4 Tips For Networking As Your Authentic Self

Not many things in business give me the belly-flops.

Networking Me

I’m cut from entrepreneurial cloth, and the challenges and rewards of nurturing multiple businesses are present, but I don’t have much trepidation around that, because it’s simply who I am.

I’m juicy like dat!

Networking, on the other hand, often finds me in an unfamiliar place; one of anxiety, doubt, and But-I-Don’t-wannaville. I’ve been known to pretend to be on my cell phone to avoid finding a new hand to shake, or trying to find a “natural” way to chime in on an existing conversation.

I’m wall-floweresque like dat.
My most recent foray into the world of networking was at Blogging While Brown, a new media/technology conference for bloggers. Since January of this year, I had been doing some Life Design work around my networking anxiety, and got ample opportunity to put some of my work into practice in Los Angeles last week. #SCORE!

There I was, co-opening the conference by way of a Strategic Partnerships workshop with my friend and colleague, Takeyah A. Young. I’m always excited about being myself as a speaker, but the post-workshop chatting–whoo, chile!

On the heels of another post-networking yuckathon, I engaged in my Live Your Grain work to help gain clarity around my emotions and actions. I discovered that I’d attached unrelated experiences and unrealistic outcomes to the process of meeting new people. Whoa, Nelly!

After putting in some serious work, I created an acronym for myself that I hope will work for any wallflowers reading this post. It’s my reminder to my self to:

set my own parameters and expectations
Not feel forced into any conversations
Listen to my inner voice and follow my natural grain
Remember that I chose to be in that particular place

My acronym is R.E.S.T.
R.elax | E.njoy yourself | S.mile often | T.alk up

It worked! At no time did I feel any pressure to stay in a room longer than I wanted, or awkwardly laugh out loud to get involved in an already-in-progress conversation.  I pulled my shoulders down, allowed myself to remain present in the stream of ripe opportunities to learn and share, I smiled at passers by, and I spoke up IF and WHEN I was moved to do so.

That’s my flow, and I’m learning to embrace it.  Ever left a networking event feeling like you didn’t carpe diem or whatever? The perception of un-seized opportunities used to leave me feeling like I wasted time, energy, and eye shadow usage to attend events where I simply sat there.

Thankfully, the R.E.S.T. resource made its way to my mind, and by putting it into practice, I effortlessly made new acquaintances, birthed potentially lucrative relationships, thoroughly enjoyed myself, and basically traded in my anxiety for a big ole’ fat beam of let-it-flow light.

Do you beat up on yourself for not doing things the “right” way?
Well, let it go and familiarize yourself with your Natural Grain!

For me, that “anxiety” presented itself because I wasn’t following my natural grain of needing processing time in between meeting people. Call is slow, call it overly-analytical, hell…call it anti-social…but it’s simply my flow. When I gave myself time to be alone (choosing to skip some sessions, or even have lunch in my room alone), I was able to see the connections, the “no thank you’s”, and really remain present during the event.

Let me ask you….

Do you know your flow?
Have you embraced who you are and how you operate in various settings?
Are you a networking scaredy-cat like I was?