Have you ever gone into a room full of laughing and talking strangers, all seeming to be having a great time? Have you noticed that they’re mostly not paying attention to anyone who isn’t right in their immediate twosome or small group?
Have you stood there at the room’s entrance, almost paralyzed by the thought of wandering through the room, trying to look as though you felt comfortable, trying to look as though you belonged, when all you wanted to do was cry or “exit, stage left”?
Have you often wished SOMEONE would approach you, would let you know you were seen and not invisible, would help you feel welcome?
About 15 years ago, I got lucky and joined a local chapter in an organization called Business Network International (BNI). It took me a while to figure some things out, and like many new kids on the block, I made a lot of not-so-good decisions about how to succeed at this game called networking. I gravitated naturally to anyone I already knew every time I visited another chapter or heck, even in my own chapter. It was just so much easier talking to them because we already knew a little about each other. I didn’t have to introduce myself and participate in what was to me at the time awkward small-talk.
Because I felt so uncomfortable with approaching strangers who were clearly having a great time, I tended to stay away from otherwise excellent networking opportunities. Then, a very wise woman (Linda Macedonio) – who was then the Executive Director of the region – told me how she operated in such circumstances.
It was so simple.
It was so wise.
And it’s worked for me ever since.
Act like a host, not a visitor.
Seriously. Act like a host. Get outside of yourself. Notice others entering who might be feeling as you did/do. Approach the hesitant visitor with your hand out and a big smile on your face. Welcome them, even if it’s not your event or role at any event.
Why? Well, how would you feel if someone did that for you? Yeah, that’s what I thought. And honestly, the person who welcomes others earns HUGE points with the visitors and will be remembered for all the right reasons.
This also works inside the room; there is often someone standing on the outside edge of the big group, drink in hand, wistfully looking around. Help that person feel better about being at the event just by going over and talking to him or her.
It’s amazing how helping someone else also helps us, isn’t it? Does this make sense? Have you experienced this from either side? Tell us about it!
Stay tuned for other networking ideas gleaned from some of the best in the business.