This is part two of my 2020 post! It was actually 80% done and I never got around to finishing it. Here I’ll cover my group activity “Networking For People Who Don’t Like Networking”.
Background: In February 2020, I signed up to present a talk, and to conduct a workshop, at an International Women’s Day 2020 (IWD2020) event, organised by Women Techmakers Brunei (WTM Brunei) and GDG Brunei.
Part one – read here! – was on topics I decided not to choose, and my angst over my talk “Self-Taught Programmer: An Experience”.
Here’s the graphic for the networking workshop:
So let me walk you through my principles and development of the workshop.
Process & Purposing
I settled quickly enough on a tongue-in-cheek title: “Networking For People Who Don’t Like Networking” (an activity)
I don’t like networking activities or events. Introvert here :raise hand emoji: Talking to new people can be draining!
I’m not terrible at networking, though I often dread it. I do see the benefits of being better at it. I figured there would be others who wanted to get better at networking too, but felt similarly about it as I did.
I started with my definition, my ideal, for networking : I’m not aiming to make every conversation lead to a tangible opportunity, such as a job opportunity or getting a gig or sale.
So to be clear: This is personal to me. For those who need or want networking tips for the above goals, my talk was not aimed to that audience.
My objective with my workshop was to get people talking . You may or may not make a friend, but you may get acquainted with someone. At the very least, you’re at an event and want to feel comfortable among other people there. Someone to share a smile with, someone to stand next to semi-awkwardly as you sip on teh tarik or munch on popia – yes, my aims are modest.
So I formulated the content with myself in mind, thinking: What do I actually dislike about networking?
I realised that I expected networking conversations to be spontaneous and happen naturally. I don’t see myself as a spontaneous person, so this expectation was stressful for me, thus I hated it. And it would feel like other people strike up conversations so easily, without planning it, without fear of awkwardness.
So, step one: Recognise that thinking other people “strike up conversations easily” was my own perception, and it might not actually be that instinctive. That means networking does not have to depend on your personality – it’s a skill that can be learned.
Step two: I realised that I didn’t have to tackle networking as a spontaneous person, which I am not, but as systematic one, which is truer to my personality. And systematically, I could reduce what I hated about networking .
I ironed out my concept specifically for this IWD2020 event:
- People would probably feel some pressure to network with other event attendees. It may be daunting for many who were new to conferences, or who were new to tech and felt intimidated by the environment.
- Instead of just speaking on improving networking skills, I would facilitate an activity that could itself become each person’s networking activity for the day. No need to feel pressured to network in between talks, if you’ve at least done this one activity. (And it could be my single networking session of the day, too! Yay)
But I would also make it fun! I came up with conversation starters, in case anyone got stuck. I wanted to ease the attendees into networking from a more comfortable place :
- They would start with individual exercises, then move to group exercises.
- I didn’t want them to start the activity sitting next to their friends or partners or acquaintances.
- But the exercises would start with easy conversation content (“My name is… I work/study at…”).
Some credit! I read a few articles for ideas, not finding one specifically with my topic. From these articles, there were some great ideas on engaging introverts:
- SocialTables – Planning Introvert-Friendly Events: The Complete Guide
- How to Host an Exciting Event (as an Introvert)
Moment of Truth
On the day, the event was well-attended: around 30 attendees. It was a lot of fun and I found my energy and confidence after my disastrous talk from earlier in the morning.
There were some groups who had a lot of talkers, and I could see tell-tale signs of groups where one or two dominated the conversation.
I saw one group that was full of quiet people – which is good! They had to learn to make small talk with each other, and power through whatever awkwardness arose.
Then the groups were mixed up again, forcing people to meet those they hadn’t spoken to before.
All in all, was really happy about this one and would do it again! (Interested? Contact me 😉 ) I hope it was helpful for those who attended. I believe it was simple, but systematic, and can be a structure for people who feel nervous about networking or don’t find it comes naturally. It’s how I would want to approach it myself.
Thank you again to Syuaib and the IWD2020 volunteers who helped facilitate. 🙂
My full slides are here:
That’s both Parts done! Read Part 1 here.