I’d finally learned how to start a conversation easily, but four years after becoming comfortable with networking I’ve regressed. I’ve been working from home for a year and a half now and it’s bringing out the Introvert in me something fierce. I try to get out and have networking lunches, go to fun events, and just plain see people. But it’s hard when my natural tendency is to curl up with a book or play a game.
For the past month, I’ve made an extra effort to schedule some lunches and go to events and… well, I found out that my networking skills are a bit rusty. Yesterday I remembered one of my old approaches to starting conversations that makes it MUCH easier for those of us… let’s say conversationally challenged. I offered to help someone.
This summer I joined our local arboretum with the intention of taking some classes and going to fundraisers. It was October and I hadn’t been to anything yet. The annual plant giveaway happened on October 1st, and you can bet I wasn’t going to miss it.
It was pouring rain that day (ideal for when you’re going to be standing in the middle of a garden for two hours) but I was determined to have fun. This event was an adventure! The arboretum gives away 4000 plants to over 300 people in completely organized, chaotic fun! You can see how it works in this video.
Waiting in line under a huge umbrella, I noticed the woman behind me was huddled and shivering in just a rain jacket. “Would you like to share my umbrella,” I asked? And that was the beginning of a great conversation where not only did we stay mostly dry, I got some great tips on how to get the plants I wanted during the giveaway.
About 30 minutes later as I was dragging my mostly full red wagon full of plants back down the gravel path to load it up, I heard someone make a comment just behind me. “You’ve got a lot to carry!” they said. “Yes,” another voice replied. “It’s my first time and I didn’t know I would need a cart.” I turned to see that the second voice belong to a woman struggling to carry a bin loaded with her plants.
“Here,” I offered immediately. “Let’s move this over and you can put your bin right here.” She was surprised at the offer and a smile lit up her face as she placed her bin on my wagon. We had a nice conversation as we walked back to the parking lot together. We split up to load our haul into our cars, but she found me again before she left to tell me how much she appreciated the help.
I didn’t get business cards from either of these people. It just wasn’t that kind of event. But I will probably run into them at future events at the arboretum. Even if I don’t, it feels good to flex those networking muscles AND to make someone’s day just a little better. Every positive networking experience gives me more confidence and more willingness to start the next conversation. Who knows where that conversation will take me?