The last networking event I co-hosted in February with WOW (Women of Wichita) in Business.
I wonder if we'll have any idea how to act when we do feel more comfortable seeing each other in person. According to one of the college students in the class I'm teaching online at WSU this semester, we've already forgotten. She works at a restaurant and says that people have already lost many of the social graces we all take for granted from what she sees.
For us social butterflies, this has been tough. I'll probably act like an over-eager puppy the first chance I get to see a bunch of people at once. However, all the natural introverts I know have been relieved. They're happy there's no pressure to attend events in person. It's going to be the hardest for them to make public appearances in the future. Even though I love meeting new people and can talk to anyone, I have a feeling I'll feel a bit awkward at first, too.
If the thought of networking makes you feel queasy, you're not alone. In the Making Connections that Count class, I've learned that people are worried about many things when they meet new people. They don't know how to get conversations started and are afraid they won't be interesting.
But the biggest reason people are uncomfortable about networking is that they're worried about being ignored, or worse, rejected. It takes right back to the playground, and that little person inside us remembers what it feels like to be awkward around people we don't know. I like to go to these kinds of friendly networking events because I know I can let go of these fears and just be myself.
Even if networking isn't your favorite brand of disco, you can find a way to work around the discomfort. It takes creativity, but you can do it - in your way. Here are some tips for reluctant networkers and those of us who need a reminder.
Find your style. Discover what works for you. If you're more outgoing, look for big groups of people to join. If you're more reserved, you can find someone else in the room that seems reserved and meet them. They're usually the most interesting people in the room anyway.
Have a goal of what you want to accomplish - an agenda. What help do you need? What are you looking for? How many new people do you want to meet? Make it fun. Think of it as a scavenger hunt.
Make sure you use your powers for good and not evil. The goal can't be for purely selfish reasons. Remember, to have friends we must be a friend.
Arrive early - you can be the welcoming committee. Meet the movers and shakers that organized the event first, then as people come in, you can welcome them. See you already fit in!
Learn by watching others. Look for people who look at ease working a room. Notice what that person does and work on adding what you like to your style.
Bring a friend. Invite a friend to go with you. If you're more introverted, ask a more extroverted friend or knows a lot of people to go with you. Work out a plan for introductions.
Meet a friend. If you're going to a big party, find out who will be there before you go, so you know you have someone comfortable to hang out with.
Get in the mood. Do things before the party that builds your confidence - breathe, strike the Wonder Woman pose, or listen to songs that pump you up.
Remember the "So What" factor. What's the worst thing that could happen? What's so bad about being rejected by someone you don't even know? If you're not having fun, you can always leave.
I'd love to see you - or meet you for the first time. I've been feeling a bit pent up, and it will do my heart some good to get out of the house. I miss our community very much. Besides, I'm looking forward to a reason to get dressed and made-up. We won't hug, but we can spread out in the massive space at ATM and feel the love in person.
Hope to see you there,
Because We’re Never Finished
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