Networking events aren’t easy for all of us. If you’re typically shy and quiet, these face-to-face scenarios can be daunting. Even if you find yourself to be on the opposite end of the spectrum, the following tips will help you get through your next event with confidence and poise.
Prepare ahead of time: Rehearse your ‘30 second elevator pitch’ and come prepared with what you want to share with your colleagues. It’s not about saying something catchy, it’s about saying something honest and memorable.
Set a goal for the day: Everyone works better when they have an expectation to meet. If possible, take a look at the guest list and see if there are any people/companies that you’d like to meet. Even something as simple as saying you’d like to walk away having had three meaningful conversations or chatting with everyone at your table is a great place to start. Make a goal of how many new people you’d like to meet. Don’t forget extra copies of your resume or business card!
Bring a friend: While the value of networking events comes from building rapport with those outside of your current circle, it can be helpful and soothing to bring a friend or colleague who will also be able to gain and contribute something to the group.
Smile! When you’re uncomfortable, it’s important to loosen up. You’re not alone in being nervous but if you dwell in that, you’ll look unapproachable. It has always been my experience that when I’m feeling a little out of place but smile at someone who also looks slightly anxious, a pathway to communication undoubtedly opens.
Carry a plate of food or a drink: When nervous, it’s important to keep your hands busy. Have one hand free for shaking hands and the other holding a plate/cup. This will also keep you from crossing your arms which can be perceived as negative body language.
When involved in conversation, ask open-ended questions and listen: If you are uncomfortable being the speaker, give others the spotlight by asking leading questions. Learn to ask questions and listen to the answers. Ask the names of people you meet, what they do, why they do it, and who they would like to meet. Then ask for their business card and be sure to jot those answers on the back. This is a great opportunity for you to learn more about someone else while also acclimating yourself to the perceived pressure of networking.
Follow-up: If you have made any agreements to follow-up, make a note and DO IT!
When it’s all said and done, go home and relax! You earned it.