Networking: most of the people I hear from hate networking. They go only because they know they “should,” but it’s like pulling teeth for them.
If you’ve experienced the usual clammy grip of fear when it’s your time to introduce yourself, the following may help you feel more at home, make deeper, more lasting impressions, and attract voluntary referrals from many of the other attendees.
First, if you want to take some of the pressure off, it can help to consider your first half-dozen events to be nothing but practice.
It helps even more if you go specifically to listen and get to know who’s there, rather than to “sell” your own story. So take along your business cards, but dump your nice four-color 12-page brochures. There’s a better way to make powerful impressions.
Here’s an example that happened to me on Monday.
My wife does a lot of work for an NGO here in Japan that helps North Korean refugees, but I have little direct participation, other than running their English language website ( http://www.northkoreanrefugees.com ).
This past Sunday, we flew over to Seoul for the three-day North Korean Holocaust Exhibition to be held at the Parliamentary building.
The event started with the usual speeches and ribbon-cutting. Then the main organizers all split off, doing individual interviews with journalists. The regular attendees wandered around viewing the exhibits. And those who were there to gather information or disseminate it began mingling, meeting and introducing themselves. In other words, this turned into a networking event.
I wasn’t there to sell anything or to persuade anybody, so I wandered around looking for the people who appeared too intimidated or too shy to mingle. These are the folks who hang back by the wall, or who stand alone looking wistful.
I found two ladies who told me they were doing a paper on refugees, so I led them over to the two main activists (I had exchanged emails with the activists for a couple of years, but had only met them in person minutes earlier).
I walked up, tapped both of the leaders on the arm and said, “Excuse me, but you two need to talk with these ladies. They’re doing research on your topic. I think they may be able to help you tell your story.” Then I backed away and let them have at it.
Later, I met a German journalist who had just arrived in Seoul as the new correspondent for his publisher. I found out what kind of information he was looking for, then led him over to a lady — one of the refugees who had managed to escape through China — and introduced him.
Now, bear in mind, I didn’t even know the lady, and neither he nor I spoke any Korean, but I took him over and we tried talking with her anyway. Sure enough, some people nearby stepped right up and offered to interpret. Again, I just backed away and let them work.
Later, these people came back to me, appreciative and wanting more information about our NGO and website.
When you concentrate on giving and on priming the pump, good stuff can flow. People WILL remember you if you go out of your way to spread THEIR name around. Boy will they remember you.