Network like a toddler.
This guest post was contributed by Kari Harper, owner of Hidden Treasures Tours. In addition to owning a business, Kari is also a gifted graphic designer, event planner, project manager, and friend. Learn more about Kari here.
by Kari Harper
I have a three-year-old daughter. Any parent that has experienced the joy of this age understands that the days are filled with contagious giggles, boundless energy, softly spoken "I love you’s", and hilarious comments. Any parent that has endured this infamous age understands that the days are filled with contagious mood swings, boundless hysteria, screaming tantrums, and sassy comments.
And somehow, they are always sticky.
A three-year-old truly is a portable Jekyll and Hyde that happens to look like you.
It is a magical and traumatic time.
As a relatively new parent (I would say young, but that just isn't true), going through this stage for the first time, I obsess daily over what I am teaching my daughter. Am I providing a good example in my actions? Am I providing the proper level of educational support? Is she having fun?
I focus so heavily on what I need to be teaching her that I tend to overlook what she is teaching me.
On Friday night, my spouse and I had friends over for dinner. They brought along their mini-mes - a one-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl. Prior to their arrival I told my daughter, Franka, that they would be coming over. She excitedly said, "Oh! Who's coming over?" I went over the names with her a few times and asked her if she remembered them since quite a bit of time had passed. She nodded, grinned widely, and said, "I am super excited."
From that point on she asked when they were coming, went over their names, and was just plain giddy.
She was ready to have fun.
The time finally came. We opened the front door welcoming our visitors. Franka immediately went over and welcomed the four-year-old. Our sweet guest gave Franka some candy and Franka invited her over to the little table I had set up for them to dine at. That was it. The two girls sat happily chatting while they downed their candy.
There was no awkwardness.
After that, all we heard the rest of the night were the happy squeals of two little girls as they ate, pulled out every toy possible, laughed until their bellies hurt, and then curled up next to each other to watch a movie.
It was heartwarming.
Like many, I network regularly for business and I consider myself to be quite familiar with the process. I have even given presentations in the past to Chamber groups on the do's and don'ts of it. Networking is widely seen as a marketing must, and the practice can be (understandably) downright anxiety-provoking for many. While one can obsess over whether or not they are doing it correctly, watching the two little girls this past weekend taught me a critical lesson....
Focus on the fun.
Kids have the admirable ability to focus on how they want to feel. When Franka found out we were going to have company, her focus immediately went to the idea that, "this is going to be fun!" The door opened, the people arrived, and it was time to play. She didn't worry about what they were going to play, what they were going to talk about, or whether or not they would even get along. Both girls were ready to have a good time.
It was beautifully simple.
This attitude can, and should, be easily be applied to networking. When you go to a networking event, don't stress about who is going to be there, what you will talk about, or how you can do business with the person. If you focuses on, "what can I get out of this," you are immediately closing yourself off to opportunity. You don't know who you will meet, what stories you will share, or what relationships will ultimately translate into business. It is wasteful to try to fabricate a desired result. Go to the event smiling and ready to have a good time and the rest will fall into place. After all, people want to surround themselves with fun, likeable people, and besides, if you have to be there, don't you want to have some fun?