MacDonald: Networking works |

MacDonald: Networking works

Machen MacDonald
Special to The Union

Machen MacDonald

To grow your business or to make more sales, networking is a proven strategy. Networking can, however, be a very scary business. Especially so when you may feel like you have nothing in common with the people with which you are going to be networking. Social phobia affects 15 million American adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

The good news is, based on those statistics, you most likely already have something in common with the people around you at the networking event. Take comfort in knowing you are not the only one who may be wrestling with networking angst.

To ease the angst, try finding some more things you have in common with the other people at the event. So, how do you do that? Simple — yes. Easy — maybe not so much, unless you have a couple tools to help you along the way.

A little trick I use personally is this. I remember that I'M WITH. This stands for It's My World & I'm The Host. Let me explain. I use to have real angst when I would attend business functions where I did not know anyone. I wasn't just a wall flower. I was still the seed.

Truth be known, I have more of a tendency to be an introvert than I do an extrovert until I am comfortable in a given setting. However, I know I have an inner extrovert. I just have to remind myself to bring him out to the event with me.

Awareness helped me change my behavior. I noticed a difference in how I felt and behaved when I was attending events where I didn't know people versus when I was at an event where I knew people or may have even been hosting. Can you relate?

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At my own function, I was a whole different person. I was accessing a different part of myself, which was way more engaging. I was making sure I was focusing on others, making sure they were at ease and had what they wanted.

In that environment, I discovered I was feeling way more at ease and actually better received by others I did not know or had just met.

By remembering most people have angst in a setting where they don't know other people, it may be easier to reach out to help them be more at ease. It's amazing what blossoms.

Using this new awareness, the next time I went to a venue where I did not know anyone, I brought along my inner extrovert and acted like I was the host of the whole darned event. It was amazing how open and kind everybody was and how welcome I felt as a result of doing so. I did not go over the top to overshadow the actual host of the event.

However, I was able to create a little universe within the event where I was the "host."

I did this with the next several events I attended and now it has become my habit. The benefit of having done this for years now is that I no longer wrestle with any angst around networking.

Here are a few more quick tips to remember:

1. Be curious about whom you may meet at the event. They could be that one person who changes your whole world. I've heard it said that strangers are just friends we have not met yet.

2. If you want a smile, then give a smile. Greet people with a smile. It's the quickest way to connect with another.

3. Upon arriving, get familiar with the lay of the venue. Ask where the restrooms and exits are. Discover where to check coats, where the bar and food is located, what time will food be served, etc., i.e., know what you need to know in order to be a gracious host.

4. Ask the host if there is anything you can do to help.

5. Help to introduce others. As you meet people, inquire who they may be looking to meet or who is a good prospect for them and their business.

6. Ask for help. People are always willing to help others.

Remember, it's your world and you are the host, and be sure to invite your inner extrovert.

Make it up, make it fun and make it happen!

Machen P. MacDonald, CPCC, CCSC is a certified life and business coach with ProBrilliance Leadership Institute in Grass Valley. He helps business people gain more confidence and clarity to live their ideal life. He can be reached at and 530-273-8000 or visit

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