How to show up and shine by networking in the digital era.
Like many, I used to dread ‘networking’ events.
Those awkward conversations chewed over a croissant or canape, desperately trying to recall the name of the stranger with whom we’d been entrapped, before surreptitiously seeking the side door to beat a hasty exit, whilst praying they don’t ask for our number!
And, yes, I am still talking about networking.
You know, those events, so often in sterile, soulless, hotel function rooms, where us clowns all showed up juggling a bundle of business cards in one hand, and a nervous disposition in the other. Standing there, fixed outside our comfort zone, unpolished but over-practised elevator pitch waiting in the wings of the Big Top stage. Ringmasters, we weren’t.
I loathed those events. From the pit of my stomach.
Which, retrospectively, is a shame really, since I’m sure I could have gotten so much more out of them if I’d known then what I know now.
Now, digital networking events were already a ‘thing’ pre-pandemic: It was the old-school urging people to meet at the Holiday Inn. It worked then, why change a winning wicket?!
Then Covid came. And the physical world just
Then, before we could take a breath, we were hurtled into the biggest networking event ON THE PLANET. All of us all crammed into virtual rooms at contrived events, multiple meetings pouring into our very eyes, Zoom after Teams after Hang-outs, eroding the time we thought was the silver mesh to all this muddle.
Seasoned pros and novices alike, were thrown into chaos. Everything we were told pointed to the fact that we must be good at networking to succeed. Our business will not survive, let alone grow unless we are out there telling everyone what it is we do and why. And now we had NO excuse not to be there!
But then I started to see the magic that was happening around me.
From the safety and comfort of my own front room (and never underestimate just how important this can be!) I was seeing amazing examples of people enjoying connecting with people, having conversations about shared passions. Genuine relationships were being established where the thinking went beyond what’s in it for me, replaced instead by “How can I help?”
Increasingly, there was an understanding that everyone had equal value and were willing to listen to each other. Perhaps this was the ‘blitz spirit’ of the pandemic – we’re all in it together, this is a new world for all of us – I was seeing people give more than they were receiving and without any design for their own personal or professional gain.
This was different. This was mutually beneficial. This was good. Really, really, good.
So, I showed up. And I paid attention. Suddenly I was having interesting conversations with interesting people.
This was attractive.
This was fun.
And my nerves evaporated.
And this is what I learned:
Get over yourself
Or at least your unfounded & unwarranted fears. You have just as much right to be in the room as anyone else, and what you have to say is of equal benefit. What’s the worst that can happen? If there’s a mishap, mute yourself. Or quietly leave the room. Which is infinitely easier than awkwardly sidestepping out of a physical place, right?
The topic most people find easiest to speak about is themselves. Ask open questions to get people talking about themselves and what they do. They will relax. You will relax. And before you know it, you’ll be having interesting discussions and finding areas of mutual interest.
Every single person has value. Know yours. Be clear on what strengths, talents, skills, and connections you bring. Just be mindful not to give it all away, offering your wisdom for nada. People sense weakness and will exploit it.
But also, be prepared. Be clear on what you want to be talking about and think about how you may be able to help. Future-pace this and leave people with a sense of possibility.
Be attractive (No, not like that!)
Generosity is an attractive quality; be plentiful with your time and attention, people will be attracted and will remember this. Do things for others. Not just to get something back. And know that like attracts like so there will plenty of people there willing to do things for you.
Every single person has value. Be the person who discovers this in each person you speak to. Ask questions, listen, and don’t dismiss anyone you meet; they will have something you will miss if you do.
And be of service. Before concluding the conversation, ask if there is anything you do to help them. You’ll be amazed how this is met with surprise. Plus, it is ALWAYS remembered and appreciated.
Be true to your word
If you have said you will be in touch, then follow up.
If you shared an intention to help, then do it.
If you are committed to introducing someone, then make the introduction.
Be that person. These are the little things that in a busy world people really appreciate and remember.
Look for allies
I was reminded of an awkward face-to-face networking event I’d been to once where I’d scuttled out of the event to the sanctity of a nearby coffee shop. There I met others who’d felt similar and made the same escape. We had a shared experience. We spoke. We clicked. And these people became clients, customers, suppliers, and friends.
And it proved a valuable lesson. The event may have been difficult – but there were good people there – I just needed to find them and speak to them.
Create connections & have an abundant mindset
Connect the dots. Connect the people who have something of genuine value to each other and make sure they know about each other.
There is plenty for everyone. There are endless possibilities. Network to connect, collaborate and create, not to compete. Share recommendations and be ready with referrals.
Listen, be present and ask lots of questions. Get to know people, build rapport, and develop trust. Don’t try and talk to everyone; brief shallow conversations are rarely a memorable experience for anyone.
Be YOU and SHINE
The best way to show up is to be truly and authentically you. This is how we shine and create the best experience for us and everyone we meet.
And when we do, we also give others permission to shine too, so expect to see more and more magic happening around you as people show up as you are.
Jay Danzie says it best: “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark”
I am in no rush to return to the cliched events at Holiday Inn of old, but just try and stop me from showing up for this kind of networking whenever possible.
I hope some of this helps you a little – see you online … and in-person …. just not at the Holiday Inn.
Rebecca is acknowledged to be the standout coach working with senior people in the UK & European recruitment sector. A recruiter by training, she “gets it”.
She calls people on their ‘bullsh*t’, holds up the flat mirror we all need and cuts through the noise and stories that we all tell ourselves every day.
Drawing upon over 20 years of experience in coaching, training & mentoring she works with senior people & leadership teams to help them achieve the clarity they need to achieve their ambitions and to become the very best possible versions of themselves.
She has adopted a uniquely holistic approach to coaching, helping people with all aspects of their lives, from the intensely private to the published corporate goals. Because if your personal life is out of kilter, you’ll never be able to show up at work and fulfil your true potential.
All of this, delivered with genuine kindness, empathy, friendliness, and forthright honesty. What’s not to love?