Learn more about yourself through networking.

A Difficult Conversation 

Although I am a business coach, I also have my own business coach. Coaches are essential to help look at your limitations and shortcomings. If you don’t have a coach, I encourage you to get one. 

Anyway, I want to share with you my recently painful conversation I had with Celia, my business coach. While we were discussing upcoming networking and outreach events, I told her that I DID NOT want to attend an ABC business event. I found myself becoming increasingly upset at the idea despite the potential of meeting new contacts.

As we discussed the event further, it was not so much the actual event that bothered me but the PEOPLE who were planning to attend the event. I went to a similar event in the past and had some bad interactions with a few of the attendees. 

Have you ever felt soured over an event because you met a few people that you didn't like? As a result, you felt that you did not belong and wanted to avoid future events? It is okay if you say yes, that means you are human. Sometimes feelings can surpass facts for us.

Have you ever felt emotional about a place or event? This is when you envision only negative rather than positive aspects of an activity. A negative mindset is dangerous - avoid it whenever possible. Negative emotions often prioritize facts over logics. No amount of proof can change your mind once emotions take over.

I don't know about you, but I have been soured by more than one occasion of meeting people I did not initially like.

But don't let negative emotions or past bad events stop you from meeting new people!

The purpose of meeting new people is not just to meet the people you like but also to learn more about yourself. Make the most from your upcoming networking event by using some of the tips listed below. 

Learning More About Yourself 

When you go to a networking event, the first thought people think about is, Who am I going to meet? I want you to reframe your mind to think, What I am supposed to learn about myself?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you meet new people at a social event:

  • Which topics fascinate or excite me?
  • Which topics bore me?
  • How can I tell when my interest level shifts from one topic to another?

Often times we learn about reading the social cues of someone but we ignore how we react to our own feelings. Being a business owner means that we also need to learn more about how we process and react to people (and/or information). 

Real personal and professional growth happens when you ask yourself why you feel emotional over one issue over another. For example, you may find yourself feeling angry and irritated about someone discussing a local sports event. Dig deep into your feelings and ask yourself some underlying questions such as, Why does the discussion of sports really bother me? Is there a person or activity that brings up a painful memory?

Let the Other Person Talk

The goal of socializing is not to talk, but to listen! Due to nervousness, people often make the discussion revolve around themselves. As such, newbie networkers can't help but to share about how important and fabulous their life is. Avoid this. While you are fabulous - allow other people to showcase their own unique talents. 

Dominating the conversation limits your ability to learn more about others and unfortunately, paints you as self-absorbed. Don’t be an over-talker! Here are some tips to prevent you from dominating the conversation:

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Bring a Beverage to the Conversation 

If you find yourself to be too much of a Chatty Cathy or Charles, make sure you are armed with something to drink. A beverage will help you to do two things: a) give you an excuse not to dominate the conversation, and b) stay hydrated and alert. Besides, staying hydrated is always good anyway! Note: avoid drinking more than two alcoholic beverages while attending a business event. You want to be able to stay alert and attentive while avoiding the appearance of inebriation.

While you are talking with someone, periodically ask your companion a question and then take a sip from your beverage. That sends a message to you (as well as the companion) that you cannot speak now and are focused on listening to what they have to say.

Remind Yourself to Stay Quiet

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE my smartphone. One of my most important features is my “reminder," where I can send myself a note about something I need to do for the day. Do you also have a "reminder" feature?  If so, why not send yourself a personalized reminder message to "be a listener" during your upcoming networking event?

You can set the reminder to go off 5 or 15 minutes into the event to remind you the priority of the event is to learn more about others and less about yourself. 

Need Help Making the Most From Your Upcoming Networking Event?

Schedule a free 30-minute appointment today!

Make Each Question Count

People want to get to know each other and sometimes they may touch on an issue that you may feel passionate it. Feelings are good, passion are great but don’t let your passions overcrowd the purpose of going to a networking event. The purpose of networking is to learn more about other people and make new connections. It is impossible to learn more about new topics and issues if you allow yourself to dominate the conversations with issues that interest you. 

Allow people to discuss the ideas that matter to them. Ask probing questions to see if you can find common interests. 

For example, if you attend a sports networking event and find someone who is interested in golf, start asking them questions about their golfing background:

Who introduced you to golf? How were they influential to you?

What do you love most about golf?

What are you most important goals do you seek when you play a round of golf?

Avoid the simple yes/no questions and start asking about the psychology behind their goals and passions. Often times, people reveal a lot of about themselves when they explain why they love certain things above others. 

For example, when I go to networking events, I find myself wanting to talk IMMENSELY about economics. Everyone may not have heard or know about Milton Friedman, price floors/ceilings or Universal Basic Income - so I usually do not discuss those issues unless they bring up economics. In the meanwhile, I will stay on topics that interest the other person. 

There is no such thing as a terrible event 

There will be events where you will have a fabulous time. The food and atmosphere is excellent and you will have wonderful conversations. Other times, the event is boring and your are anxious to leave. Regardless of how you perceive the event, there were learning events. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Did I meet any interesting people? What made them interesting to me?
  • What part of the event was boring? What could I have done to make the event more exciting?
  • Did I do a good job of allowing other people to speak?
  • Was there a person or certain group of people I liked (or did not like)? Why?

Take all those thoughts and capture them into your business journal. If you don’t have one, here are some ideas that you may like. Every business event is designed to help you grow professionally as well as personally.

Don’t squander your next learning opportunity.

Need Help Making the Most From Your Upcoming Networking Event?

Schedule a free 30-minute appointment today!

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