Networking requires assertiveness. Some people find it easy to strike up conversations with strangers and keep track of old colleagues. For others, networking is a tough, mysterious, and largely neglected process. Be a conversation starter. Talk to everyone, everywhere! For most people, learning how to meet and talk with strangers isn't easy. But do not ignore strangers.
I know what your parents said, but you must talk to strangers.
A coaching client of mine had been trying for months to get a certain businessman to join him at a very active weekly networking event sponsored by his local Chamber of Commerce. Finally this man came to the event.
He walked into the room packed with people. He looked at the pool of business professionals. Looked at my client and said, “I don’t know anyone here. I’m out of here!” And he LEFT, literally turning his back on a roomful of opportunities.
When my client told me about his misguided friend, it reminded me of the classic story of the two shoe-sales professionals who were sent to sell shoes to the Aborigines.
One sends a telegram back to headquarters reading,
“No opportunities here. No one is wearing shoes.”
The other sends a telegram back that says,
“Plenty of opportunities here. No one is wearing shoes!”
It is all in how you look at it. You have to see strangers for what they are – opportunities. Plus, when you talk to strangers they stop being strangers. They might still seem strange, but they’re no longer strangers.
At one point:
Bill Gates and Paul Allen were strangers.
You and your significant other were strangers.
Miles Davis and Charlie Parker were strangers.
Keith and Mick were strangers.
Oprah and Dr. Phil were strangers.
Nick and Jessica were strangers.
Sonny and Cher were strangers.
Those Google dudes were strangers.
Also, it is safe to assume that most people are at least a tad nervous at networking functions. Help others get more comfortable by approaching them first. It is boring and close to a waste of time to attend a networking function and just stand around waiting for someone to come up to you and inquire about what you sell, or ask for your card.
Commit yourself to proactively meeting new people. Be open to new ideas and opportunities. Find common interests.
Find ways to help.
Contributed by: Dean Lindsay, Award Winning Speaker and Author of The Progress Challenge & Co-Author of Stepping Stones to Success