Attending these events is an invaluable asset to your professional development but just showing up is not good enough. Networking is a skill and you can exercise it at any time, not just during those gatherings designed for the occasion. You can network anywhere with anyone and people who do this regularly (and well) are the ones with the deep and useful networks.
Whether you are on a plane or in line at the grocery store, the opportunity to network is there. The greatest skill required for successful networking is bravery. It is easy for us to go about our lives within our comfort zones. Those who have the greatest success with networking are those who are brave enough to make eye contact, say hello and strike up a conversation. That one simple trait outweighs having great business cards or creating a business outreach list or attending multiple events per week. Without bravery, those things are moot and only those who step up to the plate and take on the challenge of making the connection are the ones who successfully build their professional network.
As time goes by, the braver we are, the easier it gets and we find ourselves willing and able to maximize any opportunity to network. We want to move out of our sector circle and engage people from across fields. Networks are a great resource for new business, perspective, feedback, job opportunities and more. And you never know where the next one of those will come from.
There is an art form to networking, building a network and keeping it strong. But the very first step, the most important thing you need is bravery. Without that, the likelihood of successful networking is limited. So the next time you are at the gym walking next to someone on the treadmill, BE BRAVE and strike up a conversation. You never know where it will lead…