Having to approach an individual that you don’t know and start a conversation can be daunting. What do I say, how do I make sure I don’t come across as nervous, what if I stumble on my words?
Networking events are the perfect place for this kind of scenario but we all know that networking is king. Connecting with others and building meaningful relationships plays a key part in forging friendships, scoring opportunities and also getting advice from others in a similar position as you.
So how do you remove yourself from the confines of your comfort zone and break down those barriers to get confident at networking with others? Below are a few tips which can help grow your network as well as your confidence. Whether you’re an introvert or not, I’m sure this post will prove valuable to anyone who has a distaste for networking.
1. Just go!
We all find ourselves in a position where we are going back and forth contemplating whether we should go to the event. But back out for one reason or another; why should I have to pay, I don’t want to go alone are probably one of the most common ones. But once you register yourself to attend, you’ve made a commitment to go so theres no point backing out now and lose potential opportunities.
2. Go with a friend
Personally, I feel that to really benefit from a networking event, you should go alone. Simply because you’re throwing yourself into the deep and and it forces you to network and engage with others. But if you really cant’ go it alone just yet, take a friend. That way it relieves the pressure of having to say the right thing or worry about the conversation going south because theres two of you.
3. Know why you want to go to the event
This probably should have been number one. Knowing why you want to go fuels your passion and motivation to learn and engage to get more out of the event. You’ll most likely want to interact with others because you’ll be keen to know why they came along and will make approaching others much easier.
4. List 3 things you want to learn
This ties in with number 3, but its getting you to be more specific. Of course its easier to simply ask questions and listen (more on that below) but continually asking questions or simply listening may come off as creepy or interrogating. Knowing these 3 reasons, gives you a talking point and if someone approaches you, not only does it give you something to say, it gives them an opportunity to learn something about you. Remember networking is two ways – you give and you take.
5. Ask others what brought them to the event
I would always turn up just after the event started so that I wouldn’t have to ‘pre network’ because I never knew what to say. But I’ve found a solution. If you don’t know what to say, ask why they came to the event. It relieves pressure off you while you remember your points from tip no3. (BUT remember to listen!)
6. Turn up early
Despite what I said above, turning up early is probably the best thing you can do. You can talk to the organisers and get more background on why they decided to host or organise the event which gives you more knowledge and shows interest. This could lead to an opportunity. If you arrive late people have already created groups, forged relationships and feeling at ease. Don’t make it harder for yourself!
7. Join in the conversation
This one might be a bit tricky because you have to know when its appropriate to interject into someone elses conversation. But they could be asking a question you know the answer to, they might have an opportunity which fits your skill set or generally said something that intrigues you. So join in!
8. Ask if they have been to a similar event
Or tell them that you have heard about or been to a similar event. This is a really good way to sharing contact details. This way you can invite them to the event or they may even invite you. Even if they don’t actually invite you there and then, you can always ask if they mind sharing details about the event because you would love to go. If you’re both really passionate about it, this could be the start to a long lasting friendship or a potential business relationship!
9. If things get awkward ask if they would like a drink
Now this sounds strange, but it makes perfect sense. If you can both sense the vibe that the conversation isn’t really hitting off, rather than make an obvious run for the door by saying ‘I’ve just got to make a phone call’ or ‘Where are the toilets’. Ask if they would like a drink (or refreshment). Turning it on them shows you aren’t trying to run or hide from them all together, but it definitely gives you both some space. Chances are they won’t want a drink anyway and if they do, it will give you time to think of something else to say. Get the picture?
The main thing is knowing what you want to get out of the event because it keeps you focused on making sure you actually benefit from the event rather than focusing on your nerves. If all else fails, just remember to be nice, pay someone a compliment and that you’re all in the same boat!