I grew up very quiet and shy, I’m honestly the LAST person one would think would own a networking company let alone, present in front of groups and educate others about the power of networking.
I learned how to network the hard way. Striking up conversations with strangers was not only very difficult for me, I was taught by my parents “never talk to strangers”. Even as an adult, that proved to be a difficult belief to change.
I also knew that when I went from personal training in a gym, where all my leads were “warm” contacts the gym had provided, to moving into my own private personal training facility where I had to go out and find people to work with me, I had to start getting in front of and start talking to strangers.
I think it’s natural to be a little nervous when going out to a networking event, especially if it’s your first time at an event and aren’t sure what to expect.
The first event I had ever gone to was a bit of a disaster in my eyes. I had been invited by a client to a lunch meeting and all she said was “Please join us at lunch. There will be lots of other professionals there so, bring plenty of business cards.”
My first thought was “Am I a professional? I wear workout clothes all day… am I even going to fit in with these people?”
You don’t even want to know how long it took me to figure out what to wear. I had already been personal training for some time and my “professional” clothes were dwindling.
Once I got there, everyone was very nice and I felt welcomed. We sat down for lunch and the next thing I knew, we were going around the table and taking turns standing up and giving a "commercial" about our businesses.
I had not at all prepared for this and I really began to panic. I had not been accustomed to speaking in front of groups, in fact the thought back then terrified me.
I didn’t hear a word any of them said because I was so focused on trying to figure out what in the world I was going to say.
When it was my turn, I stood up with my face and neck red, my hands sweating, my voice cracking, my heart pumping out of my chest, and I said “Hello, I’m Shari, I’m a personal trainer and I help people get in shape”. I sat down as fast as I possibly could and was relieved that was over!
I was surprised they even asked me back. I was even more surprised that I decided to go back knowing I would have to stand up and speak to them again the following week. But, they were very supportive and friendly so, I gave it a go. I figured I couldn’t get any worse.
That first experience entered me into the wonderful world of networking and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
I had great success within that group as well as many others after that.
What I realized later was that my networking success within that group wasn’t about my crappy commercials and not giving the best first impression.
What I attribute my success within the group was that:
13 years of networking later at the time of this post, I still take way too much time figuring out what to wear:)
I also go to events with different attitude:
So, if you’re new to networking don’t give up!
Continue to show up and think more about building relationships than “selling” and you’ll do just fine.
Thank you for reading!
Do you have an embarrassing networking story you would like to share?
I would love to hear from you, please comment below.