Looking Creepy and Meeting New People

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-by Matt Leedham

I hear from a lot of people that they don’t enjoy “networking.” Networking, in this case, being defined as going to an event (where you may not know anyone) with the intention of making new connections.

Depending on your profession, this may be considered a necessity. However, after teaching and coaching people to be high-achievers, I’ve learned that networking to some degree is critical to everyone, regardless of what you do for a living.

Reasons people don’t like networking:

  • “I hate small talk.”
  • “It’s so ‘surfacey’ and fake.”
  • “I can’t sell myself.”
  • “It’s intimidating to just walk up to someone I don’t know.”
  • “Everyone seems to be talking to someone else, and I don’t want to interrupt.”
  • “I’m an introvert.”

These are all fair reasons, and they’re all fairly common too. It’s completely natural to feel uncomfortable in such a fabricated environment. I don’t feel comfortable in these environments either. I have to force myself to get engaged.

But just for a moment, imagine walking into a room of people you don’t know and trying to make new connections…looking like THIS:

Yeah, imagine being the guy with the creepy mustache trying to meet new people.

I’ll be honest. I’m a fairly outgoing person, but this was tough. It felt like I had just eaten a poppy seed bagel with spinach cream cheese…you don’t even have to look in the mirror to know you have something in your teeth. That’s what I was thinking. Everyone is distracted by this ridiculous mustache and not taking me seriously. (note: click here for why I’m sporting a mustache)

But here’s a tip for successful networking. It has nothing to do with how to start a conversation, or how to work a room. This has nothing to do with technical strategies for effective networking.

TIP: Jot down your intentions for the networking event (what you want to get from it) and how you want to “show up” at the event (what unique gifts and talents you want to display).

Here’s a few things I wrote the other day before rolling up to a random networking event.

What are my intentions?

  • I want to get to know at least 6 people well enough that I would feel comfortable calling them the next day to continue the conversation.
  • I want to meet people in their 30’s that are in high-stress environments and believe that there is more to life than just work.
  • I want to have some fun!

How do I want to show up?

  • Positive
  • Curious
  • Engaged
  • Vibrant
  • Generous
  • Grateful

Believe me, it makes a difference. With those intentions and those talents on display, it was impossible NOT to meet great people AND have a ton of fun. It’s that simple.

What are your thoughts on networking or meeting new people? Have any stories to share (either successes or mishaps)?


Leave a comment below and let us know!

6 thoughts on “Looking Creepy and Meeting New People

  1. I would add to your wise words, Matt to say that what I hear most about networking is that it's building relationships. The few professional networkers that I've met say that their best results come from taking an attitude of "how can I be of service to this person." And the way you could help may be some piece of information, talent or skill you have that's completely unrelated to your profession. The point is to have people remember you when you call to continue the conversation and not just be some vague name on a business card they collect.

    The added benefit is when you can do some small thing for them, they are more likely to want to repay the kindness and now you have established a relationship that will either grow to become a client or a great referral point. I just started putting this into practice and it's been working for me. I get a few people that are directly interested in what I do, but this works to build future relationships so that when I walk into that same group again, people already know me and I don't have to work so hard. I can focus on being awesome!

  2. I would add to your wise words, Matt to say that what I hear most about networking is that it's building relationships. The few professional networkers that I've met say that their best results come from taking an attitude of "how can I be of service to this person." And the way you could help may be some piece of information, talent or skill you have that's completely unrelated to your profession. The point is to have people remember you when you call to continue the conversation and not just be some vague name on a business card they collect.

    The added benefit is when you can do some small thing for them, they are more likely to want to repay the kindness and now you have established a relationship that will either grow to become a client or a great referral point. I just started putting this into practice and it's been working for me. I get a few people that are directly interested in what I do, but this works to build future relationships so that when I walk into that same group again, people already know me and I don't have to work so hard. I can focus on being awesome!

  3. Matt – great blog! It is always interesting to me when people say they hate to network. It is one of my favorite things to do! I would say that if people are giving you the reasons above, they are going for the wrong reason. I never make small talk, I'm not fake, and I don't sell anything. As Tammy said it is about building relationships, listening from the heart. The first question on my mind is how can I serve you? And today, it just might be a friendly smile and supportive conversation.

    I love your suggestions about setting intentions. Before I learned to network well, I was uncomfortable too. Once, I went to an event where my intention was to work up enough courage to get out of the car and go IN! The next time, I set an intention to talk to 2 people before I go home. Remember to always set your intentions in terms of things YOU can control. Don't say – My intention is to get two new clients. You have no control over your success in that matter. Instead try – My intention is to meet two new friends.

    If you hate to walk up to strangers… look around, there is at least one other wall flower that is as miserable as you and would welcome someone coming up to chat. Remember, people are there to meet you. If they are being salesy and shallow… move on to someone else!

    My goal is always to have fun and to get to know as many people as possible. I try to strike a balance between people I've already met ("It's great to see you again!") and at least half a dozen new people. The more I go… the more people I know when I get there. Now, I look forward to going. It is an opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones… which is exactly why you should be networking in the first place!

    One last tip (and I almost never say never or always, but here goes…) ALWAYS have your business cards (you would be surprised how many people go to a networking event without one) and NEVER sit with your friends at a sit down event.

  4. Matt – great blog! It is always interesting to me when people say they hate to network. It is one of my favorite things to do! I would say that if people are giving you the reasons above, they are going for the wrong reason. I never make small talk, I'm not fake, and I don't sell anything. As Tammy said it is about building relationships, listening from the heart. The first question on my mind is how can I serve you? And today, it just might be a friendly smile and supportive conversation.

    I love your suggestions about setting intentions. Before I learned to network well, I was uncomfortable too. Once, I went to an event where my intention was to work up enough courage to get out of the car and go IN! The next time, I set an intention to talk to 2 people before I go home. Remember to always set your intentions in terms of things YOU can control. Don't say – My intention is to get two new clients. You have no control over your success in that matter. Instead try – My intention is to meet two new friends.

    If you hate to walk up to strangers… look around, there is at least one other wall flower that is as miserable as you and would welcome someone coming up to chat. Remember, people are there to meet you. If they are being salesy and shallow… move on to someone else!

    My goal is always to have fun and to get to know as many people as possible. I try to strike a balance between people I've already met ("It's great to see you again!") and at least half a dozen new people. The more I go… the more people I know when I get there. Now, I look forward to going. It is an opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones… which is exactly why you should be networking in the first place!

    One last tip (and I almost never say never or always, but here goes…) ALWAYS have your business cards (you would be surprised how many people go to a networking event without one) and NEVER sit with your friends at a sit down event.

  5. Thanks for the awesome contributions! Clearly this is coming from two people that spend a fair amount of time networking.

    So it sounds like being yourself, seeking to give rather than receive, and having some fun are the keys to a successful networking experience. Cool!

    Great perspectives and great points. I'm sure our readers will appreciate your thoughts.

  6. Thanks for the awesome contributions! Clearly this is coming from two people that spend a fair amount of time networking.

    So it sounds like being yourself, seeking to give rather than receive, and having some fun are the keys to a successful networking experience. Cool!

    Great perspectives and great points. I'm sure our readers will appreciate your thoughts.

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