Overcome Your Fears and Learn to Network Like a Pro

Even extroverts suddenly turn shy when they enter a room full of strangers. You’re not alone if you’re ill at ease when networking.Business Networking, Network Like a Pro

Most people feel uncomfortable when they find themselves with no one to talk to at a networking event. But you can present yourself in the best light by learning a few simple techniques.

Focus on Others

It’s not about you — make it about the other person when you walk up to someone. Show a sincere interest in him and what he has to say. Get him talking and take the pressure off yourself. Also, are you unconsciously sending out vibes that say “leave me alone” by slouching in a corner by yourself?

An acquaintance once told me that no one ever approached her. It wasn’t a surprise. She always wore black, never looked up to smile and rarely made eye contact. She was completely closed off. Why would anyone approach her?

Advance Preparation

Networking isn’t easy when you first start out. But you can overcome your anxiety if you prepare in advance to make each encounter a positive one. You can find networking tips in any number of books on the subject.

The following list will help you to become a pro at working a room:

  • Get a list of attendees. Target the people you want to meet. If others from your organization will be attending, assign them to connect with specific individuals. Debrief after the event about the conversations everyone had and next steps.
  • Know the dress code. If you’re attending the opening night cocktail party of an organization’s national conference, find out the dress code. Many times the conference flyer will include this information. You wouldn’t want to be dressed in  “business casual” when the event is “black tie optional.”
  • Have an opening line. You might start by saying, “Hi, I’m happy to meet you. What brought you to this event?” Or. “I’ve read about the great things you’re doing at …  I’m so pleased to have this opportunity to chat with you.” The saying goes that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so practice your opening lines in front of a mirror or camera just as you would for any business presentation.
  • Be sincerely interested. Make eye contact and show your sincere interest in what other people are saying. Get out of your own head and make it about them. Don’t be looking over their shoulder trying to spot other people you want to meet.
  • Share contact information. At the appropriate time in the conversation, suggest exchanging business cards. Don’t shove a card at the other person the minute you start talking.  It’s rude and marks you as a business card “spammer.”
  • Have an exit line. Don’t become trapped in a long conversation. The fact is everyone is there to network, so it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “John, I’ve enjoyed talking to you. There are a few other people I want to meet and I’m sure you would like to circulate, too.”
  • Follow Up. If you tell someone you’re going to call or email him, then do it. Be sure to put the information from the business cards you’ve collected into your electronic address book with a note about the conversation and a “to do” on your calendar if you need to follow up.

Banish Your Stage Fright

It’s scary to walk into an event by yourself. You get that nervous feeling in your stomach and you may even start to perspire from nerves. But everybody is in the same position. They don’t teach Networking 101 in school, so we need to perfect the process ourselves.

Advance preparation will help put you at ease and turn you into a person others want to meet. Instead of a chore to be dreaded, networking and meeting new people can actually be fun.

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