Networking can be difficult. For some entrepreneurs networking events can feel over whelming; deciding what events to attend, struggling with the awkwardness of introducing yourself to new people, feeling like everyone already knows each other, and in the end not really understanding what you accomplish by doing it all. Done well, it helps you connect with peers, find clients and partners, learn more about your local entrepreneurial ecosystem, and feel less isolated – all are vital to the growth of your business. You do it, because you have to. You do it, because you need to. To make the experience more rewarding, sometimes it just takes a shift in perspective.
It’s like flying. I hate to fly, but I love to travel. I fly because it get’s me where I want to go, in order to experience something new and different. I don’t control anything having to do with the flight, but I can control my expectations of the flight, and how I approach the experience. This doesn’t magically make flying awesome, yippee, fun, let’s do it every day – but it does help me put my discomfort (actually fear) in perspective.
Here are a couple ways you can adjust your approach to networking:
Set (or Reset) Your Expectations. How much are you expecting out of your networking experiences? Are you relying on them to be the primary place to build your community? Are you hoping they will generate most of your client leads, are you hoping to snag a funder each time you venture out? If you are, that’s too much. Scale back. Networking is just one part of your plan for success.
Determine a Clear Goal. Once you have scaled back your expectations, set a clear goal for each networking event you attend. Maybe you are going to meet the organizers of the event, you like what they do, hope to partner with them one day, and you want to connect and have a meaningful conversation with them. That is a great goal! Once you accomplish that, cut, print, you are done, stay, don’t stay, the rest is icing on the cake.
Prioritize Meaningful Connections Over Drive-by’s. You don’t win the networking game by collecting more business cards or Linkedin connections than the next entrepreneur. If you have two great convos, exchange info with someone you connected with, who is also interested in what you do, and you really want to meet for coffee to continue the convo, that’s amazing! Good networking is relationship building. You want to prioritize connecting with people you will follow up with, and who will follow up with you. You are playing the long game.
Pick the Right Networking Event. Pick a networking opportunity that fits who you are, and what you want to accomplish. Networking opportunities are everywhere, there are many options to choose from. You don’t have to go to them all, or the most popular one, just cause it’s cool. Go to the ones that will meet your expectations and help you reach your goals. If your goal is to meet and have those two meaningful conversations, then the networking event at the convention center, during the metal concert, might not be for you, it will be for someone else, and that’s ok.
Don’t Compare Your Yourself To Others. You are looking to networking to help you build relationships that help to build your business. Every entrepreneur will (and should) have their own goals, some will align with yours, others will not. Develop a plan that works for you, and don’t compare it to what you see on IG, or what you hear from others.