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Use Your Intuition to Master Networking: Tips for Success (No Bathroom Hiding Required)

branding personal brand May 21, 2024

Imagine this: an industry conference packed with hundreds of people I should be getting to know, but instead, I spent the day hiding out in the bathroom.

Every year, our company hits up this big industry shindig. As a total knowledge nerd, I was thrilled to be invited for my first foray into the world of conferences. I was eager to attend every session that caught my eye, and even more eager to rub shoulders with the big-shot leaders who honestly scared the crap out of me with their fancy titles and ability to own any room they walked into.

The agenda included mingling before, during, and after sessions, with liquid courage on the menu for the evening but until then, I had to muster my own. I rolled in with some office crew, and over coffee, we chatted excitedly about the day's agenda. We waved at the few contacts we actually knew before diving into the first session, all smiles and fake confidence.

Morning tea came, and our group scattered to chat with people they knew. Left alone, I pulled up my big girl pants and braved the crowd. I sidled up to a group deep in conversation, then awkwardly sidestepped like I was aiming for another group beyond them. They ignored me too. Time to get a drink and kill some time until I could latch onto someone.

This awkward dance continued for another 15 minutes before I surrendered and retreated to the bathroom. This fancy hotel had stalls with floor-to-ceiling doors, big mirrors, and sinks. It was practically a sanctuary.

Realizing I couldn't face the crowd again, with the anxiety of trying to connect and the sting of rejection too much to bear, I sat on the floor of that cubicle, leaned my head against the wall, and waited for the next session.

Lunch was even worse. I couldn't find anyone I knew, couldn't start a conversation with anyone new, so back to my stall I went. This time for longer. I might've even dozed off! And that's how the day went. I never told anyone about this because I was too embarrassed to admit how isolated and inadequate I felt, as though I wasn't qualified enough, important enough, or worthy enough to be welcomed into a conversation amongst a room of my peers.

It took me years to shake off that feeling and to appreciate that I wasn't the only one awkwardly hoping to catch someone's eye. Reflecting on that experience, I realized I could have used my intuition to get through the day more effectively. Here’s how:

  • Have a Plan: I should have trusted my gut and come prepared with a list of people I wanted to meet and why. Having a game plan can provide direction and confidence.

  • Start Small: Instead of trying to jump into big groups, I could have approached others who were alone or in smaller groups. They probably felt just as awkward and would have welcomed the company.

  • Ask Questions: Using my intuition, I could have sensed when to ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation going. Most people love talking about themselves and their work.

  • Find Common Ground: I could have used my intuition to pick up on shared interests, like sessions we both attended or mutual industry challenges, as a way to bond.

  • Carry a Prop: Holding a coffee or a plate of snacks gives you something to do with your hands and can be a great conversation starter. My intuition could have led me to the refreshment table as a strategic spot for casual chats.

  •  Use the Buddy System: I should have stayed closer to my colleagues and used them as networking allies, introducing each other to new contacts. It's less intimidating and more effective.

  • Read Body Language: I could have paid more attention to people’s body language to find those who were open and approachable, making it easier to strike up a conversation.

  • Sense the Energy: Trusting my gut about the vibe in the room could have helped me find groups that felt welcoming and engaged, avoiding those that seemed closed off.

  • Listen More Than You Talk: Intuitively sensing when to listen would have taken the pressure off me and made others feel heard and valued.

  • Follow Up on Cues: If someone mentioned an interesting project or idea, showing genuine enthusiasm and asking more about it would have built deeper connections.

  • Be Authentic: Trusting my instincts to be myself would have made interactions more genuine and less stressful.

  • Know When to Move On: If a conversation felt forced, my intuition would have guided me to politely exit and find another potential connection.

  • Identify Opportunities: By being attentive, I could have spotted opportunities to help others, making me memorable and valued.

  • Mind My Surroundings: If I felt overwhelmed, finding a quieter area for more intimate conversations could have made networking more comfortable.

Networking is about listening, observing, and trusting your instincts. It is also essential for building and enhancing your personal brand for several reasons:

  • Increases Visibility: Networking helps you get noticed by key players in your industry. Regular interactions at conferences, events, and through social media can make you more recognizable and memorable.

  • Builds Credibility: Consistently engaging with industry leaders and peers can establish you as a knowledgeable and reliable professional. Sharing insights, offering help, and contributing to discussions build your reputation.

  • Expands Opportunities: Networking opens doors to new opportunities such as job offers, collaborations, speaking engagements, and partnerships. The more people you know, the more likely you'll hear about exciting prospects.

  • Provides Access to Resources: Through networking, you gain access to a wealth of information, advice, and resources. Mentors, peers, and industry experts can provide guidance and support, helping you grow and navigate your career.

  • Enhances Learning: Interacting with a diverse group of professionals exposes you to different perspectives, ideas, and trends. This continuous learning helps you stay ahead in your field and improves your skill set.

  • Boosts Confidence: Regularly practicing networking improves your communication and social skills, boosting your confidence in professional settings. This confidence reflects positively on your personal brand.

  • Strengthens Relationships: Building a strong network means forming meaningful relationships. These relationships can lead to long-term support, loyalty, and advocacy for your personal brand.

  • Showcases Your Value: Networking gives you a platform to demonstrate your expertise and share your achievements. By highlighting your strengths and successes, you reinforce your personal brand's value.

Investing time and effort into networking is a strategic way to enhance your personal brand, making you more visible, credible, and influential in your industry. It can be hard to approach though but with these tips and the understanding that everyone has hidden at these events in some way, either focusing their attention on their phone, wasting a few extra minutes in the car before entering, lingering at the coffee station or making a not so needed trip to the loo, we have all done it to avoid the awkwardness that comes with trying to spark conversations with strangers.

But in the end, it can be as worthwhile as the moral to my tale... it's hard to be visible if you're hiding out in the bathroom!


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