Fear of Networking

I had not written for several days because I have had this post floating around my mind. A part of me wanted to share my fear, hash out what I am thinking and possibly discover some solutions to cure my fear. The other part of me wondered if it would be unwise to share my weaknesses with others, especially in such a public forum – what if everyone thinks I’m useless?
I am actually still quite nervous to admit how absolutely useless I was last week; I feel a bit of a failure to be honest. You see, I attended the Blogcamp seminar in London last Thursday in the hope of learning more about the fine art of blogging as well as meeting and mingling with other bloggers. I had been looking forward to this for weeks, and under the registration recommendations I had even designed and made some business cards.

I didn’t hand out a single business card. I didn’t take any photographs. I didn’t approach anyone new. I had the fear. The fear of networking.

I walked into a room of around a hundred people and freaked out. I am sure they were all lovely, but I clammed up, I panicked that I wouldn’t know what to say and in a manner of ways, I hid. In order to avoid talking to people I spent the first break on my phone to my boyfriend (well, it was the one year anniversary since we met), I spent the lunch break running out of the room to buy Thai curry (well, it is my most favourite place and I never get to London these days) and I spent the last break with my head buried in my notebook scribbling down lots of notes (well, I had to remember everything I had learnt).
I did, however, meet the lovely Sian Meades from Domestic Sluttery and Emma Cossey, both of whom I have chatted to rather regularly on twitter. So I wasn’t a complete social failure. But in both instances they had approached me.
Sian and I at Blogcamp – Photo from Amiando


But I failed at networking. I was scared, and I’m not entirely sure why. I am normally quite a confident and chatty person and always have something to say. But this situation caught me completely out of my depth. I just don’t get the networking technique. How do people work the room? How do you introduce yourself? How do you tear yourself away when you have had enough?

So I failed miserably at Blogcamp. I am a little disappointed in myself. But if anything, this proves that I need to improve on my networking skills.

  1. You didn't fail! I think I spent most of my first few networking events in the corner, playing Angry Birds, with my serious 'I'm replying to important emails' face on 🙂

    Networking is hard, and quite scary. It gets easier the more you do it though, I promise! (Mainly because you see the same couple of faces to say hello to).

    Maybe try a tweetup, or a Jelly co-working event, to try networking in an informal environment? You could always organise one yourself!

    Ooh and the best advice I ever got – ask questions! It's the easiest way to kick off at a networking event, and everyone loves talking about themselves 🙂 And you did that anyway when we chatted, so you've already got the skills!

  2. I am also a terrible networker. Once you get to know me it is hard to shut me up but when I am first faced with a room full of people I am shy and fairly useless. In fact it takes me a couple meetings before I feel totally comfortable. So don't worry, you are not alone.

    p.s. when you come up with a secret weapon, let me know 😉

  3. Emma – Thank you for the advice, those are some really good ideas. You are probably right, practice makes perfect!

    Michelle – Thank you, I'm glad I am not alone with my shyness. I'll let you know if I come up with anything spectacular.

  4. We're all the same then! I think I'm scared I'll make an idiot of myself as I'm not as knowledgeable/experienced/clever/witty etc.(could go on forever!). We just have to keep putting ourselves in these situations until we learn to pretend we're not terrified – I think that's what all the 'confident' ones are doing!

  5. I've read a few similar posts in other blogs this year so you're definitely not alone here.

    And I agree with what's been said, you didn't fail! These things take practice. I'm going to my third networking event at work (absolutely dreading it) but I'm finally starting to get swing of the whole thing so while I'm not looking forward to it, I know I'll be able to hold my own this time.

    A room full of 100 people you either don't know or barely now is intimidating. Your reaction was natural and completely understandable so don't beat yourself up. 🙂

    Also, rest assured that by posting this, you've made others like myself feel less lonely in feeling this way and proven once again why your blog is awesome.

    Kim x

  6. You didn't fail!

    I'm useless at social interactions and what I've found works for me is starting small – maybe suggest coffee meetings with one or two other people within a network (blogging or whatever).

    Those meetings are way less intimidating and it means when you go to the BIG events you recognise one or two friendly faces, and the chances are they will introduce you to one or two more, and it's all a bit less intimidating over time.

    I also try to remember that none of us (well, almost none of us) find this sort of thing easy or natural, and the worst that can happen is someone muttering behind their hand, "Oh, I thought she'd be better than THAT" which I can live with, I guess 😉

    I hope you found the content useful and perhaps next time we'll find time to chat!


  7. I was there, I would have talked to you! But as you say if you were on your phone, in your notebook or out of the room then it's really hard for anyone else to get an 'in' with you.

    I think there are far more people who find this sort of situation tough than actually enjoy it. So you can be safe in the knowledge that it's not just you. What I tend to do now is send out a tweet or a blog post asking if anyone else is going – I did a 'Who's going to BlogCamp?' post, got several replies, then it was easier to talk to those people at the event.

    Also I find standing in one place helps, maybe near the door where people come in. Smile, make eye contact and say hello and eventually you will meet someone. I tend to go for the desperate opener: "I don't know anyone,can I talk to you?" goes down surprisingly well.

