Here’s a blog post about group networking that I wrote last year but never got around to publishing. Although my business and goals have continued to transform since then, the gist of the message still stands strong and true.
I have a million things to do and an agenda that does not include writing at the moment but here I am. I learned a few things about group networking this morning and thought I should share.
Let me guess, you’re one of the thousands who are intimidated by group networking. Here’s why you need to include group networking in your personal brand strategy.
Group networking is still essential for everyone who is serious about advancing their career or business.
Today I attended a group networking event for women business leaders. I figured I would go there and meet other ladies and help spread the word about the awesome website I was creating for women going through career and life transitions. There were about 13 or 14 women of various ages and differing careers. We each had a chance to introduce ourselves and say a little about what we do. We were each given a place card at our seat that had a question on it pertaining to something we were to describe about ourselves. I guess it was a challenge and an ice breaker rolled into one. Mine said “what have I designed” or some variation. It was an interesting thought and one I didn’t have a pat answer for. I liked it because it made me think. I figured by the time they came around to me I would have an answer that would satisfy me and them.
Of course, what I came to find out was that by the time it was my turn, I didn’t have anything to say at all! I had been engrossed in the individual stories of these women around me. I hadn’t even thought about what I would say. So, in my usual fashion I spoke way too long but that’s me, off the cuff, and afterward I wasn’t really sure what all I actually said. I just went auto pilot. It felt right. It must have been ok since women sought me out afterward. They wouldn’t have done that if I had been a dud, right?
At any rate, here is what I learned. I learned that group networking can bring a sense of community and not just serve as a vehicle for “meet and greet”. I have networked one-on-one with people over my entire career. I’ve done hundreds of networking luncheons, coffee chats and the like but most, if not all, have been on a one-to-one ratio. I have preferred this method mainly because I could really get to know the person with whom I was meeting and likewise, they could learn about me. Depending upon the position I held, I’ve had to work a room, greet people I didn’t know, speak to groups I didn’t know, but I never really got much out of these gatherings. As such, I automatically assumed that a group networking event would offer me some ability to share what I am or hope to do but not any in depth interaction. Therefore, for the most part, I simply ignored most group networking opportunities. I think I’ve missed out.
Here’s the thing, you may force yourself out the door to go meet and greet even if it’s something you dread, on the off chance you meet someone who can see your potential or might remember you if the right job comes along. You might network so that you can hand off a resume that may be handed off again to someone who might be interested in meeting you. You even might network in order to feel more comfortable working a room and socializing. Whatever the case, we usually network for some distant or immediate benefit to ourselves. In a group networking situation, we expect to meet a lot of people but realistically we don’t expect to get to know all of them enough to recall something in particular.
As I sat listening to each individual story, I was listening to every woman’s STORY. I could place myself in her shoes at one point or another or I could certainly identify with some message she was saying. She didn’t just say her name, where she was from and what she did before attempting to answer the place card question she had been given. She had a story to tell before she even got to the question. She shared her story and in return we shared ours as well. What we learned about each other resonated for us and gave us a better understanding about that person. I not only would recognize her now but I could relate to her, root for her, and understand her. Wow. I now can tell you the chiropractor to try out if you were more into alternative therapies; the woman who could coach you to leadership excellence or the new graphic designer who could give you a great deal on designing your logo if your budget were tight. Whether or not she would be a perfect fit, that would be up to you and her. But, I could recommend you check her out. I bet, in return, they could probably recommend me too.
If a large or small group (by that I mean more than 3 others at a table over lunch) networking event is being offered, I say go to it. If planned correctly, they can be very beneficial to your personal brand in ways you would not expect. If you are an introvert, most people surprisingly think it’s the one-on-one networking meetings that are nerve wracking. I tend to disagree. I think it’s more alarming to walk into a room of people you don’t know! But take the chance.
Here’s a freebie tip if you tend to think group settings are intimidating. Walk into the room confidently with good posture. Smile. Approach whomever looks to be in charge and introduce yourself and thank them for holding the event. They will probably strike up a conversation. You may not know anyone but they don’t know you either. Own yourself, your skills and capabilities. People are there because they want to be known and to know others. You’re all in the same boat.
Kristine Pierce is an experienced attorney turned certified personal branding strategist and certified social branding analyst. With a decade in government regulatory law, including as the Governor’s appointed State Extradition Coordinator and the Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety’s Chief Legal Counsel, she has also been a speaker, author and instructor. She’s passionate about sharing her vision that people should do what they love, never give up on their big dreams and never fear change. Rebranding is possible if it’s done well. As Founder of KHPierce Consulting, she focuses her expertise on helping professionals, solo business owners, and people in transition achieve their goals by finding methods and strategies to showcase their uniqueness. You can find her on Twitter @kristine_pierce; Instagram @kristine.pierce; LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/kristinepierce and at http://www.khpierce.com