Freelancers and independents rely on their connections for their next project. After all, you stand or fall by your reputation. But how do you build your network of connections if you’re not naturally gregarious?
Here are some tips and links for making the most of your least favourite activity.
Be strategic in your networking choice
Once upon a time, “networking” was just what people did naturally: who do I know that could help with this? Then, someone stuck a label on it, created special events and it all became a bit, well, transactional.
In fact, there’s probably a hierarchy of Return on Networking Opportunities…
It pays, therefore, to think carefully about which events you attend and the outcomes you expect. Are the sort of people you want to meet likely to attend that sort of event? Often the people you most want to meet are least likely to be there, simply because they have no time.
Be prepared for the event
In an article on Kellogg Insight, How Introverts Can Learn to Love Networking, Holly Raider offers four tips:
- Prepare a repertoire of questions (but maintain a curious mindset) – it often takes introverts a precious beat or two to think what to say. Give yourself an edge by planning ahead and rehearsing your own answers too.
- Choose conversation partners wisely – “Recognise the dynamics in the room and set [your] expectations accordingly.” Consider opportunities to build lateral, partnership relationships.
- Focus on relationships, not business cards – Think about quality of conversations, rather than quantity of cards collected.
- Know when to move on – as the old performers’ saying goes: “Always leave them wanting more.”
It’s also useful to brush up on the basics of etiquette and presence too, so you make the most of opportunities to build connections.
A little while back, we shared this piece from Art of Manliness on How to Command a Room. It’s a worthwhile read even if your aim is simply presence rather than command.
But, are events (of any kind) even the best platform for you? In this article on Ideas.TED.com, Karen Wickre describes her “loose touch” technique. There’s an authenticity there that’s quite appealing.
For many quieter souls, “networking” is nasty, but making and maintaining connections? That’s definitely more appealing.
Whichever you choose, be strategic and be prepared.