Uncomfortable attending events with large number of people and be expected to mix and mingle? You’re not alone. With a few strategies and tips you’ll be on your way to networking success.
Here are a few strategies to help overcome your anxiety.
- Focus on meeting a few people, not everyone in the room.
- If it’s a large group, break the room into visual sectors and focus on one part of the room – the left corner, the right corner.
- If you find someone that’s shy, a newbie, or someone who appears uncomfortable – go have a chat. Once introduced to each other, approach a group of people together and engage in their conversation. “Can we join you?” There’s safety in numbers and having a new found networking colleague to help you with introductions can help alleviate anxiety.
- Be authentic, be real. If you’re nervous or it’s your first time attending, don’t be afraid to say so. If the person is comfortable they will help you feel more comfortable; if they are nervous you’ve immediately created an alliance of assimilation.
- Listen, listen, listen. Sometimes when we’re nervous we talk a lot. Learn to zip it and open your ears instead.
- Reciprocate and learn the art of giving. How can you help others? During the listening process you may learn a challenge they have, a need or a connection that would benefit them. The more you network, the bigger your personal network will become and the more people you will have to refer to others. Be a connector! Help people as often as you can.
- Practise your handshake. There’s nothing worse than a wimpy handshake. Men should not assume that women want a soft handshake. If you are in business, your handshake says a lot about you. A nice firm shake is best. Having said that, know your audience – if you are networking with seniors be mindful that they may suffer from arthritis and a firm handshake might cause them pain.
- Practise a little blurb about yourself and your company. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. If you ramble you won’t leave any time to hear from the other person. 30 seconds to 1 minute is perfect.
- Follow up with your new acquaintances. An email, a handwritten note or a phone are all effective ways to follow up and say “It was great meeting you”. If you promised to provide some details, then so quickly. If you’d like to get to know them better, why not suggest a coffee date or ‘get to know you coffee’. These one-on-one meetings are often more comfortable for shy people, rather than large groups. Coffee dates are a great way to learn more about the person and their business, than you would generally learn in a quick conversation at a networking event. You just never know where a coffee date will produce; if you don’t need their product or service, you likely know someone who would benefit from an introduction and connection.
Have a couple of phrases in your back pocket to open up dialogue:
a) How are things in the past month with your business? (you could be specific if there is a world event that might have caused an upset in their business/industry).
b) Have you had a great success that you’d like to share? (You can tailor this to something specific like branding, social media, marketing, etc.).
c) What’s your biggest challenge right now?
These questions, no matter how different your two industries might be, could help you realize there are others with the same challenges as you. It also allows the other person to receive dialogue from ‘fresh eyes’ – someone from a completely different industry with a different perspective.
Have fun and enjoy the process. The first couple of times are always the hardest.
If you come from a place of being authentic, being yourself and practicing the best skill of all – listening – you’ll be a networking rock star.
Deb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed.