I have very simple advice for networking like a pro! 100% fool-proof. I should sell this advice on line. I'd make millions. But, special for you today - so long as you keep my secret under your hats - I'll tell you. FOR FREE.
Jeffe's Networking Coattails
No. I'm not kidding. Who do you think got me on Twitter and suggested I listen more than I talk? Who do you suppose it was who grabbed my arm at RWA National and said, "Come with me. I'm going to teach you networking. In the BAR. You're going to meet people!" And I did. Lovely people. Some of whom are still my friends. Remarkably, so is the ever patient Jeffe. :D
Trying to coach a socially awkward, rampant introvert in networking cannot be remotely easy work. And it's funny, but while I have that acting degree, and you'd think it would make me outgoing as heck, mostly all it does is give me the ability to talk about nothing for thirty minutes straight. True story. Another in my long list of stupid human tricks. Give me a cup of tea and a topic and I'll demonstrate some day. (What I want to know is why I can't parlay that BS talent into a scintillating blog?? Different brain pathways, maybe?)
At any rate, yes, yes. Network. If that wigs you out the way it did me, reframe it. Be interested in people. Ask questions of people. Networking isn't about being the center of the solar system. It's about jetting in, looking at someone and going, "Oooo! Interesting! Hey, that thing you're doing with the rings and moons? That's wicked cool! What made you do that?" That's the nerd way of saying an honest interest in the people around you is 90% of the networking battle. It doesn't matter if that interest is voiced in person, via email, blog posts, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media. Interacting with people is the name of the game. INTER acting. Chances are the people you're chatting are just as nervous about the whole talking to strangers thing as you are. The thing that helped me most on that front was to make it a game. At any function, I must leave the group I normally hang with at least once and sit at a table full of strangers. It is then my job to begin drawing those strangers out. "Hi, my name is...Where are you from? What do you write/edit/represent/think of current writing drama du jour..." Sure it's stilted at first, but that eventually breaks up and a group of strangers are chattering and laughing away. That's fun.
Still. It is true that I am a novice networker. Jeffe is the master. Grasshopper has a lot to learn yet.