Being at ANAFM this week got me thinking about the basics of networking. And if you are like me – you love the amazing people and experience, but absolutely hate the small talk and chat. Why is that?
In my opinion, it’s because you’re looking for a needle in the haystack. Kind of like dating. Trying to find someone who has similar experiences or struggles to share. Or someone who might be a mentor or new boss for the future.
So on one hand it can be exhilarating. Like lightning striking. I consider some of the best experiences to be similar to one of those scenes in a movie. The clouds part. A light comes shining down on you. Music starts playing in the background. It’s epic! You know it’s a moment of change. And on the other hand, it can be akin to walking in the rain. Without an umbrella. Or it’s the biggest moment of suspense in the movie right before a plot change and is outright nerve racking.
I would estimate that easily >70% of the interactions are a mix between the rain walk and your nerves being set on fire. Especially if you can’t find anything in common or interesting to talk about. It becomes the same conversation about the weather, company or job position. Over and over again. Mundane.
So what can you do (especially if you are an introvert) to get up the courage to do so? Here’s what I recommend:
1. Know the other party is in the same place as you! So comforting.
2. Remember and feel the exhilaration of the experience with last person who was that diamond in the rough!
3. Remember the importance of having that network when you are in a tough spot.
4. There are a million and one valid excuses outside going to the bathroom or making a phone call to end the conversation quickly. Just ask me for one!
5. Create a standard set of questions (outside the norm) that are useful and easy to remember. For example: Do you know someone else who might be able to help me with “X”?
Lastly – remember the pain, the mundane and the embarrassment from any conversation will always fade from your memory. But the connection that can last a lifetime. It can even be life changing. And it’s only a few words away!