I am a shoe freak. When traveling most people get trinkets with the name of the local on them, I get shoes. Boots from Dallas, killer pumps from Ocala – no matter where I have been I have a pair of shoes from there.
My grandmother started it. When I was growing up she had a full size walk in closet lined in shoes, rows and rows of shoes. It was heaven. She knew every shoe store in the tri-state area. I have proudly continued what she began. It is one of the things I am known for – my shoes and boots.
I will admit, I do not always love networking. Sometimes on the walk in phrases like “necessary evil” pop into my mind. Then there are events that are just not good.
You know the ones; you are expecting one thing and end up in an environment that is completely different. Whether that environment is a low turnout, the feeling of a singles bar or a complete different venue than what was offered.
This is when I find it difficult to network because there is a disconnect in my mind and the environment. I call it being in the ‘anti-networking’ mode. You are there, but you just do not want to do it.
That is when I use my secret weapon: shoes. I start looking at people’s shoes and I make a game out of it.
I will walk up to someone and compliment their shoes. I do not try to talk about business, certainly not mine; I talk to people about something as random as their shoes. I give a genuine compliment that is personal to them. It is amazing how many people are thrown off by compliments to their shoes.
Instead of being approached with a horrible networking line or a fake conversation, they hear “I love your shoes” or “my son would love your shoes”. Yes, my son has inherited the shoe lover gene.
This leads to fun conversations, real conversations, relaxed conversations that take the pressure off ‘networking’. It helps draw in the introverts, exclude the creepy card handers and forms a sort of unique dynamic.
Not every networking event is going to be a business success. But that does not mean that you cannot have fun and engage people from a different perspective – through a genuine compliment.
Sometimes when I run into those same people at other events they greet me warmly with, “It’s the shoe lady”. That works for me because if nothing else, I did make a connection.
Isn’t that the whole point of networking?