Probably something that many small businesses and freelancers dread. Having recently attended my first ever networking event as a freelancer I survived! We all know the feeling of nerves, I have previously done extensive networking but that was many years ago and in a different profession, where I was a recognised expert. That was totally different, as I knew what was expected, how to dress, who would be there and I also knew a lot of people. I have heard stories of groups, where if you don’t attend you have to find substitutes. Many meetings are held at breakfast time, so totally unachievable for many parents, especially those who have sole responsibility for their children in the mornings.
I stumbled by chance upon a local networking group, Wellingborough Business Network, at a reasonable time, within walking distance and affordable. Okay so I managed to book a place, then I needed to get some business cards in a rush (note to self never do them in a hurry – I have already noticed things I would change and will be doing so within the next few months). I looked at elevator pitches – 30 seconds to talk about myself. Public speaking isn’t my greatest strength, but after standing up and speaking to over 1000 people at an international conference I know I can do it. Who then forgot to write anything down so I had something prepared, although I had been through it all beforehand – that was me then!!
Next problem – what to wear after discussion with both my Mum & daughter I settled on leggings and a top – that was fine until my daughter took one look at me on the morning and said no. Thanks for that (I wasn’t feeling confident in the outfit, so quickly tried on my one pair of smart trousers – hideous was my thought), so I pulled out my newest jeans – much better, more me. My daughter left for school telling me it would be fine and she had confidence I would soon have some new clients.
At the appointed time (I estimated it would take me 15 minutes to walk there and it did) past some allotments which helped me to relax, down to the venue. I arrived, found the meeting room and walked in. I saw the refreshments and then met Paula Ross who was doing the registrations, who was lovely and made me feel welcome. There were already groups of men at some of the tables – dressed in suits and then there was me in my jeans. I saw a table with someone’s notebook on it and decided to sit there. At this point I was terrified and managed to carry a cup of coffee back to the table, (complete with the shakes) by which time some other ladies had arrived and joined the table. We started to chat and it put me at ease. The speaker Caroline Prout - Inspired to Change, who spoke about Train your Brain for Networking Success and guess what at about that time my nerves really kicked in - 30 seconds and guess who forgot to take her notes. A thought flashed through my mind ‘freeing you up to do what you do best’. As my turn approached my nerves increased and then it was my turn – I did it, I did stand up, nobody laughed, next time I will be more polished, I learnt a valuable lesson – I am me and I can go as me – no need to dress up, just turn up!
I am the business, I’m never going to be the noisy, confident individual but I am resilient, good at multitasking and as people get to know me they might even become a client. So onwards and upwards I have booked my place for next month.