Monday, June 1, 2009

Is it just me or do other people feel uncomfortable networking?

First things first o kind reader. I arrange networking functions for a living. One of my clients is  a major Chamber of Commerce in my city. I love the behind the scenes stuff, designing the invitations, updating the website, capturing the RSVPs, but boy, after several years of it, I no longer look forward to the networking functions.

My problem is I've never been a party girl. During my childhood I could enjoy parties by taking a book and sitting in the corner reading it while the grownups chatted about boring stuff. Now I'm in my forties that's not an option. Sadly.

Even worse is that because I organise these things I'm obliged to work the room. Which is astonishingly hard for me as I'm shy and sociophobic. On the night I usually manage by chatting to folks I know or spending ages with the name tags welcoming people. Despite repeated training I can't get the hang of 'meeting people' and 'connecting' the way others can. I've met some serial networkers who are quite scary in their ambitious room-working. But I just can't do it that way myself. I get lots of invitations to networking events (other than the ones I organise) and turn 90% of them down. I just can't face it.

Now the big rule of having your own business is, these days, to get out there and network. This means (ugh) breakfast meetings - and in my view breakfast is a meal best eaten at home with or without your loved one and with the newspaper or a good novel, preferably the latter - and after hours meetings - which reek slightly of detention from the old school days; I'd much rather just be at home with that novel I didn't finish over breakfast. I deal with people non-stop over the phone and email all day; leaving my cosy home office for a face to face dose of the same can leave me depressed at the thought.

Surprisingly on the night I manage OK, provided I a) get enough to drink to see me through it and b) can nick outside for fag on my own to assist in the seeing-through process. Neither of which, shall we agree, is wonderful for one's health, but good for one's psyche.

So who else is out there who finds business life and networking a hard, hard slog? I can't be alone. There must be many of us who suffer for our business. Anyone? Or am I a lone nutter? :-)

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