Networking. It's a bit of a bugger isn't it? There's always that paralysing fear of turning up to an event not knowing anyone, having to break the ice, thinking of what to say next. That's why you need a weapon. I once wrote that the way to succeed at networking is to pretend you're wearing sunglasses at night.
This level of disguise affords you a sense of power; you can stare openly at people from behind your dark shades without feeling vulnerable. It's a bit like being drunk, with none of the shame the following day. And that's exactly how you should be when you network: fearless.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows this little secret. Many people find networking events intimidating, especially those who, like me, have built a career online, protected by the web. But many savour every single event on their social calendar, load up their weapons, and get ready to stalk their prey. This is particularly true of those ascending in their droves to Social Media Week events in London later this month.
A global event "exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media", Social Media Week has become a bit of a pilgrimage destination for self-appointed 'gurus' everywhere (NOTE: in no way do I condone use of the phrase 'social media guru'). Twitter will be the primary device to connect during Social Media Week, with the #SMWLDN hashtag going off in overdrive, while others will be tapping into Twitter parties and TweetUps (it's OK not to know what these actually are).
This is proof that communities exist everywhere, not just in the' Twitter Matrix', but offline - in hotels, pubs, conference rooms and even on ships. It's undeniable: networking events are everywhere, and they're breeding.
What's more, geo-tagging, or location-based online interactions, are bringing local communities together offline, giving depth to our social experiences in a way that 'old school' conferences never even dreamed of.
Event-goers will be tweeting like mad, using nifty hashtags and following every single social hack who uses them too. But once the talks are over and the bar's dry, they'll inevitably retreat back to their cosy community caves online.
But they can't hide behind their online persona, alias or Twitter following forever. Online and offline communities need to coexist peacefully, both driven by real people seeking networks where they can share, learn and engage.
Having recently set up my own event for content creators and in my capacity as co-organiser of an event for online marketers, I always come fully armed. Imaginary sunglasses: tick. Networking my arse off: tick. Obsessively checking my event hashtag to see if attendees are engaging with speakers: tick.
So don those metaphorical sunglasses, get off Twitter (at least while you're on the tube; nobody likes a WiFi show-off) and get on board Social Media Week events...and whatever you do, don't forget to add your new-found event friends on Twitter.
'Secrets behind social content' is run by the Content Creation Collective #contentcreationcollective and will occur during Social Media Week London 2012 on Wednesday 26th September at 6.15pm. Places are limited; reserve your spot here.
Follow Natalie R Harris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NatalieRHarris