My new friend, Lynda Gronlund, certified personal trainer and owner of Balance Point Fitness, commented on yesterday’s post. You can read the full comment elsewhere, but the important part was that she was feeling lame for skipping a weekly networking event because she just wasn’t feeling up to it. Then she asked:

… How do you get yourself psyched up when you’re not feeling like you can put on a smile and tell a million new people about yourself, ask them about their lives and businesses, and generally put yourself out there when you’re not the most outgoing person in the world??

This is an excellent question, especially for this time of year. Let’s face it, for those of us who celebrate the season, this can be a crazy, hectic time. We might already be spending so much of our “people energy” on friends and family that it doesn’t feel like there’s anything left for networking with strangers. So, what can we do to get past the “networking doldrums”?

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Fake it. Yes, sometimes when we just don’t feel like networking, all we can do is muscle through. The funny thing is, sometimes just showing up is enough to get us into the spirit. So, paste a smile on your face and just do it.
  2. Examine your intent. One of the things which leads to networking reluctance is putting too much pressure to sell — either ourselves or our product. Remember that the goal of the event is starting relationships, not making the sale. Be aware of your “internal game” it’s unfortunately easy for us to slip into an unproductive focus on sales as a purpose instead of a side-effect.
  3. Reset your goals. Another success-limiting practice is setting goals which are too difficult. While I do recommend having goals which challenge you as a networker, you have to be aware of your capabilities in the moment. I you are tired or stressed, you might have to adjust your goals accordingly. Maybe instead of meeting three people, you should only plan on meeting two.
  4. Set “fun” goals. I did this the other night at the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Regional Chamber’s Year Ender party. I was running later than I should have been and feeling completely stressed out about going to the event (I almost didn’t go). So, instead of setting my usual “meet new people goals”, I decided to simply show up, eat the food, and chat with some friends. It ended up being a wonderfully productive networking event and the food was delicious to boot!
  5. Leave early. In concert with setting an easy-to-achieve goal, give yourself permission to leave as soon as you accomplish it. Skip the lunch. Skip the speaker. As with exercise, consistency is far more important than intensity. Even if you only show up for five minutes and chat with two people, you’ve still done your networking. You can go back to attending the full events after life gets back to a routine.
  6. Do something else. Again, remember, it’s not attending the event that’s important, it’s the people you meet and the relationships you strengthen and extend. If you don’t feel like going to the event, instead call someone in your network just to see how they’re doing. Wish them “Happy Holidays” and brighten the day for both of you. It’s still networking.
  7. Skip it all. If, in general, you are hitting ninety percent of your networking obligations, skipping an event now and again probably won’t destroy your networking practice. Give yourself permission to just sit back and relax. Just commit to the next one. Maybe you could even invite a guest, to make sure you’ve got added incentive to show up next time.
Looking back at this list, I find it kind of amusing and ironic that a lot of these ideas are similar to what any personal trainer or coach would tell their clients — regardless of whether they’re working on fitness, developing a business, or working on creating a powerful networking practice. What it all basically comes down to is to listen to yourself — mind and body — and adapt your activities to challenge you, but not discourage.
If you can do that, you’ll end up happier and more successful in the long run.

Photo credit: Steve Knight