I will be the first to admit that outgoing and extrovert are not words anyone might use to describe me. Even so, there are times when I need to find the energy to connect with more people, have more conversations and invite strangers to lunch. Midwifery Conferences are one of those times.
It isn’t that I think this is the time to make friends. In fact, sort of the opposite. This is the time to network. I don’t know how you define networking, but I think of it as building a web of information. I find out who is doing what and when, keep track of the key information and move on. And this does an amazing thing for me.
It allows me to discover new opportunities that may be available to me or someone I know.
Did you catch that? It isn’t just about what is possible for me, but what is possible for other people I know too. This is how the web is created. I’m not just collecting information about things I might be interested in, but also listening for what might interest other people. And if something comes up that might be a great opportunity for someone I know, I let them know ASAP so they can investigate it. And this does an amazing thing for me.
It causes people to see me as a source of information.
Yes, my website also makes me seen as a source of information, but this is different. This information is about what’s happening in the midwifery world, who to talk to and where to get volunteers. I become one of the first stops for people embarking on new and interesting projects. And this does an amazing thing for me.
It widens my sphere of influence.
Not only do I learn about projects early, I am also asked to give input on format and who to include on the team. I can have a positive effect on the program without having to volunteer myself because I take the time to be connected to other midwives.
This is all well and good, but you are probably reading this because you want to know, “How do I do this?”
You will work out your own style for the exact particulars, but here are the key principles.
1. Show up and join the conversation. Look at the booths, go to the luncheons, attend meetings. Talk to people about what they are doing, what are their next steps and what is the long term goal. Most people will love to talk about themselves and their projects, so do not feel intimidated. Just ask questions.
2. Keep track of who you meet. Make sure you have a way to find this person in the future either by website, organization, personal email or phone. If you can’t get in touch with this person again, your web has not grown.
3. Keep track of the interesting programs and how to get more information about them. You do not necessarily need to get a “contact name” for each piece of the web. Some pieces of your web may be books, videos, training programs, pieces of research. Keep a list of the key pieces of information you learn about.
4. Have one place to store all the information you find. I say one place because if you have to dig through old files to figure out what that book about a subject was two years from now, you probably won’t find the small note on the bottom corner of your lecture handout. People and organizations are a natural for keeping in a contact directory. You could use a paper list, Pinterest, Amazon lists or other formats for books. You might try keeping a special bookmark folder for important research or organization webpages. Find a way that works for you, so when someone mentions a new project they are starting, you can quickly find the name of the book, or organization, or person that might be helpful to them.
There are some things that are NOT on this list. I’ll talk about them later.