Posted by: Jo Duxbury | 2 March 2009

Fear overcome: networking

Word of mouth is powerful; it’s not what you know but who you know; etc. etc. But the thought of arriving at some breakfast event and having to be bright and smiley to a group of total strangers in power suits is enough to bring me out in a rash. Fortunately I’ve discovered that networking can actually be a lot of fun. I had to learn the hard way though…

Firstly, I knew that breakfast networking meetings were probably not going to work for me. I’m not very sociable (never mind presentable) before 9am. I tried to turn over a new leaf and become a ‘morning’ person, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Skidding in to a coffee shop at 7am, hair still wet from the shower, unable to string a decent sentence together until I’d had a cappucino just wasn’t creating the right impression.

Secondly, there were the scary, super-organised network groups. The type where you HAVE to have passed out referrals during the last week and exchange ‘referral receipts’ so you can track who the best networker is. I think they probably kick you out if you don’t pass enough business to each other. Eek!

Then there are the ‘old boys’ club’ types of networks. I was invited as a guest (read: potential new recruit) to one of these and one my first coffee had kicked in, I realised I was one of only two women in a sea of pale males. They were all very nice, but I felt quite out of place. I’m also more interested in networking with more diverse groups.

My networking needs were fortunately met when I attended my first 27Dinner. Every other month (alternating between Cape Town and JHB), Mike Stopforth and Dave Duarte organise these great evenings for ‘geeks and marketers’. Social lubrication is sponsored by Chris Rawlinson and the team at Stormhoek Wines. Through these events I’ve not only gained new clients but also formed collaborations and made some very good friends.

Another excellent way to broaden my network has been to become involved in the programmes that the Cape IT Initiative (CITI) runs at the Bandwidth Barn. CITI offers a range of support, training and mentoring programmes as well as interest evenings and talks, which enable members of the IT community to engage with each other.

So these days I look forward to my networking events. One great tip a trainer in the US gave me has helped conquer my fear of breaking into little conversation circles. She says ‘Just walk up to them and say ‘Hi’ with a big smile.’ Simple, but it really does work.


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