5 things I’ve learnt about networking
14th March 2019
After a decade in construction, I attended my first ever People in Glazing Society (PIGS) networking event last week. This was not only my first time at PIGS but it is pretty much my first networking event since we started DOM, three years ago.
I know, I know…a new business, trying to get off the ground; my soles should be worn through, my hand aching and my voice hoarse from meeting and greeting prospects but it’s just not something I’ve embraced. Thankfully, my business partner, Alan has been good enough to get himself out there, and that’s how on a wet and blustery evening in March we found ourselves faced with a crowded room; four deep at the (free) bar!
Now here’s the thing, the 20-something me would have been rather impressed with the free bar but after nursing the odd hangover at my desk in the mid-Noughties, I rarely drink at work functions. A PIGS event is different. We spotted a table covered in pints of Guinness. It appeared that the initiated were double and triple parking their tipples. A good move, because after just two hours (it ran from 5pm to 11.30pm) the bar tab ran out.
I managed a handful of gin and tonics…
What did I learn from my PIGS experience:
1 – Networking bears many similarities to socialising in my heyday (circa 2005).
Yes I realise that fundamentally it’s very different and far more serious but standing there, gin in hand, chatting to two lovely ladies (Glass News’ Christina and Emma), it bore an uncanny resemblance to going out-out in my former youth. My nonchalant and aloof approach, honed to keep any undesirables at bay and intrigue any interested parties, appears to be something that I unwittingly, still do. Note to self – this doesn’t work well when networking!
2 – As a business owner, I am rubbish at networking.
The whole thing fills me with awkward dread. It’s like ‘Alan Partridge does networking’. Saying all the wrong things, to the wrong people. I can talk to anyone, and enjoy talking to everyone…it’s a prerequisite of being a PR-bod but the whole introducing myself and selling my wares thing, just doesn’t come naturally.
3 – Throw yourself into it.
We bumped into a former colleague – the joy of being an ex-Epwin employee, there’s always at least three of you in the room – and she immediately won my admiration. She goes to all four PIGS events and happily goes it alone. Asking how on earth she does it, she said, “I grab a drink, go up to the closest group of people and introduce myself.” Can it really be that simple?
4 – Don’t take it personally.
I realise that the whole point of networking is meeting new people and reacquainting yourself with friends, contacts and former colleagues. What we have to remember is that while networking is about being personable, it’s not to be taken personally. It’s not a personal affront if someone gives you the brush off. A bit like point number one – there’s someone for everyone and not every prospect is going to be ‘the one’.
5 – Your first time is never great.
Like all networking virgins, the first time is never great. Next time, it will be better. And I can be reassured that simply by being there, we raised awareness of our brand and put a face to the name…even if it was through beer goggles!