Lessons Learned from Sticking it out When You Feel Like You Have Two Heads!
For a sole proprietor, marketing is always a challenge. Recently, I closed an extremely lucrative deal to create and deliver a training workshop for a large corporation. I did not get offered this job as a result of Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter or any other media outlet. I got it through good old fashioned face to face networking. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, almost 99% of my work comes from networking. But this particular networking connection almost didn’t happen since I almost left the event prematurely in an “I hate networking” funk.
I had really been anticipating this event. It was being hosted by a woman’s organization I had just rejoined and it involved shopping - one of my all time passions. But something felt off as I entered. I ran into two people I knew right off the bat but I felt like they both kind of dissed me. And it went downhill from there. It seemed as though everyone I made eye contact with quickly looked away thinking they could find someone better to talk to. Had I had grown a second head or something? Was I wearing the wrong dress/shoes/makeup? I watched other people chat and exchange cards while I could only manage a few fleeting encounters.
I battled my inner evil twin – I’ve named her Clarice - who kept chattering very negative thoughts in my head. She was encouraging me to leave and avoid further embarrassment and failure. I convinced my evil twin that we needed to stick it out a little longer, and possibly this was a test of our confidence. Overcoming this would be good for us, I told her. I promised her that even though we seemed to be striking out socially, we were in a designer clothing boutique…. we could do something we are very skilled at – SHOP! Evil twin was appeased. And wouldn’t you know it, while waiting to try on some dresses, I started chatting with a woman who had an immediate need for someone to deliver a presentation skills workshop.
Five lessons I learned from this experience:
1. If at first you don’t succeed… don’t leave! Our evil twins - read fears - can be very powerful. I very easily could have given in to her and chalked this event up as a failure. But instead, I revised my expectations and decided I would stay long enough to meet just ONE more person. (and try on one dress)
2. Don’t make it about finding the most effective connections. Make it about connecting effectively. Once I quieted my evil twin and I stopped worrying about whether people liked me or not I could focus on just being me and concentrate on finding people that I could like.
3. When you feel like you have two heads, it may be all in your head. What allowed me to stay at the event was reminding myself that my perception of what was going on might not be accurate. Were people really ignoring me or did one or two small things push the button on an old negative self-talk tape?
4. And even if you DO have two heads…Own it! I don’t know why I wasn’t connecting with people at first. I don’t know why or if the people I knew were really dissing me. But once I turned off the negative tape and replaced it with a positive one, I was able to say… “Wow… it’s unfortunate that there’s something getting in the way of me connecting but I know that this isn’t a reflection on the valuable person I know myself to be. And finally…
5. Shopping cures all ills!
I write this post, not as much as a lesson in perseverance or in overpowering your evil twin or as proof that shopping always saves the day. I’m writing this because often, people treat going to networking events as a sort of Supermarket Sweeps – how many cards can I collect before time runs out. But remember, networking is about creating relationships not filling card files. Realizing that it’s quality over quantity makes a huge difference to your experience and ultimately to your bottom line.