To some people, ‘networking’ is a dirty word. They cringe when thinking about going to a networking event. The reason for that is that most people do it wrong.
I was at a large networking event with more than five hundred people a few years ago. When I went up to do my presentation I began by asking the audience: “How many of you came here today hoping to do a little business–maybe make a sale?” The overwhelming majority of the people in the audience raised their hands. I then asked, “How many of you are here today hoping to buy something?”
No one raised a hand–not one single person!
This is the networking disconnect.
I learned the critical importance of networking, and discovered my natural aversion to it, early in my career. I was a new college graduate working in the strategic planning division of a $10 billion company, and our business unit had been invited to a retirement party for one of the top executives. The gentleman retiring was someone I’d looked up to during my brief tenure, and I wanted him to know he’d made an impact on me.
While I wanted to attend the party, as an introvert I usually avoided these types of events because they made me uncomfortable. Knowing there would be a lot of senior executives at this party made me even more fearful. In the end, I tamped down my fears and went. When I arrived I found a relatively empty room save for the executive’s friends and close colleagues. That night, because of the small turnout, I had the pleasure and advantage of engaging in one-on-one conversations with some of the company’s top executives, an experience that would prove crucially important in advancing my career.
That evening I learned the importance of networking and realized I had to figure out how to engage in business events in ways that were comfortable for me. I went on to discover an array of strategies introverts can use, ultimately writing “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership”.