My ideal evening involves relaxing by myself or with close friends. I’m not the type who enjoys going out and being around a giant crowd of people all the time.
If this sounds like you, and you freelance, you can likely relate to the difficulty this presents if you attend networking groups. It’s difficult to walk in by yourself and not have the confidence to strike up a conversation with someone. At best, we find an extrovert buddy who can help break the ice and introduce us to a few new people.
Unfortunately, we can’t always rely on that. It’s something I’ve learned to overcome, especially as my business and career grows.
It’s certainly a struggle to put yourself out there. To this day, networking groups are still a nightmare for me. They often put a large emphasis on relationship building and conversations. Depending on the group, you might be required to always be reaching out and starting conversations with other members. While it’s done with good intentions, it can also be anxiety provoking. In my case, I spent more time worrying about having the conversation than clearly communicating what I did.
On the flip side, I’ve discovered though conferences are easier for me. They put people in a different mindset.
Since conferences have a hard end date or time, people seem more focused on building relationships quicker. Its almost like speed dating! Even better, some conferences are understanding that meeting others isn’t easy for everyone.
One of the last conferences I attended had a buddy system that paired individuals with each other to make navigating the actual event easier. It was an amazing concept and experience! Pairs were determined by similar careers or career paths. You had the option to stick close to what you did or opt to be paired with someone from a totally different background. Attendees were in control of how far out of the box they wanted to step. This is great, because it eliminates the feeling of being alone from the moment you step on to the conference floor for the first time. Being able to talk ahead of time with your buddy can even help you get more out of the event by sharing notes or splitting up the event schedule.
Planning my up and down time helps, too. I can plan on attending an event and focus on getting my energy level up to power through it. Its possible that the anxious feelings are a bit stronger leading into it, but it helps knowing that I have rest time planned afterwards. I know some colleagues that purposely schedule a number of events and then make it more of a game-time decision. This can be a good way to go, as long as you make a point to attend at least one or two.
Last, and the reason that this podcast exists, is I’ve also been working on alternative ways to get myself out there. It’s always been easier for me to work from the comfort of my home. It’s no surprise that it’s easier for me to talk through a microphone to an audience than face-to-face. This might be a similar story for you. Podcasting, creating videos or writing blog posts may be routes to explore.
It doesn’t have to be an advice column. Record your process and post it to social media! No matter what you choose to do, its easier than before to put yourself and your work out there. It’s not as scary to start a conversation from a keyboard, and you never know who may take an interest in you or your work!