What follows is my first attempt at networking. Let’s take a peak.

A couple weeks ago, I came across a tweet from Trevor Turnbull promoting an event he was presenting at. Being familiar with his work I was intrigued at the chance to hear him speak as he is very much in tune with social media in sports. The event was called ‘Your Keys to Networking Success,’ by ‘Networking in Vancouver.’ Or NIV.

Talking to strangers is not something that comes easy for me. I used to see networking as shameless self-promotion involving all sorts of fake courting and interaction in order to peddle ones hidden agenda. Not exactly an optimistic view of humanity. Forgive me for my short-sighted ignorance, but that is how I felt. Despite the prevailing hypocrisy, I decided to register.

The day came a week or so later. I had to go directly from class on campus downtown to the venue. This meant a long, uncomfortably steamy bus ride on the 44. It was pouring rain and windy outside. As the bus driver was prodding us in like cattle, I suddenly remembered my prof last semester lecturing about how busy Vancouver busses were operation zones for frotteurs (use that word in a sentence to impress someone). Great.  Standing room only. Between listening to my ipod and constantly shuffling with my phone I managed to spear about three people with my umbrella as the bus crashed to every stop.

This guy drives like an animal.

I got to the venue, walked in with my heart racing as nerves started to creep in. It represented a pretty big deal for me to step outside my comfort zone and go by myself to something like this. I was greeted by one of the organizers asking if I had a business card to put in the jar for the raffle prizes. Blindsided, I said something to the effect of: ” You know I don’t have any with me today,” could barely keep a straight face while I crafted that one. Crisis averted.

Now what do I do before this thing starts? Clearly I mistimed my arrival. To my dismay, a friendly face! I went over and we chatted for a bit. Natalie recently completed her MSc in sport management. Check out her blog here.

The NIV event consisted of six groups of speakers: some on their own, some in pairs. They preached a variety of different strategies for networking. I eagerly listened as they talked about personal branding, finding unique ways to differentiate yourself and positive networking. The content was great. After they spoke, there was a mandatory networking period where they encouraged people to… Network.  Shit. Should I just bolt and go watch the Canucks game?

Despite the new knowledge, networking still is not as easy. Especially for an introvert like myself. I curbed my natural escape tendencies and managed to introduce myself to a few people, actually making an awesome contact in the process.

I can provide one suggestion. Motivated trial and error is extremely important in order to make progress at just about anything. I learned this playing sport, but networking is no exception.  Yes Allen Iverson, we are talking about PRACTICE! 

If you are like me and are shy around new people, I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone. Introduce yourself to a friend of a friend or a stranger. A smile is a start. Be yourself and be honest. Why be someone else? Why be Dishonest?

A  good resource for introverts is this primer on networking for introverts.

NIV has some great networking events coming up.

Any good networking tips, resources or events I should know about? Any good sites to order business cards?