Networking Somewhere New. The Butterfly Necessity.

Posted by: on Nov 27, 2013 | No Comments


Inspired by the title of Big Bang Theory episodes, I was reminded this morning of a truth about networking.

As I wrote last week, I recently attended Connecting for Success course in London run by Julia Hobsbawm of Editorial Intelligence. She graciously invited me to attend one of her  signature events the ei Comment Awards (held on Tuesday morning at RIBA) and to be a judge next year.

So at 0745, suitably suited and booted, I was rattling through the empty streets of the West end to RIBA, where the award ceremony was held at an unfeasibly early hour. I was very excited to see that some of my favourite journalists – Lucy Kellaway, Allison Pearson and Caitlin Moran – nominated. I then happened to look up the stellar list of judges and got proper nervous. What on earth would I have to say to these people? Why would anyone be interested in what I had to offer?

And then I remembered. This is exactly the sort of thing we cover in our Networking courses! I have a system and we teach it to other people – so what would I tell a delegate in a similar situation?

Well, take a deep breath and remember that you won’t be the only person who is there for the first time. You can scan the room for all the people who are locked in conversation with others or you can scan the room for someone who is alone and available to talk to.

And I would normally remind people that you will always feel those butterflies when you go to somewhere new. That it’s a normal part of meeting people who are, in fact, strangers.

In fact having just come back from the event I’d go so far to say that it’s a necessity. It shows that you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone (wherever that happens to be) and seeking out new people and new ideas.

And how did it go? Well of course, I entered a massive throng of people and yes, saw lots of groups of people leaning towards one another, chatting away. Then I looked again and by the drinks table there were two women, waiting with me to be served. “Is this your first time at the awards?” Yes, yes and yes… Like me another guest had only been invited 10 days ago. Like me, she didn’t really know many people. The third was a writer nominated for an award. She was nervous for a different reason.

We had made a human connection and the nervousness passed… I was at the event. I wasn’t in the full swing of it yet but I was “in the room” and ready to meet people.

Julia Hobsbawm likens this moment to air travel – she calls it “Cloud Control” – the moment when you make the transition from the feeling of discomfort to where you are in the room but you haven’t yet “landed”.

The awards ceremony was slick, a seamless event given the number of awards given out – mostly to Wolverhampton’s greatest export Caitlin Moran. The woman I met – science writer Anjana Ajua – won her category.

And networking is a marathon not a sprint, I met some people with whom I will follow up and take the time to build a relationship. You can quell the internal butterflies if you remember that you are not at the event to win a contract, just make a contact.

It’s as simple and as difficult as that!

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