shy at networking events. But I've trained myself to put out my hand and introduce myself to people even if I feel inside like I want to run away.
If I'm going to go to the trouble to get out of my pajamas, put on makeup, and go to a live networking event, I might as well strike up conversations with strangers and try to make some connections.
Virtual networking is no different (except that I can keep my pajamas on).
When I attend a Twitter chat or Facebook networking event, I put out my virtual hand and I engage with people I don't know. How else am I going to meet new people if I don't engage with them?
Sadly, not everyone takes this approach to virtual networking.
There were probably 20 people on the Twitter chat I attended last week. I participated by retweeting others' comments, answering the moderator's questions and directly commenting on others' tweets.
But only the moderator engaged in conversation with me. One person answered a question I directly asked him. A few people retweeted my comments.
Lots of people were active, by the way; they were chatting with the people they already knew. A lot of inside jokes, personal comments and conversations among those who were already friends.
It felt like walking into a live networking event full of strangers, where everyone is in groups, standing in closed circles, not making eye contact, and only interacting with their friends.
I'm sure you've been in that situation before. It feels super uncomfortable, and it takes a lot of courage to infiltrate one of those groups and try to join the conversation.
I'm probably not the only one who experienced this during the chat, as many of the participants appeared to be in individual bubbles, commenting and answering questions with no one responding to them.
I didn't let that stop me from participating and getting what I needed from the conversations, but that's me.
What about someone who's very shy and uncomfortable speaking up in situations where they don't know anyone? Did that person participate at all? Did that person get anything out of the chat? Did that person feel welcome and invited or awkward and uncomfortable?
Whether a networking event is live or virtual, the best way to build relationships and connections is to make others feel welcome.
Act like a host, not a guest - especially if you already know a lot of people in the (chat) room.
Look for people who are "standing in the corner" (yes, they're online, too) and engage with them. Let them know that you're listening and paying attention to them. Get them involved. Help them feel connected.
Instead of creating your comfort zone of friends and colleague and standing in a virtual "closed circle," open the circle and invite new people in.
We grow our connections by opening the circle. Cliques are for middle school.