  8. What everyone else said. You did not fail. It takes practice. I had to go and network at medical conferences and found it really hard (in part due to my lack of knowledge about medicine) but it got easier with time.

    Askign questions is a brilliant tip, and finding someone who looks as shy as you feel can also be quite good.

    I would often ask someone a question as we were in the queue for coffee or when I knew the topic better, about a question they asked in one of the sessions.

    Also if it is a residential conference and raining not having a brolly or always carrying a spare tends to be good for starting conversations (trust me – I know from rather sodden experience)

  9. You didn't fail! You went, and you learned, and you spoke to two people who you haven't spoken to!

    I am proud of you for going. 🙂

  10. Sweetheaart – we need to meet up for a crazy bear – I am a networking guru – all my business comes form networking – you meet the most amazing people, and you I know will be FABLOUS at it ! – lets meet soon and I'll share my secrets X

  11. You didn't fail! You didn't.
    I would clam up in a room of 100 unknown faces too. It takes a long time to build up that kind of confidence.

    P.S. I bet a lot of other people in the room felt the same. I betcha.

  12. Oh I totally know that feeling! I used to go to monthly property networking meetings and hated them so much, I would come home feeling so depressed as I was so shy & useless… I have registered for Manchester BlogCamp next month so am already nervous about it… yikes!!

  13. Little Muvva – You are probably right, everyone else is probably pretending to be confident too.

    Kim – Thank you. It's good to know I'm not alone, and vice versa.

    Sally – I like the idea of starting small. I can totally do individuals and small groups, it's just that crossover to a room filled with loads of people! And yes, the content at Blogcamp was fab, thank you.

    Joanne – Thanks for the tip – I'll try to remember the door positioning next time, and that opening line.

    Siobhan – Also, some great tips. I like the brolly one! Ha!

    Lisa-Marie – Thank you.x.

    Auntie Ali – That would be awesome – Crazy Bear, Crazy Auntie and Crazy networking tutorial. I would love to learn your secrets.x

    A Thrifty Mrs – Thanks you, I'm starting to understand now that maybe I wasn't alone feeling like that.

    Nic – That's how I felt too! Totally shy and useless. But I'm guessing from all these comments, that most other people are too. Take heed for next month? And enjoy!

  14. I think I muscled in whilst you were talking to Sian, and interrupted with a barrage of questions to Sian, when she started advertising, how come she's grown it so fast, and so on… so you definitely didnot fail, you were part of that. Anyway, there's always another time, although might be rare for exactly the same folks to be altogether in exactly the same place at the same time. I kind of thought I would speak to more, but it is tricky to get around and "work that room" when so many seemed deep in conversation…

  15. You did not fail! Its just one of those things that get better/easier the more you do it- just pretend and you'd be suprised at who you end up talking too!

  16. Hey, I was at Blogcamp and wish I had had the opportunity to speak to you 😉
    You definitely were not alone!
    When I first entered the room, it felt like there were a lot of people that knew one another and I did feel like the outsider! What made it worse was when I went to sit down, I was told that I couldn't sit there as it was reserved. No malice was intended but if you are feeling vulnerable what you actually hear is " I don't want you sitting next to me". Stupid, I know!
    I am so glad I went to the event though as I did manage to speak to some people including Bangsabun – she really is a laugh a minute!
    Hopefully this post has made you realise not to overlook the qualities and attributes you have.
    Keep smiling 😉

  17. You were (as expected) incredibly friendly and interesting.

    Y'know what? I don't think anyone is very good at these things. Especially not when you're walking into a cliquey environment. I've got through the door of an event and almost turned and run before now.

    I don't think everyone has to be really really good at networking. I don't think you have to hand out a million business cards to have had a 'good event' (I forgot mine). Networking means different things for different people. You learnt some stuff, met nice people, ate some ice cream, got really quite drunk and went home giggling. That sounds like a success to me.

  18. Caroline and MeLikeyUK – Thank you. You're right, it is difficult to 'work' the room, eh? Just getting to speak to a few people is enough.

    Old Fashioned Sus Thanks, I will try and pretend to be confident next time, and see if that works.

    Siany That is a really good point – networking can mean different things to people. And meeting you was totally worth it anyway, a great afternoon was had! x

  19. I love this post because I know how you feel. As part of my job I have to go to big trade shows and visit loads of different companies asking them for news and taking pictures of them… but I HATE going up to them and doing the intro, small-talk… I have to spend a good couple of hours walking round the expo hall looking like I'm on my way to a meeting somewhere or "looking busy" on my phone (aka checking facebook) before I can force myself to go up to someone.
    Not been to any bloggers events yet but I can imagine I'll feel fairly similar there! Haha. It's the 'approach/intro' part I hate the most :S
    Glad you met a couple of lovely people through the ordeal though 🙂
    Perhaps we should organise a bloggers event for people who dislike networking? I wonder if anyone would make it… haha

  20. Thanks for sharing & give yourself a break 🙂
    Some of us don't even make it through the door…!

  21. Thanks for sharing, doll. I know it can be hard but keep on trucking; it gets better with increased exposure. xoxo.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *