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Networking: It doesn’t have to be a nightmare!

After last Wednesday’s  ‘I Am Networking’ event, one of the delegates tweeted to her followers that it had been ‘hugely enjoyable’ and ‘not at all intimidating!’ which reminded me of how much work we still need to do, here at The I Am Group, to make networking seem a natural part of every-day life…

One of the reasons why people still find networking intimidating is that they build it up to be something it isn’t, rather than breaking it down into what it is.  Try this for yourself, and you’ll see what I mean:

Close your eyes, and picture yourself arriving at a networking event. What do you see? What do you feel?  The chances are, you just pictured yourself arriving in a large noisy room, full of people talking to each other, and seemingly engrossed in conversation…whilst you can’t spot anybody on their own.  The chances are that you also felt a tightening of the stomach, and at the very least, a little bit of fear or discomfort creeping in…even though you are only imagining a networking event.

Am I right? If not, then the chances are you don’t need to read the rest of this blog…but if I am right, read on…

The reality is, you just imagined a nightmarish form of networking – which doesn’t really exist, just like those dreams where you suddenly realise you’re naked in the middle of Waitrose, without so much as a basket to cover your inhibitions…You imagined an event which was in full flow, where you arrived late, where everybody seemed to know each other, and where nobody seemed approachable – but networking isn’t really like that.

At its most fundamental, networking is simply a case of meeting with strangers and trying to find points of commonality with them.  This could be shared interests, beliefs, goals, likes and dislikes, experiences or any one of a huge number of topics…and it’s actually in our genes, left over from our early days of trying to decide if a stranger we met was a potential threat.  Fortunately, nowadays, instead of resorting to ‘fight or flight’ mode, we have the luxury of excusing ourselves from the conversation and walking away.  Our ancestors would use ‘networking’ to build alliances with other tribes or groups, much as we might use networking to add to our social groups or increase our chances of finding a perfect job.  Human beings are fundamentally sociable beings, so why is it that we imagine in a room full of networkers that we are going to be left out in the cold?

Now, I could go on for hours, but I need to keep this readable – so two tips I can give you, just to finish off:

One: Arrive early.  Since in your nightmare scenario, everybody was already talking to everybody else, why not beat them to it, and arrive when just a few others are there?  Far less intimidating, and you’ll find that a few people in a large open space will automatically migrate towards each other, because of that other great instinct, ‘safety in numbers’.

Two: Come to our regular facilitated networking events, which happen on the last Wednesday of the month. We’ll look after you, and we ensure that nobody is left out in the cold, even if you do arrive later than everybody else…

For more details of the next ‘I Am Networking’ or ‘I Am Learning’ events, visit https://theiamgroup.eventbrite.co.uk/

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