The Awkward Art of Networking....
Despite the fact that I love to tell people about Green Clean and explain to them what my business is about and how I created it, I really dislike networking events. Many people have advised me that local networking events would be a really useful way for me to generate contacts, meet other businesses and individuals and spread the word about my little business. And I agree. They are full of potential clients, potential friends, potential associates and yet I struggle to get through the door. Indeed last time I tried to go to a networking event on my own I left my house ready to go, psyched up with my networking hat on and a pocket full of business cards. Alas I walked straight past the venue without going in! What is it that fills me with such fear?!
I think most of my friends and family would agree that I am quite a good talker, i'm definately not shy and i'm generally a very sociable person. However there is something about these networking events that leave me quaking in my boots, I feel shy and vulnerable and unable to approach anyone! I enjoy watching the event unfold. A group of strangers all with one simple thing in common. They have come to the event to talk to each other, does anyone else feel as awkward as me?
Some people are regulars, clearly well practised in the awkward art of networking. Confident, welcoming and at ease talking to old and new faces in the room. Then there is those who come with the best intentions to network but stand with their friends gossiping and don't manage to speak to the newbies. Then there are the shy individuals who stand alone waiting for someone to talk to them. Nervously checking their phone or biting their nails. Finally there are the newbies. This is their first networking event and they nervously join conversations, they look a little bit awkward like me.
I am someone that tends to wait for someone else to come and talk to me. It is quite out of character. I busy myself with a text message or chew the straw of my drink and stand close to a group of people, willing myself to look approachable until i'm noticed and invited to join a conversation. I'm clearly lacking in networking skills. Perhaps I feel nervous because as I stand there nervously sipping my orange juice I am surrounded by confident corporate suited and booted individuals. I am in my jeans and jumper looking decidedly uncoporate...but hey this is me and what is the point in pretending to be something I am not?
I finally made it to a networking event this week. I made it through the door, I took an ally (which helped) and I was myself. And this is what Green Clean represents - we are not a big corporate company but Green Clean is me and all that I stand for. I care about my clients and I care about my staff. And I don't wear a suit. If I am going to force myself along to networking events (to hopefully my own and Green Clean's benefit) then the least I can do is offer a true representation of my business. So that is what I tried to do. I smiled a lot, I spoke to people, I gave out business cards and told people about myself. I felt awkward but i'm a novice. I will go back, with or without my ally and I'll forge contacts and get to know people and before long i'll be one of those well practised, confident and at ease networkers who knows everyone - just you wait!