Speak your way to success. That could be a good slogan for networking. Approach people, talk a lot – make connections. For many of us, a networking event is a scary (and mandatory) task from which we would gladly escape.
I hate networking!
Good networking involves talking to people you don’t know. Some of them are not approachable (or so you think)- it demands putting yourself out there. It makes you feel vulnerable. I include myself in the group of people that hates it.
It can be a nightmare for the shy and introverts. Why? It’s too much energy spent, and many times, for little results.
Finding the right motivation to execute tasks you hate can be extremely hard. Even when you know they are vital for reaching your goals, the risk of failure has more weight in your decision than the possibility of making it.
Motivation comes mainly from the inside. That means that your emotions have a more significant role in it than the prize at the end. So, how can you motivate yourself in the right way? First, small goals. Second, make it fun.
Most of us demand too much of ourselves. We tend to put these enormous burdens on top of our shoulders. A big life goal isn’t reached in a day; you need to break it into small goals and pursuit one at a time with focus and determination!
Take the example of a toddler facing a messy room. If you tell the kid to clean it up, the result will probably be a tantrum, a sudden urge to use the bathroom, or simply a big “No!” Yet, if you say “Store the dolls.”, “Put the cars in the box.”, “Organize the games.”, one at a time, allowing the child to finish one task before you gave them the other, the answer will be better. Make it into some sort of game, and the room will be clean and tidy in a blink of an eye. Well, most of the time.
Believe it or not, we are all just big kids. We need to see an end in sight for our task, and if it’s fun, it’s easier. Let me give you a more grown-up example. You may struggle to memorize a couple of paragraphs for the opening speech at the company event, but I bet you know the complete lyrics of your favorite song. Why? It is way more fun than that opening speech, and it makes you feel good.
We all like to play games and be entertained. It raises our levels of dopamine and makes us feel better – more confident. Guess what? That’s exactly what you need for a successful networking event!
Bingo is a century-old game and still relatively popular. You don’t need any specific skill, just luck, and because of that, it is perfect for turning your networking events into a more fun experience. At least, you have something to look for, even if it goes wrong. Sounds odd?
This idea comes from an interesting example in the book SuperBetter, by Jane McGonigal. The author talks about her friend’s job interview with a scary professor who terrified everyone. Instead of succumbing to panic, he had the idea of making the whole experience fun rather than terrifying.
How? He created a bingo card that contained things that could happen during the interview instead of numbers. A list of things that the professor could say to him that would upset him. At first sight, it may look silly for you, but this gameful solution worked! Whenever something happened, he tried to do a mental check of his bingo card, bringing humor to a stressful situation. It made him feel more comfortable.
All things considered, it doesn’t necessarily change the outcome of the situation, but it makes you feel better. Even when things go wrong, you’re scoring anyway, putting you in a more optimistic state of mind. So, why not try this in a networking event as well?
Building the Networking Bingo Card
Here you have an example of how the bingo card could look. You can make it very personal. You can put as many situations as you like. Make it fun!
You can also download it here in pdf, as well as another example and a blank card for you to customize.
Once you have your customized card, share it on Instagram or other social media and tag us. We would love to see them!
Building your bingo card doesn’t need to be stressful or give you too much trouble. Remember, this is a playful way to face a situation you would rather avoid. There is no need for perfection. The only thing you need to do is to think about what can happen during an event – if you’re new to networking, you can improve your card between events as you realize how they work.
You can focus on the event’s possible outcome and on simple actions you can perform, giving you control. Try to mix good and bad situations. Things that can go exceptionally well and those really awkward moments can make you want to run away. After all, those are the reason you’re trying to be playful about.
From now on, your goal is not about how good you were at networking but about how many bingos you can get!
Why can this work?
Everything that is done with pleasure and with a sense of entertainment associated, it’s immediately easier. The bingo card helps to introduce this, giving you extra motivation to do the challenging task.
Motivation is vital in everything you do, and the fact that the negative situations are also in the card helps a lot. Sometimes our intentions and efforts go wrong. With the bingo card, that isn’t the end of the world, just one more point score.
This simple game gives you, in the end, a more accurate perspective of how much did you try. Sometimes, in those small things that otherwise we would not even consider important. Yet, now they are there, in front of you. You gain a better notion of your effort. Looking at your bingo card, you’ll see you didn’t fail. No matter the outcome, you tried really hard.
Playing difficult situations
To evolve, we need to put ourselves out of our comfort zone, and for that, we need extra help and motivation. Networking events can be an awkward yet vital way to create connections and evolve in your professional career. Why not make it easier?
Like any other public speaking situation, the more you do it, the better you get. The bingo card is just the beginning of finding your way to comfort in such important situations.
Cátia is a psychologist who is passionate about helping children develop and train social skills.