Nervous networking for small business

Tense, nervous headache? Oh yes, the dull throb and queasy tummy symptoms began at about 4pm last Wednesday. And not surprisingly, the green-round-the-gills feelings began a couple of short hours before I headed out the door earlier this week in my new role as small business owner and sole trader. Because I was getting ready to show face at my first ever business networking event.

I sure got it bad – pounding heid, racing heart, clammy palms and flushed cheeks – nothing like the old Nervous Nelly dead giveaways. And this from the woman who provides confident communications training…

It wasn’t the small talk, the passing of business cards, the meeting of new people, or even fretting about what to wear that brought the collywobbles on, big style. It wasn’t even that I had The Fear about doing an elevator pitch (whatever the hell that was), or was suffering a catastrophic slump in conviction about my business plan. I wasn’t even all that worried about having to stand up in front of a group of strangers and sound authentic, knowledgeable and professional.

No, these were simply the symptoms of doing something completely different, something new, unfamiliar and frankly, pretty bloody scary. Yes, I have made presentations, pitches, speeches and passionate arguments in which I well and truly held my own, but never ever before have I represented me, myself, I as the face and founder of my own small business. And for a wee while there, I did feel well and truly out of my depth.

It’s nearly 6 months since I bade farewell to my 15 year long career at Aunty Beeb, but boy, this week was the first time it really, really hit home that this sister is gonnae have to do it for herself. Gone is the security blanket of representing one of the biggest brands and best-kent organisations on the planet. OK, OK so I might have moaned about it at the time, but the BBC sure did provide me with kudos, credibility and a great big sense of being part of something bigger than me.

But now here I am, heading out into the big bad world of commerce, just little ol’ me trying to convince potential clients and new-found business colleagues that I’ve got what it takes to make it on my ownio.

But d’you know what? I dunno what I was worried about. I’ve been to three networking meetings this week already, and as far as I can tell, didn’t make a total arse of myself at any of them. And what’s more, I liked it. I liked telling my tale, I liked explaining what Word Up is all about, and I liked the people I met.

With the help of the welcoming and warm smiles, encouragement and support, and good chat from others in exactly the same business boat, the headache lifted and the self-belief returned, in spades. Yes, I might be venturing into this brave new world without the backing of a multinational employer, but thanks to the good folks and fellow adventurers I met this week, it turns out that I’m not completely alone after all.