Are you a networking zero, hero or somewhere in between? There are some people – extroverts usually – who are naturally outgoing and love to mix and mingle. Then, there are the rest of us. Are you more introverted? If the thought of going to a networking event gives you a feeling of dread, this post is for you.
1) Rephrase the term
The term itself can be off putting. Let’s define it for what it really is. All you’re really doing is meeting people, making connections and sharing information/resources. Don’t let the word have any power over you.
2) Start small
Successful public speakers didn’t start off by speaking to large audiences for their first speech, so why are you expecting to connect with mass numbers? Attending an event with the goal of meeting twenty new people and giving them your business card is too overwhelming. Instead, why not make a more realistic goal? An achievable goal would be to meet 2 new people and hand out a couple of business cards.
3) Expect To Be Nervous
A little bit of apprehension is normal. You will feel uncomfortable, and that’s ok.
4) Pick a smaller event to start with
Attending a presentation might be an easier way to ease into networking. There is less pressure to be “on.” You’re there to listen to the speaker and, ideally, start a conversation with 1 or 2 other people at the event. That’s it. It could be the person seated next to you. Or, it could be the person in line as you’re waiting to go in.
We recommend going to this first event or presentation solo. Why? Bringing a friend or colleague may seem like a smart idea. But, that person can become a crutch. Instead of meeting new people, you end up just talking to the person you came with. Eventually, you can bring someone along to introduce you to other people, but for now – it’s all you!
5) Have some conversation starters and questions ready
Have you heard this speaker before?
How did you find out about this event?
What company are you with?
6) Accept that not everyone will be friendly
In a perfect world, everyone would be receptive to meeting and talking with you. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If someone gives you the cold shoulder, just know that it’s not you! They may be having a bad day. It can be discouraging, but just move onto to the next person. It really does get easier the more you practice and put yourself out there. Don’t pressure yourself, beat yourself up or set unrealistic expectations. With the right mindset and a plan, you’ll be networking like a pro!
Once you’ve attended your first event, plan for the next one. The more events you go to (and yes, you may have to force yourself in the beginning), the more comfortable you will become. As your confidence builds, go to bigger events. Still feel your nerves are getting the best of you? There are groups like Toastmasters that can help you overcome the fear of public speaking. Just remember, you CAN do this!
This post, by our Social Media Specialist (Recruiting Office), originally appeared on LinkedIn.
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