On Friday, March 26th, I rushed to The Dumbo Lofts in Brooklyn after work to attend Digital Dumbo which was sponsored by Invoke. I reached about an hour into the event and everyone was well into networking mode. I walked in and at the front a table was set up for you to receive a name tag, now in order to receive a name tag you had to answer a question in one word and whatever your answer was became your name for the night. My question was “How do you feel about your job?” and my answer was “Excited.”
After putting on my name tag I made my way through the crowd which was comprised of people who were already in groups engulfed in deep conversation with drinks in hand. I scanned the crowd and looked for name tags that intrigued me but I saw things like Blackberry, Stomach, Marching in Place, and the list goes on and on but nothing that wowed me plus I didn’t know how to spark a question based off any of those things without saying a corny joke like Blackberry? The Phone or the Fruit?
When I first meet people I am more of an observer I usually like to analyze what I am getting into before I just jump in, so I stood around just observing the crowd and how they interact with each other. Luckily I bumped into Kenji Summers who I met a couple of weeks prior at the MGProject Tweetup and I was kind of happy to see a familiar face to ease the discomfort. We began to talk about his name tag which said Blackberry which he said he couldn’t live without (that is what everyone who I’ve spoken to lately tells me and they all are trying to convince me to invest in one). After we went through the pleasantries I mentioned my dilemma in regards to just jumping into an already established conversation because that just wasn’t my style. But Kenji had an interesting philosophy on exactly how I should work my way in and begin to network, he said “You Have to Make People Uncomfortable”. He then went on to say “Watch Me, I am going to make 3 people uncomfortable right now” and disappeared into the crowd.
Not to long after I left the event and was in deep thought about what Kenji said and was questioning myself on whether or not I was bold enough to test this theory out. Now to most this concept would make no sense and to me it did not register at first as well but as the night went on it became more apparent to me exactly what he meant.
When I got in I checked my emails, signed into my social networks to see what was buzzing and I came across a friend’s status that said:
You have to learn how to come out of your comfort zone or personal circle in order to obtain what God has for your life. Rise to the occasion and seize the moment. ~QtheProphet
And at the moment I read this a light bulb went off and I instantly understood what Kenji said to me earlier and everything seemed so clear. I thought to myself I am sure I am not the only person who has these feelings of discomfort but the only way to enhance my networking skills would be to seize the moment, go out on a limb and approach someone. At the moment of interaction that person may be feeling just as uncomfortable as I and that alone would give us something in common.
So let’s recap what we learned today:
1. Don’t be afraid to make the first move
2. Don’t be afraid to make people uncomfortable
3. Set a Goal for yourself (Kenji picked 3 people to interact with)
And last but not least enjoy yourself, networking isn’t about forcing business connections it is about forming trusted relationships with individuals who you may have similar views or with new people who can help expose you to new things.
What obstacles do you face when networking? or when trying to build strong business relationships? if any