It’s June and that means two more weeks for companies and organizations to squeeze in events before people start heading out on vacation. Weeks are full. I’m an avid networker and I love being out with people, but add busy weekends, family responsibilities, duties around the house, taking care of pets and suddenly that Thursday evening cocktail event doesn’t seem as fun as it once did. And don’t get me started if it happens to rain on a day when I signed up for something.
So how do I show up ready even when I don’t feel like it? I have a three-part “pregame” strategy that I use before I walk into a room. It involves a phone call, a bottle of water and an eye-catching accessory. Confused yet? Read on …
Phone a friend: I’ve written in the past about my introverted tendencies. When I get really busy, sometimes the networking can feel like a chore. Then I have moments of self-doubt and the narrative in my head goes like this: “Everyone in the room is smarter/older/younger/more accomplished/titled than me. This is not worth the time. I’d rather catch up on my e-mails and go to bed early.” When I’m not feeling it, I call one of my trusted sources. We’ve worked together or known each other for years, they’ve seen me shine in professional situations and they’re always available for a quick text or phone pep talk. Really take the time to figure out who makes you feel good about your work and seek out positive people. They’ll make you feel confident walking into a crowded room.
Hydrate and power up: if you’re in a service-based business, you’ve likely got stacked up conference calls, client meetings and staff meetings over lunch. I used to return calls or read e-mails right up to walking into an event. You can’t be a good conversationalist if you’re hungry, dehydrated and haven’t had time to decompress. Easy solution: stash a bottle of water in your desk and keep some healthy, protein-based snacks on hand. (This helps us avoid the sugar-and-caffeine trap which is not a good foundation on which to layer a glass of wine!) This also forces you to slow down and take a few minutes to get your head in the game. I even hold myself accountable for eight glasses of water a day using my Fitbit app. I am rarely tired before walking into an event, even on my busiest of days. It works!
Wear a conversation piece: it can be hard to start a conversation if it’s a new group, or you’re older/younger than a lot of the attendees. Sometimes conversation just doesn’t flow as easily. While I’m usually a big proponent of having a few classic, timeless outfits for big events or new business pitches, sometimes if I’m just not feeling it, I find the biggest, bling-iest accessory in my closet and wear it. It provokes questions and often draws other people into the conversation. Suddenly, you’re not talking accessories you’re just … talking.
Last night, I attended the PRSA New Jersey Chapter Pyramid Awards which was a terrific night honoring the best PR campaigns of the year. This, after having house guests for five days, enduring 90-degree temperatures and driving more than an hour to attend. Using the three-step pregame strategy I came away with two potential lunches, connected one friend with a new business opportunity and may speak at an undergraduate class in the fall. Networking isn’t rocket science. Mostly, it’s about feeling really good about your authentic self before you walk into a room.