This weekend I did a talk at the TOTS/FOODIES/HIBS100 Blogcamp. I turned up on my own, met loads of new people and stood in front of a room of people to talk about one of my biggest passions in life, blogging.
Not so long ago I could never had imagined I would be in that position.
Just four years ago I attended one of the very first Blogcamp’s down in London. It was my first ever blogging event and despite being super enthusiastic about going to learn, I turned up and freaked out. I had the fear. It was a disaster. In fact, I was so disappointed in myself that I wrote a blog post about it at the time (see here for my Fear of Networking).
Back then, I completely froze up. I was so nervous I felt sick. I barely spoke to anyone or made eye contact with them. I spent one of the breaks on the phone to the boyf in order to avoid the awkwardness of not speaking to anyone. I felt like a total outsider, and a complete failure for not talking to anyone (well, except for two people who came up to me to say hi).
Since then, a LOT has changed. I have changed.
After blogging about my experience, speaking to other people and reading up on the subject a lot, I came to terms with the realisation that I am in fact an introvert. That coupled with several health setbacks over the years, my confidence was at an all-time low.
But enough was enough. I knew I was never going to move forward either in my career or personal development if I avoided going to meet new people.
I had to make a concerted effort. I had to get over the fear of networking.
So I how did overcome THE FEAR and learn how to network?
1. I learned to understand how my energy levels work
By learning more about introversion and my need to restore my energy through solitude I am able to prepare myself ahead of time if I know I will be meeting lots of people.
2. I learned to be kind to myself
Along with step 1 I had to stop punishing myself when I failed to approach people or effectively network at events.
3. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone
Despite finding small talk pretty excruciating (give me one-to-one deep conversations any day!) I kept making myself do it.
4. I chose the word ‘Connect’ as my word of the year
I am making a concerted effort to reach out to people and connect with them. Whether it is strangers that I admire, folks I’d like to work with, or people I’ve lost touch with.
5. I made a list of every positive outcome that came from meeting new people
By doing this I realised that the best opportunities in my life came from stepping out of my comfort zone and chatting to new people.
So why was Blogcamp significant?
For me, the first Blogcamp was the moment I realised I was in a pretty bad way with my fear of networking. Being able to reach out to the folks behind the conference to arrange my talk to then walking into an event of 120 people I didn’t know and speaking in front of a bunch of them, was a HUGE accomplishment for me. It’s rather poetic that I have made this journey and was able to realise my personal progress by comparing my experiences across 4 years at the same event.
And that is why I wanted to share my little story with you.
I do still find networking a little awkward. But I think that is perfectly natural for many of us.
However, I am able to look forward to future encounters and connections, knowing that there is more awesomeness awaiting.
Thanks again to everyone I met at Blogcamp last weekend and especially those who came to listen to me speak. It was an honour to share my insights with you.