of the night do you realize that you are more fascinated by their company than any other venture you have heard of in the past month. You are compelled to Google them as soon as you arrive home. You like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter because you want to be part of their world. If they weren’t so damn likeable I’d hate them for it.

So how do you become a great saleswoman or networker? I’m very keen to find out. I’m of the belief that practice can help anything but, to spare me the slow months of a steep learning curve, any thoughts from you would be much appreciated.

One thought on “The necessary evil of networking

  1. I heard a great tip, which is to think of someone incredibly confident who you admire – someone who knows who to network – just casually walks into that group chatting and is accepted – and copy them. Walk into the room and think ‘how would x behave?’ Then just pretend to be them. Worst case is that you make a big mess of it – well it doesn’t matter – you weren’t being yourself after all. ;)

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