Have you ever attended a conference and you feel shy meeting new people? You are not alone.
A lot of people think I’m an extrovert, hmmmm, if only you know the efforts I usually make to break away from my silo.
During my growing up days, I always found solace being alone. When others are gisting, sharing laughter and giggling from ear to ear, I will withdraw to a corner, to ruminate over past events, read novels or write stories, I sometimes go overboard and start solving Maths problem, yeah, you heard me right, I love calculations and I’ll rather start solving maths problems than join any discussion. I equally love reading and writing and I’ll do just about anything to be alone.
Being alone is not so bad in itself as my ‘alone moments’ made me develop passion for writing poems and stories. This passion for writing later won me an award in 2004- I won the best Poet for one of of my poems titled ‘The Greedy Politicians‘. I also have some of my poems published in an Anthropology titled ‘The Silence of Our Campus’.
Networking comes easily to some people while others, like me, need to put in extra work to meet new people and keep a conversation going.
Fast forward to CIPM conference in Abuja sometimes in November this year. CIPM stands for Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, Nigeria- the apex body regulating the practices of Human Resources Profession in Nigeria. The 2018 Annual Conference had over 2500 delegates in attendance.
I made up my mind before leaving Lagos to Abuja that I will meet new people and network. My strategies were to initiate conversations starting from how lovely and informative the conference was to the sight and sound of Abuja and then to exchanging contact cards and ensuring effective follow up afterwards.
As fate or luck will have it, I didn’t remember to go with my call cards and since I don’t want anything to rain on my parade, I had to improvise.
So.. what did I do?
Here are the list of what I did in no particular order;
Initiated conversation or joined an on-going discussion
Exchanged pleasantries with appropriate smile
Talked more about the topic at hand
Asked if my conversation partner(s) is on LinkedIn
Asked for call cards to be sure of the name to search for on LinkedIn
Promised to send LinkedIn invite.
True to my words, I did send them LinkedIn invite and messages afterwards. That was how I managed to increase my network lists. I also, got and saved some phone numbers right there and there.
BTW, I met great personalities such as Gbenga Totoyi- Head, Learning & Consulting at CIPM and Dr Olayiwola Oladapo- Head, SASR- Director Strategy Advocacy and Stakeholder Relations at CIPM and host of other HR managers.
The essence of my story is that, when you go for any events or conference, don’t just stay glued to the people you know, spread your tentacles, make conscious efforts to network and grow your contact lists.
Don’t wait around for the perfect time to network, you can initiate conversation with people while waiting in line for food or drink, It can be over lunch, it can be during breakfast at the hotel where you are staying, or at the conference venue.
I have seen people book expensive hotels just to meet certain caliber of high profile individuals that they may not necessarily have access to.
I am not saying that you should ‘break a bank’ because you want to meet new contacts, I am only saying that you should maximize every opportunity to network within the resources available to you.
Please, don’t forget that the efforts put into networking will be futile if you don’t follow up or keep in touch afterwards.
The twist to this is that 85% of jobs are gotten through networking. Be job smart!
Here is a Gallery of my Abuja pictures during the CIPM Annual Conference.