As a naturally shy and retiring person and behind the scenes activist, I have to face my worst fear this week – networking. I have set up a new solitary business offering typing, writing, data entry and admin support on a freelance basis.
I live in a market town that has a nearby agricultural university and a lot of small businesses owned by wealthy farmers. I am also on the edge of Telford, which hosts a hub of small businesses and entrepreneurs. The only way to get myself out there is to “get out there!”, but it strikes fear into my heart.
I have prepared. I have business cards, a couple of Joe Browns tunic tops from eBay, a new coat from the ex-catalogue shop, a lovely handbag and boots. This is my ‘uniform’ or my ‘costume’ to help me feel somewhat business-like, while retaining my own personality.
Turning up in the first place will be an experience, as I don’t drive, so I have to plan bus routes and walking routes meticulously to ensure I get there on time. (If any of you say “why don’t you learn to drive?”, this is NOT an option as some people are a liability and should admit defeat and stay off the road – I am one of those people). Arriving at the networking event will probably be strange too; walking into a room of people I have never met before, but then I might spy one or two people I know and make a beeline for them.
They, however, need to circulate and get their business cards to as many people as possible, so they won’t waste time talking to the one person they already know. I will need to be brave and find someone who also looks shy. Choosing someone who is also shy would make me feel more comfortable, but we will end up stuck in ‘shy corner’ and not actually networking, but having a conversation about star signs or something.
I will need to move over to the ‘dynamic’ people and may not know what to say … I don’t follow the news and don’t wish to, if they are all talking politics or world events I won’t get the jokes. Someone is then likely to take over and lead a talk that everyone will listen to and the pressure is off until they go round the table. “I am Fiona and I do this”. I suffer from the countdown to me having to speak … OMG it’s me in three people, two people, me next… blurt out my spiel and then have to hide my shaking hands for the next three minutes until my nerves are back on track again.
I know that the more networking I do the easier it will get, however, at the moment it is nerve-wracking, totally out of my comfort zone and psychologically I am going to have to treat it as a performance – role playing me being the businesswoman.
Getting there slowly, realising that the only person holding me back is myself…
I have to get over it!! And I WILL …