If the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers and trying to make small-talk whilst juggling a frankfurter and glass of wine brings you out in a cold sweat, you’re not alone. For many, the dreaded networking event is a painful experience but one that’s essential in building a successful career or business. So what can you do to make the whole experience more bearable?
If you’re serious about your career, or want to build a successful business, you must – must – get out there and network. But if you’re holding back, struggling with your nerves, and worried about what to say it’s time to confront your fears head on so that you can start reaping the rewards that successful networker’s experience.
Here are 5 top tips to help you put your best networking-foot forward:-
1. Loosen Up
Going to a networking event is not a death sentence, but if you act like it is you’re unlikely to be inundated with people wanting to chat to you! Be sure to smile, make eye contact, and use open body language – that means NO crossed arms or head down! Drop your shoulders, lift the corners of your mouth and relaaaax…
2. Go Armed
To help avoid the prospect of a dreaded silence, try and do some research beforehand on the people that are attending the event. But if that information’s not available, make sure you read the daily news or swot up on industry developments so you have some talking points to help keep the conversation flowing. This will also help build your confidence instead of standing there worrying about what to say next!
3. It’s All About Them
People like talking about themselves, so if you want to keep the conversation going ask open ended questions and find out as much as you can about the person you’re talking to. Make sure you give that person 100% of your attention – there’s nothing worse than talking to someone who you can tell is not engaged or interested in what you’re saying.
4. Target Groups
It’s much easier to walk up to a group, listen in, and slowly become part of the conversation than approach a couple of people who are already engrossed in a discussion. Someone will always acknowledge you and bring you into the fold, so be patient, make eye contact and don’t try and take over the conversation. This is a great way to get to know lots of people quickly, and banish those fears of being stuck on your own with no-one to talk to!
5. Be Enthusiastic
It’s a given that you’ll be asked ‘what do you do?’ at a networking event. So prepare your answer in advance, make it interesting, and show enthusiasm when you respond. Try to avoid job titles, or one word answers – give the person you’re talking to something to latch on to so that they can ask more questions. For example, instead of me saying “I’m a Career Coach” I could say “I work with ambitious professionals to help them climb the career ladder more quickly”.
Above all, push the boundaries of your comfort zone and embrace the opportunity to meet new people who are networking for the same reason as you. Everyone has been in your shoes at some point or another, and the more events you go to the better they will become – I speak from personal experience!
What networking events do you go to and how do you ease your nerves? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas – please post a comment below.
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