by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA
"It's time to go!" you hear your spouse shout out from the other room. Your stomach is in knots and you're filled with dread at the thought of going to this networking event but you know you really should go. "It will be good for my practice," you tell yourself checking yourself in the mirror.Do you relate to this scenario? So many people have a lot of anxiety around networking functions. There are a lot of "shoulds" that they feel: I should want to go. I should wear my best outfit that is uncomfortable. I should impress people. I should meet new prospects. I should be outgoing.
"Don't should all over yourself," is an expression that may make you smile. Are you shoulding on yourself? If this is how you tend to approach networking functions and social events, maybe there is another way.
Here are some tips: Go to the event to enjoy yourself and connect with others-- not to overtly promote your practice. By meeting people that you truly want to spend time with you will likely do business later. At many functions it is not the time or the place to talk shop.
Avoid drinking a lot of alcohol to try to take the edge off the event. While you might feel like you're very gregarious and articulate at the time after a few drinks, it may be that you actually appear unprofessional instead.
When you arrive if you cannot immediately locate someone to talk with who you know, search the crowd for someone who is in your shoes. Approach the person who looks nervous and uncomfortable and see if you can help them out by approaching them and introducing yourself.
Try not to spend the entire event talking to people you already know. Ask the people who you do know who they know in the crowd who they could introduce you to. Return the favor.
Choose events or causes that genuinely interest you where people much like you also congregate. Forcing yourself to join a club or a group because you "should" is likely to backfire.
If you truly hate and loathe these functions it may be best for you to find another way to meet people. Don't force it. There are all kinds of ways to meet people. Perhaps you would enjoy a different format. Spend some time researching other ways to get in front of people that you want to meet that don't require social events that you don't enjoy.
Instead of hearing your spouse saying "it's time to go" maybe it's okay to let some evenings be "what would you like for dinner?" or "what movie would you like to watch?" instead. Allowing yourself some much-needed rest and relaxation is part of building a great practice. Be choosy with your time and select only the events that you know you can put your whole heart into.
Connect with your authentic self to find ways to meet people with whom you can be yourself. It's okay.
Coaching Tip Take a photograph of your business card and keep it on your phone. When you are at events, out and about or in situations where you're meeting people, instead of handing out a traditional paper business card, ask if you can text the person the image of your card instead. In doing so you will acquire the person's cell phone number. Send the image of your business card and mention that you'd like to connect sometime. When you send the card, you can add a personal touch about a topic you discussed when you met and mention that it was great to meet them. Follow up in a week or so and ask if they would like to grab lunch or meet up for coffee to see if you can be a resource to each other.