Are you an introvert ? Shy? Can social situations make you anxious? Career Insider has gathered the best and most effective tips for successful networking for whomever networking, speaking to strangers and building professional relationships does not come naturally. Choosing the right event and preparing are crucial before attending any social meetup. Setting goals and clearly defining what you wish to take out of an event will also significantly help you turn the event into a success. However, do not pressure yourself into reaching outstanding results immediately: taking small steps and managing your expectations is your best bet to attain your objectives. Furthermore, remember you will definitely not be the only one feeling vulnerable at the event.
Before the event
Select the right event for you
First off, identify in what situations you are the most comfortable, efficient and most likely to obtain what you want. Big events with thousands of people are not your only option.
Approaching strangers, especially in a professional context can be daunting. For this reason, we suggest you start by dipping a toe. You will need to get out of your comfort zone either way but going easy and not pressuring yourself is a way to get good results, slowly but surely. Luckily, networking apps exist, such as Shapr or Bumble Bizz. Like many other dating apps, swipe through profiles and start a conversation when you match with another user. This way, networking can also be done from the comforts of your couch.
From networking applications to small meetups or bigger events, explore options and choose which networking method works best for you.
If you’re an introvert, chances are talking about yourself is neither your forte nor your favourite pastime. However, knowing how to present yourself in a few sentences is one of the most important things to have before going to any professional gathering. Preparing and rehearsing your elevator pitch will help you gain confidence and show up at your happening self-assured.
Prepare questions and talking points
Preparation is crucial in general, whether introvert or not. If you are planning to attend the event, we can surely assume you are interested in its content. Read about the speakers and their speciality and prepare questions or talking points you have for them. This will help you attend the event with a goal and you will be less likely to end up awkward and avoidant at the buffet or bar.
Be remembered: wear your icebreakers
If you still feel nervous about spontaneously talking to strangers at an event, you can always wear your icebreakers. We don’t mean dressing like a clown but choosing a piece of clothing or an accessory, such as a pair of earrings or a tie for example, that will make you stand out and make someone want to talk to you. Huge advantage to this method: you’ll be more readily remembered.
During the event
Set a time limit / a goal
While being prepared will undeniably help, simply being at the event might still be intimidating. For this reason, setting a time limit and a clear goal are actions that will facilitate the course of the day or evening. For example, talk to two new people in the next half hour, ask the second speaker about a question you thought of, stay an hour and pitch yourself to three HR managers etc. Why not create a little reward system to go along with that such as leaving earlier if you complete your goals sooner or treating yourself for getting through? This way you will be more focused on your goal than the negative thoughts and feelings keeping you from showing the world what a great person you are. Remember not to pressure yourself and that you make your own opportunities. Even if you do not get what you want this time, trust that practice will make perfect.
Bring a friend
You do not need to go anywhere alone. Why not bring a friend or colleague with you? Preferably a friend more comfortable in social situations than you that will encourage you, keep you focused on your goal and maybe even introduce you if they are more comfortable spontaneously going up to people. Careful who you bring though. Being with someone too similar can turn out to be counterproductive.
Being subject to social anxiety can sometimes be all-consuming and have one forget he or she is far from being alone in this situation. Scan the room and identify people who are here alone. It doesn’t take much in this case to introduce yourself, start chatting and networking. The person you talk to will probably be grateful and make things easier for you.
Practice empathetic listening
Turns out introverts or shy people tend to be better listeners than their extrovert peers. Networking is about building relationships. The idea that you need to be talking and selling yourself the entire time is false. In fact, people love talking about themselves. Moreover, being a good and active listener and asking relevant questions will probably turn to your advantage as it will make you more likeable. This tip not only applies to networking, but also in meetings or most social situations.
Work your power pose
Did you know your body language can influence your self-confidence and how others see you? This is what social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s research concluded. We recommend you pay attention to how you present yourself in stressful situations and focus on that. Do you slouch? Do you fidget? Work on standing up straight, shoulders back. Smile and show you are open. Even if you feel too shy or anxious to approach anyone, your body language can make a difference and lead to people spontaneously coming up to speak to you.
After the event
Follow-up after introductions
Follow-ups after an event are as important as the face-to-face interaction. Sending an email, text or LinkedIn message the next day will help you stand out of the sea of people your contacts may have met.
If you did not manage to speak to anyone, you can always send speakers or guests a message and invitation on LinkedIn to introduce yourself and ask your questions.
- Do not pressure yourself
- Set clear, realistic goals
- Have your questions and pitch ready
- Pay attention to your body language
- Don’t forget to follow-up!