Just at the word “networking” I can hear my fellow introverts running for the hills full of blankets to hide under. Trust me, I get it. Nothing sounds less fun than going into a room full of people you don’t know to meet a ton of them back to back. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year that’s changed my business mindset, it’s networking.
At first I thought it was just one of those buzzwords people used before the internet. Like business cards, I thought it was probably dying out. Nope. So wrong. Most (read: all) of our promotional clients (more on this second business later) have come from networking events. Every time I talk about our traveler’s notebooks people haven’t a clue, but decide they definitely need one in their life.
Networking is magical. Us introverts need to suck it up and do it. For business sake.
Through our local chamber of commerce and promotional client base, we’ve had the opportunity to go to quite a few events over the past year. I convinced myself to go with Alex to the first few ones over the promise of free food, but continue to go because there is so much value in them. Of course they’re still not easy for me and I often crash as soon as we get home from all the social interaction, but there’s value in using up my outward energy on networking.
And it’s not sleazy like the word sometimes feels. More often than not, it’s just shaking the hand of someone, asking what they do for a living, telling them what I do, and then us both trying to figure out if the other has something that can help us. It’s when you go to networking events trying to get everything out of it while giving nothing, that you have a rotten time and just leave with a few drinks.
If you find yourself with a networking event on the books and the introvert in you flares up and eggs you on to cancel, take a beat. Then invite someone to go with you. Alex is the main reason I’ve grown to love these events. We get to be a power team, using each other’s strengths to meet new people, close deals, and spread the word to non-planner people about planners. So bring an extrovert with you to help get you warmed up with the first few interactions. Or baby step into networking by going to an event by someone you know. Nothing makes the process easier than having someone do warm introductions for you.
Our promotional business wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without networking. Our stationery business continues to grow and expand because of it. So take the time, save up some extra “social” energy, and get out there.