A frequent criticism I get from people who I talk to about networking is that they just dread the idea of “small talk.” When I hear this my first response is to ask what they think small talk actually is. I usually get a response that is akin to equating small talk to being “fake.” Of course, this all a matter of perspective. If you approach a networking opportunity with the dread of having to be fake then it is pretty easy to begin dreading small talk.
In order to get over that feeling of dreading small talk I like to suggest building up your networking fortitude with networking opportunities that don’t feel like networking. It happens to be one of the suggestions I recently read by Erin Greenawald of TheDailyMuse: “Remind Yourself: ‘Networking Doesn’t Have to Be Schmoozing.’” Schmoozing, in case you are not aware, is defined as “Chatting in a friendly and persuasive manner especially so as to gain favor, business, or connections.” I will admit that even stated like that it feels stiff and fake. So why not put yourself in the position to make connections where you don’t have to force the friendliness and persuasiveness (small talk)?
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Jogging? Gaming? Cooking? These are three activities I use an an example of something that is often (but not always) a one person activity that people can become easily passionate about. So why not take the opportunity to join a running club, go to a gamer conference or go to a cooking class? I find meetup.com to be just one of many great resources on where to find social gatherings geared around your interests. These are great introductory networking exercises because rarely will you find the conversation to be forced or fake. And heck, are you looking for a job or a new client? Maybe this new group or event will have a prospect in attendance or someone who knows someone who can become a lead. People always love to do business with someone who has shared interests.
Find your next opportunity and get networking without the small talk!