Written by Hutson & Kusiciel
Networking is vital to your career, but are you still hesitant to attend networking events? Do your palms sweat when faced with connecting face to face? Next time you’re at a networking event, try some of these simple suggestions to ease your nerves.
Before Your Event:
- Do your homework. Browse the event online, and make note of the details. Pay close attention to time, location and venue. If possible, review a list of attendees, and when someone peaks your interest; do your research. Advance research is a great solution whenever you want to calm your nerves and make a strong impression. Read up on breaking industry news. It helps to have a few subjects you want to discuss and to help build rapport.
- Focus on your goals. Ignore the butterflies in your stomach. Focus on your goals instead. Set 2-3 goals that you want to accomplish at the end of your networking event. Plan ahead. What steps do you need to take to accomplish your goals?
- Strength in numbers. When appropriate, it’s ok to bring a colleague or companion to a networking event. Remember to bring someone professional, who won’t put you in an awkward or uncomfortable position. Remember to split up occasionally, so you can master mingling solo.
- Leave the gum at home. Smell as good as you look, remember the mints and leave the gum chomping to llamas. Fresh breath makes it easier to wow others, and encourages them to get closer when you’re talking.
- Fake it until you make it. No one else is right at home in social situations either. The more comfortable you act, the more others will relax around your calming energy and the more you will actually feel it too! Everyone can sense a nervous energy, so take a deep breath and alleviate the tension.
- Perfect your elevator pitch. You never know WHO you are going to meet at any given event! Don’t get caught meeting the collaborator of your dreams and stuttering when they ask to pick your brain. Practice selling yourself in a concise couple sentences that set up a clear vision of what it would be like to work with you. If you’re not confident in what you bring to the table, no one else will be either.
At Your Event:
- Body language and eye contact. A natural way to gain someone’s attention is through eye contact. From there, say hello and introduce yourself. Good posture boosts your mood and shows others that you’re strong and capable. Smile wide and think positive. Uncross your arms. A smiling face and positive attitude helps draw in strangers. Chances are, they are all feeling equally as uncomfortable as you are. Remind yourself the benefits this event can hold, and how much you appreciate the opportunity to be with those around you.
- Express interest. Don’t make it about you. Make it about them. People often find it easier to talk about themselves and their business. Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation going. Share your own relevant experiences when applicable. Guests at a networking event are likely to be eager to talk about themselves and their business.
- Be authentic and unique. Try to avoid telling them something they have heard 500 times today by being authentic. Don’t follow everyone’s advice. Find the tips that match your personality and strengths. Don’t force it. Do what feels natural.
- Slow down. Enjoy your conversations. Be courteous and friendly to everyone. You never know where the next opportunity lies. Don’t be in a rush to connect on social media or promote yourself. Take sincere interests in others. The healthiest and most beneficial relationships grow over time. Let others know you value their time.
- Move along. Likely there’s a competition for time at the event you’re attending. Don’t take up too much time, and leave your contacts wanting more. It can be more productive to strike up brief conversations and make plans to talk business later. That way you can dial down the pressure and make a more memorable impression. Don’t forget to chat with your peers.
- Listen closely and lighten up. Give people your full attention. You will learn more about them, and they will appreciate your interest. It will also help you ask more relevant questions later. An appropriate joke or funny comment not only helps relieve stress but creates a memorable moment.
- Make introductions. Providing introductions strengthens your network. If you know some of the attendees, consider who they might want to meet.
- Find common ground and connect. Instead of surface level small talk find something meaningful to connect on even if it’s a silly opinion to share. Colleagues are sure to remember the girl whose favorite movie of all time is Grease, than the girl who commented on the nice weather.
- Keep it positive. When nervous in conversation it can be a security blanket to find something to complain about or speak poorly of the event details you’re currently attending. Complaining is NEVER a good look around colleagues or potential employers. Even if it seems harmless at the time, they will remember in their subconscious a negative connotation with your name. Stay positive in the moment; you never know who is going to hear you and the odds are the wrong person will. Save all your complaints for the phone call to your mom on the way home like any civilized person.
- Make efforts not excuses. First time or nervous hosts tend to overly apologize or seem frazzled rattling off disclaimers about imperfections of their event before any attendees even had a chance to notice. Try to squash those tendencies and put as much effort into preparing as possible, then let go the night of and lead with confidence. Take note of things you would change next time, but do not verbalize them to the guests and call attention to shortcomings.
The opportunities that can be found at networking events are worth it. Connecting and networking with others can help advance your career and increase your job satisfaction. Make the most of business and social opportunities by reaching out to others and expanding your network.