Being an introvert or a bit shy can feel like a huge obstacle when you’re about to be sent to a networking event, but there’s a whole host of tricks you can learn. Most important of all however, you need to remember that you only get out what you put in.
You might feel nervous or even anxious about going, so wouldn’t it be more worth going if you came back with half a dozen new contacts? Here are a few of the ways you can make it happen…
Stay Off Your Phone So People Can Approach You
So many of us retreat into our phones when we feel a bit like a fish out of water. They keep us occupied and prevent us from looking awkward in a crowd, but they also box us off.
You want people to approach you so that you can compensate for the fact you’re a bit nervous about walking up to other people. Very few people are going to approach someone who is engaged on their phone, so keep it in your pocket.
Picture yourself at home nice and relaxed, and then try and take that feeling with you as you find your feet in the event. All you need to do is keep projecting that persona, even if you don’t feel like that on the inside. People will then be far more likely to approach you and help you strike up a conversation.
Break the Ice with a Stack of Business Cards in Your Back Pocket
Fumbling around on your phone to record someone’s contact details is never a good look, and if you’re nervous then it will only add to your stress. If you come with a hundred business cards in your pocket, you’ll have a hundred ways to break the ice.
Simply by extending your hand and introducing yourself with a business card, you can engage with people in a fraction of a second. Before you know it, the recipient will be returning the courtesy, and the conversation will then naturally start to flow.
The great thing about this approach is that you can gradually refine it. The more and more people you meet, the more you can polish and adapt your routine. Ideal if you want to get the most out of these kinds of events.
If You Can’t Think of What to Say, Ask a Question
Leading a conversation is a tricky business, especially if you’re more of a listener than an anecdotalist. This might be enough to put you off networking events for life, but before you give up why not try one simple trick: ask a question.
The great thing about asking a question you’re genuinely interested in is that you can learn something new whilst the other person does the majority of the talking. If you focus on what they’re saying, then it’ll be obvious what your follow up question or response should be. Perfect if you want to find a way to ease yourself into conversations in a way that shows you’re interested and engaged.
Carry Yourself with Confidence Even if You Don’t Feel That Way
It’s absolutely fine to feel a lack of confidence, but you never want to show it. You might feel like curling up, sitting in the corner, or just immersing yourself in your phone. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s think about what image acting like this will project to the rest of the attendees.
You’ll come across as distant or aloof, and people are far less likely to want to approach you. You don’t need to stride into the hall or dominate the room, but you do need to appear calm and in control.
Stand up straight with your shoulders back, and make eye contact with people who look in your direction. A quick smile and soon enough, they’ll be walking over to talk shop with you.
This is something of an art form, and you are going to have to practice it. The first time you try it you might be nervous, but you need to remind yourself that you will only get better at it. By the time you try it for the tenth time your confidence levels will have increased beyond all recognition.
Observe the Extroverts and Make Your Way to Them
Extroverts can be your friend at a networking event because they often draw a small crowd. Wander on over and see what the fuss is about, and before you know it, you’ll have struck up a conversation with someone else who did the same.
This is a great way of getting involved in the thick of things without having to force yourself to be the centre of attention. You could even use what the main speaker is talking about as a way of breaking the ice with the person stood next to you.
Now if that isn’t a natural ice breaker, then we don’t know what is!