Yesterday I attended a major networking event here in Denver. It's an annual event that attracts a huge crowd -- the first I've attended since I've recently gotten back into networking. This wasn't anything like "getting your feet wet," though. I dove right in.
I really didn't want to go. I kept looking for excuses not to attend -- although I knew it would wind up being worthwhile. So, in record-breaking heat I put on my business attire and headed downtown.
On the way, I set my goals for the evening and gave myself permission to leave as soon as I reached those goals. I decided it would be a productive evening if I:
- Make one good new connection (someone who needs and is interested in my company's services)
- Talk with one current/past client
- Help someone out (make a referral, send useful information, etc.)
Once downtown, I couldn't turn back. I checked in and immediately panicked, because the venue was packed. Everywhere I looked, there were people with name tags, standing around and talking with strangers. Heeding my own advice, I decided to "act as if." I walked in and acted as if I liked this stuff.
It must have worked. I quickly reached all of my goals, but found that I was having fun catching up with old conntections and making new ones. I met a long-term client, and he remembered that he needed to send me some information about a new project. A new acquaintance, when she heard what my company does, said "We need you!" (music to any business owner's ears). And best of all, when someone said she was looking for a job, I knew of an opening for which she seemed well-suited.
Lessons learned? Perhaps a 500+ person event is not the best way to get back into the networking pool. Setting goals and giving myself permission to leave took off a lot of the pressure, and even this hard-core introvert can fake it at times. And it felt really good to help someone out. Maybe it was worth getting out of my comfort zone for a little while.