I’ve recently returned from the first-ever VA Summit, in Perth. Now, I’m based in Brisbane with two small children and a husband. We have no other family nearby and said-husband was scheduled to go to a conference in the US before I returned home. So going all the way to Perth, the cost and co-ordinating our plans was no mean feat!
I’m somewhat of an introvert and am well known for my RBF… I’ve lost count of how many people have said something like “oh you’re actually really nice!” Groan. So to go to networking events takes a fair amount of effort from me. I need to psych myself up, practice my friendly face (not even joking) and think about what I might say to people. Yup, also an overthinker!
It’s easy as an introvert to say things like, “I don’t like networking” or “I’m shy, I don’t put myself out there”. And with the added complications of an event across the other side of Australia, kids being stranded with no Mum or Dad and no Grandparents close by… you can see I could’ve quite simply said, ‘too hard, maybe next time…’ But I didn’t.
When Ingrid told me she was going to put together a Summit – especially for VAs, with content we wanted to hear and needed - I knew I had to be there! My husband and I timed our flights as close as we could to each other, and arranged for the kids to spend a day with a friend. I naturally worried about them, especially my daughter who is known to have Diva tendencies!
The one thing I have learned as an introvert attending events is if you go to the RIGHT event then networking is so simple. I have been to plenty of the awkward “networking drinks” where there is no agenda, no plan… just a group of business people standing around for a chat (usually men & network marketers) and it has been awful! I’m sure they are great for some, but they do not work for an introvert with RBF!
So the two main things I look for are:
People with common interests – yes we want to be networking with our ideal client, but I have found it also helps to have at least a few in the room who “get” what you do. It makes the small-talk so much easier if you have common ground already.
Events with action – I’m not talking party poppers and cartwheels across the stage… I’m talking workshops, learning and something tangible that breaks away from the awkward chitchat. The workshops usually create discussion and help to breakdown barriers with people, but even if you get nothing out of the networking side of the event, hopefully you’ve learned something new, so it hasn’t been a huge waste of time and money!
Of course, I needn’t be worried about the VA Summit at all. It was a room full of bright, inspiring and welcoming women. Did I learn something? Wow… did I ever!! The speakers were all incredibly knowledgeable in their area of expertise and I honestly felt like my head was going to explode on the flight back home (in a good way).
I’ve made some amazing connections and it was totally worth going. I feel like I can take on the world now and have not only reset my priorities for my business, but I also know how to get there. The kids survived with both parents in the sky in separate planes and our friend is still talking to us, despite the best efforts of my Little Miss Sass!