Networking. You might love it or you might hate it. It depends on a few different things. If you get anxious in situations where you don't know anybody, that might cause you anxiety. If you get excited and feel like it's an opportunity to meet new people, you might love it. You might hate that people are so surface at networking and what you like to do is connect with people. You might love that at networking events, you get to "try on" new people and see if you jive with them. Either way, you're totally normal.
Unfortunately, in most industries, networking is a hurdle you have to overcome in order to make connections. While it might seem fun for your peers, you might be cursing them because you find it utterly exhausting. If that's the case, I'm sharing my most effective tips to network like a pro on your own terms!
- Get there early. A lot of anxiety comes from feeling like you're left out, not part of the "in crowd" or that you don't know anybody. When you get there a little early, you can be one of the first people to get to know people as they walk in. Try to shift your perspective from, "I'm the only loser here by herself, to I'm the first person and I get to meet all the other cool people first!"
- Get to know the host. The host is your easy "in" and you can thank her and her team for hosting. You can share a story about how you got to the event, what the event means for you, where you are in business, or you can ask her what she hopes to get out of it. The host is probably busy so you might not be able to chat with you for too long but it's nice to get a chance to tell her your excitement for the event before lots of people do too.
- Go with a friend. Who said you had to go solo? If going to a networking event is just terrifying to you, ask a buddy to go with you. Somebody who can be a little bit of a comfort but also could let you do your thing, once you fit into the groove. Talk before hand and agree on how long you want to stay or what you want to accomplish before you head out.
- Gamify your networking. Challenge yourself and give yourself a mini reward for achieving certain tasks while networking. Collect 5 business cards and promise yourself a piece of chocolate. Talk to 10 people and ask them what their connection to the event is, you get a glass of wine when you get home. Make it a fun challenge for yourself!
- Have a goal in mind. What's the reason you want to attend this event? Is it so that people can meet you? Do you want to make an acquaintance of the event coordinator? Get clear on why you want to attend in the first place. Once you accomplish that goal, you can give yourself permission to leave if you're bored or are overly anxious.
- Interview. People LOVE talking about themselves. Instead of focusing on saying the wrong thing or not "nailing" your elevator pitch, ask people questions about them. What do they love doing? How are they associated with the event? Who are their ideal clients? Have they met anybody who they think you should meet? When you turn the focus on them, not only does it make others feel like they are being heard, it can give you a little more control!
- Welcome others. Be the networking person that you want when you go to network. If you're walking into a room where you know NOBODY, how do you want to be greeted by another person in attendance? Be that person. Wear a smile. Notice if somebody looks anxious and make room for them in your conversation. Just turn to somebody and say, "hey, you look familiar," even if they don't! People want to be included and have a place to land safely!
- Be you at 110%. Networking takes extra effort than you probably want to put in. I encourage you to be your true self and not be inauthentic. But I do also recommend you turning up the energy by about 10%. What I've noticed about introverts is that your shyness or can come across as a different emotion - annoyance, being disinterested, or boredom. You might have to practice wearing more of your heart on your sleeve for the short duration of the event!
- Articulate your Rockstar Statement. One of the things I teach is to nail the rock statement. In this statement, you articulate who you are, what you do, who you serve and what that ultimately helps you to do. It's a beautified version of the dreaded elevator pitch. It really sets you apart and being able to have it come out of your mouth without the hiccups and hesitations is key to showing that you know your stuff!
- Monitor your energy level. You have to recognize when your energy is tanking. For introverts that I work with, many of them notice when they can no longer be social and they have to retreat. Before you get to that desperate place, make your exit! It's okay to notice that you're becoming depleted, you need a break and to leave without much of a "goodbye" - except if you came with a friend. Take time you need to take a break, go to the bathroom, go outside to get some fresh air. Monitoring what you need and taking care of you is really important in these situations.
If you're an introvert, you recharge by having quality solo time. You like to connect with a lot of substantive conversations in small, intimate groups. You don't love how fleeting the large networking scene can be and how you learn next to nothing about a person. You just want to go home, wash your face and get into your PJs. By following the 10 tips above you will be able to feel more confident, enjoy the experience, and get to meet some others who need you in the networking room!
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