I know we haven’t had a chance to tell you how wonderful Pollen was last month, but rest assured it was wonderful. Thank you so much to the 120-odd attendees who dragged themselves to central London on a Tuesday evening to talk to strangers and play bingo. We had an excellent night and met so many lovely people, and we’re already looking forward to the next one.
Traditionally, networking events have been something I’ve feared and hated with the passion of a thousand suns. I’m not a natural ‘joiner’, and I don’t even like being around all my best friends at once let alone total bloomin’ unknown grown-ups in suits. Steve is fabulous at chatting to strangers and never runs out of things to talk about, so he can’t understand why I hate these situations so much, but I know I’m not alone! Around 50% of the population are introverts, and if anything sends an introvert into a spiral of fear and nausia it’s a networking event. But they can be so useful in terms of meetings new people, finding potential new clients, maybe hunting for a new role, so it’s a real shame that half the UK avoids them like the plague.
Pollen is great for me because it instantly gives me a reason to talk to people, and that’s always been my biggest worry: won’t people think I’m annoying or weird if I just walk right up to them and start talking? Well, no, they won’t, because that’s sort of the point of networking, but it’s easier said than done. If you’re having trouble with the approach, I recommend planning out what you’re going to say to people when you introduce yourself. Tell them a funny fact about yourself, or something weird that happened to you at work today, or just be honest and tell them you’re a little nervous because you find networking a bit awkward. There’s a 50/50 chance that this person feels exactly the same way and will be delighted to chat to somebody on their wavelength, but if you’ve chanced upon an extrovert, relax: they’ll be more than happy to steer the conversation and prod your sales pitch out of you.
There are loads of websites full of networking tips for nervous Normans like us, such as:
- Break the ice: 8 networking tips for introverts
- 7 networking tips for introverts
- 9 networking tips for introverts
- 7 networking tips for shy people
- How to maneuver a networking event if you’re shy or introverted
But one of the best suggestions I’ve found is contacting / researching people in advance. Go through the guest list, see who you want to meet and read up on them so you’ve got a ready-made icebreaker when you get there. Email them in advance and tell them you’d love to chat on the night. I, for one, fear the unknown in these situations, so having somebody I can seek out and speak to on arrival makes things a little bit easier. Another tip is to get there early. I usually rock up to these things as late as possible so I get minimum face time, but getting there before everybody else and settling in with a drink positions you as the person new arrivals want to talk to. You’ll probably get chatting to the hosts too, because they’ll be standing around waiting for the masses to show up, and you can grill them for some extra insight into who’s coming and what to expect from the event. Plus, you can leave as early as you like because you were the first one there and that always earns brownie points.
So, if you are the shy and retiring type or you’ve never been to a networking event and think it sounds dreadful, know that I will do my best to make it easier on you if you come to Pollen! Hang out with me until you find somebody better to talk to. I won’t be offended.
I’d love to know what you like or don’t like about networking events and how we could make Pollen even better, especially if you’re an introvert! Leave us a comment and we’ll send you positive vibes.