Ever since I started my business, I’ve heard over and over how powerful word-of-mouth marketing is and how sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know that makes the difference in your success. And despite knowing how valuable networking can be, it’s a facet of my business that I haven’t fully focused on because, well, it’s a bit daunting.
Walking into a room of people I don’t know, hoping they like me and what I do, just brings up awkward elementary and middle school memories. I was so shy back then that I often didn’t have anyone to play with during recess, or I had days where I wondered who I would sit with during lunch. I’m certainly much more confident and outgoing now, but those memories and feelings still pop-up when I feel nervous about meeting new groups of people. And networking events definitely make me feel nervous.
But this year I promised myself I’d try harder to expand my circle, to put it as a priority. It’s very easy as a creative to just get wrapped up in what you’re creating that you forget about engaging people you want to create things for.
With this in mind, I attended my first work-related meetup last week: the Women’s Business Luncheon at Moxie restaurant. About 20 other women attended and shared what they did. We all participated in a mini-Mastermind, an interactive activity where we pooled our collective brain power to share helpful resources and potential solutions to our business problems.
I was most nervous in the beginning because when I initially walked in, I sat down at a table with two other women who already knew each other and were chatting away. I sat there feeling like an awkward third wheel, listening and nodding along like I knew what they were talking about. Finally, I thought enough was ENOUGH. I printed out 100 business cards and I was going to pass them out, dammit. So I got up, walked over to a nearby table, and introduced myself to the women there. Then I did it again at the next table. And again.
Then the most wonderful thing happened – I connected with someone. Really connected, as in her eyes lit up when I told her what I do and that personal branding photography was something that she had been thinking about for her real estate business.
The day after the Meetup, I sent her an email saying how I appreciated meeting her and would she like to connect and talk about her brand stories? I anxiously awaited her response for an entire day – before finally receiving a VIDEO response via email! She said she was interested and would check her schedule for a good time to grab coffee. And I reacted like this:
Now I haven’t met with her yet and I don’t even know if she’ll end up becoming a client. And if she doesn’t, that’s ok. A relationship can still be built, knowledge can still be shared. In the end, nothing will take away that positive, empowering feeling of making a connection with someone. And the more that happens, the less likely those icky awkward feelings will pop up again.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to attend meetups, even just as practice for putting yourself out there. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good it feels.