This week, I presented my talk “Lunching with Lions: How to Survive and Thrive at Networking” (based on my new book) to one of my favorite women’s groups. Before I took the stage, everyone was asked what their greatest networking challenge happened to be.
Out of nearly 100 responses, two things stuck out as common conundrums:
- Dislike/discomfort of small talk and the desire to connect more deeply from the get-go; and
- The question of what to do when you just don’t feel like getting up and going to a networking event or meeting.
I wasn’t surprised, and I knew immediately what the underlying issue was for both of these challenges.
We, as business owners, don’t take enough time to dig into our own networking personality to find the right groups for us and our goals.
What’s our “networking personality” you ask?
Our networking personality is similar to our learning style. It’s how we best and most quickly integrate information that’s presented to us. In networking, it translates to the agenda of the event or meeting, how you best interact with new people, and what situations make you feel most comfortable. It’s our challenge to uncover our own unique networking styles so that we can find events and organizations that allow us to be our most authentic self and enjoy our time there. It’s already hard enough to connect, when you’re uncomfortable or unhappy, it’s damn near impossible.
When you’re evaluating a networking group based on your business goals and objectives AND your personal networking style, ask yourself things like:
- Do I like a lot of structure or to be left on my own to connect?
- Do I like to engage in activities or do I prefer to be presented to?
- Do I like to “dress up” for business events, or do I prefer events where I can show up in my normal, everyday attire?
- Do I prefer to be included in a conversation or lesson or do I prefer to hang back and not contribute?
- Do I feel more comfortable in a formal, professional setting or a casual, less stuff environment?
- Do I feel comfortable raising my hand to contribute to a conversation or do I prefer to be asked for my input?
- Am I comfortable mingling in a large group, or do I prefer being organized into small groups or tables to connect?
- Am I comfortable eating in front of strangers (seriously, this is something to consider) or would I prefer an event without food?
- What past experiences in networking groups have been positive and which have been negative and why?
And, when you attend a new organization or event, think about how the members are interacting, and what the general feel of the experience is for you. Most importantly, ask yourself if you’re having fun and if you’re excited to come back.
We aren’t being forced to network. While we know we “should”, we absolutely aren’t being compelled to do so. In fact, plenty of businesses thrive without it – because it doesn’t serve their goals and objectives.
BUT, if what you want to accomplish in your business is supported by networking, do it in a way that makes it enjoyable for YOU. There’s no right or wrong answer in business, just the right answer for you and YOUR business. Choose the groups and engagements that allow you to be open, engaging, and your most authentic self so that you can build genuine relationships that support your goals.
When you are happy and comfortable in the groups you’ve chosen, AND you know that your efforts are generating the results you want in your business, you won’t feel uncomfortable with the small talk, because it won’t seem small. You’ll be excited to get up and go to the events and meetings, because they engage you and excite you.
Ultimately, like our overall business goals and objectives, being aware of our unique networking personality, and being purposeful about choosing the right groups and engagements, allows us to be intentional about how we leverage our time and efforts to get the results we want.
Read more about how you can evaluate the right groups and activities for your personal networking style in Lunching with Lions: Strategies for the Networking-Averse.