Standing in a room at a busy networking event can be a daunting thought for many, especially individuals who are prone to social anxiety and would maybe consider themselves to be an introvert.
Shyness can often stem from a lack of confidence and self- esteem which can hugely impact on a persons ability to meet people and talk about themselves.
1. Research the event and its attendees
The key to successfully attending a networking event is to prepare and to do so you can take advantage of all that social media has to offer. Essentially ‘social media’ refers to any website where the focus is on interacting with other users. So while that covers the websites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (and Baidu, for Chinese audiences), it also refers to communication services (Slack and SnapChat), video and music sites (SoundCloud, YouTube and Vimeo), specialised sites (Stage32 and The Black List), and even blogging services (Wordpress and Medium).
You’ll often find publicly advertised networking events to have a social media presence, whether this is a Facebook event or a twitter hashtag. Through looking into these platforms you can gain an understanding of who’s going to the event and reach out to some of them so that you don’t feel as though you are entering a room full of strangers. If any of those people seem even more interesting to you, use the site’s functions to introduce yourself. You could leave a (nice) comment or compliment on one of their posts about their work or an insightful comment they’ve made. By reaching out to a few people you can make yourself a list of people who you’d like to meet at the event, having this goal
2. Prepare your speech
As an introvert, it can often be challenging to talk, especially when the topic of conversation is yourself.
Follow these simple steps for a smooth conversation:
Introduce yourself with “Hello I am …” and give your preferred name. At this point reach out for a hand shake to avoid awkward cheek kissing etc.
If possible try to mention something memorable about you to help you stand out of the crowd at the event, perhaps this could link to your career or where you live.
Try to keep the conversation flowing where possible,bulking the conversation out with questions can often aid this. Not only does it put the pressure of talking onto the other person, it also makes you seem interested which is crucial.
Don’t switch off, people like to feel as though you are interested in what they have to say. A good sign that you were listening is to keep asking questions, again, this keeps the conversation going,
Keep things casual — “no money, no politics, no religion” is a good guide of topics to avoid.
Keep things positive: no gossip, bad-mouthing or complaining.
3. At the event
Try to set goals for the event which will encourage you to stay for the duration of the event, for most this goal involves contacts made or duration of stay. Try to set a minimum time to stay at the event, knowing you can leave after that time can remove social anxiety and will encourage you to make the most of it. In regards to making contacts, have a target number of people to speak to during the event, this can help to reduce anxiety regarding approaching strangers.
4. Take a break
Social networking events are incredible tiring, so don’t feel bad if you need some time out. Whether this be to go to the toilet, check your emails or peruse the buffet selection, take a break every now and then. The one cardinal sin at a networking event is to over-drink, whilst this can seem appealing at the time, it can really effect the way you present yourself. This is not to say don’t have a drink, just know your limits.
5. Dont forget business cards
Business cards are absolutely vital when attending networking events as it ensures that people remember you. Not only does it allow people to contact you, but it allows you to contact them, after all you may meet someone who can help you elevate your career. When they give you there card, try to but it in your jacket pocket or somewhere respectful, putting their card in your back pocket suggests that you dont value them as a contact.
A really useful concept that I learnt from networking events is to annotate cards, for example they may be someone who you had a great conversation with and you must not forget to contact, or they may be someone you wish to never speak to again! Either way, make a note, it will help you after the event when you want to consolidate what happened.
6. Follow up on contacts made.
The day after the event, note down in an address book the people you met and reach out to them. You don’t have to email them a business proposal, a simple “ Hey it was nice to meet you yesterday, was really interesting discussing … Be in touch” will suffice. Failure to follow up on contacts made will deem the whole event a waste of time.
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