We are all chickens when it comes to walking into a room full of people we don’t know.
I have spent the last two months networking to help get my new business off the ground and in doing so I have met some great people and had some brilliant conversations. As part of that journey I have met several people who by their own admission are scared stiff of networking and walk into the room full of nerves. I hate to think how many just bail out at the 11th Hour and don’t even show up, easily finding an excuse not to attend.
Here is my advice for nervous networkers:
Everyone is nervous!
Yes, including us sales people who do it all the time. We go through the same emotions so you are in a room with people who are all in the same boat.
Use social media in advance
Most events and/or event organisers will have a social media handle so engage with it before you go, along with anyone else that is tagging them into tweets and posts. Twitter is a great way to have a conversation with someone before you meet them in person at the event. Doing this means you will know at least one friendly face when you walk in and you will have a natural conversation starter.
Be you and be energetic
There’s no point trying to be something you are not but at the same time if you are not energetic then you may as well stay at home. Not 90’s American game show host energetic but give the gift of energy and show your passion for what you do.
If you are not comfortable talking about yourself then ask people to talk about themselves. Be inquisitive and ask questions, it’s a great way to learn too. The extra benefit is that if that person likes talking about themselves then they will leave the chat feeling good about you both meeting.
If you walk in to the room with the intention of just telling as many people as possible about what you do then you are missing a trick. Go into the room with the intention of finding out about as many people’s businesses as possible. You will get to speak about you too and people will leave with your card but you also leave with a load of new knowledge.
You may be nervous but there is always someone more uncomfortable than you so be the person to invite them into a conversation and help them out. Sometimes it’s just nice to be nice!
Talk to the introvert
Like the above but it’s likely that all the extroverted easy to speak to people are going to want to do all the selling. On the flip side the quiet guy sat in the corner struggling to muster the courage to talk not only needs your help but is going to less likely be there to sell at you.
Don’t just talk to the people you know
If you are at an organised networking event for say 2 hours there is no point spending an hour chatting to the one person in the room you already know and have a relationship with. Its comfortable but it defeats the object of being there to meet new people.
Always follow up
Meeting people is great but what is the point in exchanging business cards if you don’t make the effort to reach out and thank them for your chat. If I have really enjoyed meeting someone and I would like to stay in touch then it’s not helping anyone if I don’t say so. You can do this by email, message, Linkedin or get back on Twitter and continue the chat!
Skip the follow up…
If you really hit it off with someone and want the opportunity to speak with them further then just ask….. It saves all the messing around with emails after. Everyone has their diary on their phones now so if you are both in agreement then get it booked!
Chill and enjoy!
The more you do the easier it gets. Not just because you become well practiced or that you start to recognise a few people but that you will slowly realise that meeting new people and broadening your network is fun and fulfilling.
So, go forth and grow your network!