Networking. Does that word make you want to run away and hide in a corner? It used to have that effect on me, but, nevertheless, there are still times when a maker needs to meet new people.
I thought it implied, ‘talk to people to find out how you can use them for something’ – or more to the point ‘be quizzed by people until they realise you are of no use to them’.
It always seemed insincere and rude. Those who are good at small talk make it look effortless, while I would often stumble and blush my way through what felt like hell.
But now I really appreciate the opportunity to get to know some people better. I still am uncomfortable starting a conversation with someone new. I still find ‘peopling’ exhausting. I still would rather not do it at all.
However, the reward of making friends with interesting new people completely outweighs all this. Here are the two main tricks I use to help me get over that awkward initial meeting. These involve using Twitter, but other social media platforms would also work. I have made most of my ‘Real Life’ friends this way.
• When I find someone interesting on Twitter, I start to chat with them by responding to something they have tweeted. I take care not to overdo it or spam them, and try to add something constructive to the conversation. I know that if someone replies to every one of my tweets, they are likely to soon get muted, so I respect that others may feel the same. Then, if we are at the same event or in a similar location, when we do meet in real life (IRL) it’s not ‘cold’ – we already have some conversation history.
• At a conference, I see who else is tweeting by following the event hashtag. I then tweet to them, and arrange to meet during one of the breaks. Twitter is then an easy subject to start talking about. From their Twitter bio, I also (usually) have their name – so I don’t have to remember that either!
At the recent Guild of Makers launch event, over 90% of the attendees had either contributed, or lurked, on #makershour (Wednesday evenings, 8pm UK time on Twitter). This meant most of us knew of each other. As Guild member, Sue Archer, said later, “The launch was brilliant. Just the right mix of social, speakers, ‘networking’, and fun. I say ‘networking’ because it seems most of us all really enjoyed the launch. Even those of us who don't always ‘people’ so easily.”
I’m not a people person. But I do like to meet great people. Using Twitter, I have re-defined ‘networking’ in my head to ‘making new friends’.