Networking events are a great way to further your career and make new professional contacts, but the prospect of attending these events can be stressful if you’re an introvert. Your introversion doesn’t have to hinder your career growth though! Here are some strategies for overcoming the nerves associated with networking events and meeting people.
The idea of networking can be overwhelming, but if you set clear goals and plan things ahead, it should calm your nerves.
In order to sufficiently prepare for the event, you must have more than just your business cards. Focus on what you are trying to achieve. Would you like to talk to specific people? Aare you trying to explore interesting job opportunities? It pays to have a clear goal in mind when attending a networking event so you know what action to take and when it’s okay to leave.
On top of specifying a goal, you should prepare and memorize your elevator pitch. By having an elevator pitch, you have that initial conversation starter ready, taking the pressure off from meeting someone new.
You should also have a list of questions and talking points ready. Think about what you want to discuss in advance so you can approach potential connections with the confidence of knowing what you can talk about.
Knowing who and what to expect at a event makes the the prospect of networking less daunting. You can achieve this by researching the attendees beforehand. If there is someone that you’re hoping to meet, do some investigating. Look at their Linkedin profile and see if there are any mutual connections or interests. That way, when you meet them, you have something to share and discuss.
You can also reach out to attendees before the event. Business communication coach Patrick Donadio recommends reaching out in advance and introducing yourself via email. By connecting before the event and talking about why you want to meet, you don’t feel as much pressure meeting someone for the first time at the event. You will also have that earlier conversation to reference, making it easier to introduce yourself in person.
Another way for you to get a headstart at the event is to arrive early.By doing so,, you can warm up to the environment and feel more comfortable at the event. Once you’re at ease, you may find it more natural to approach potential contacts and start a conversation.
You don’t have to attend the event alone. Feel free to bring a friend or colleague with you. Having someone there who can support you can keep you grounded and alleviate your nerves.
One caveat to this tactic is making sure you don’t t stick with your buddy the whole time, as you’re at the networking event to connect with new professionals. When you arrive at the event, try splitting up first and then meet again when you both have reached a goal, such as talking to five different people. You can also help each other interact with people at the event. For example, when you or your friend meet someone at the event that would be beneficial for the other to link with, make those introductions.
When you’ve both achieved your respective goals, you can reunite and share your experiences. This can be a great way to reflect on your conversations, what is going well, and what to watch out for. By having someone who can give you feedback, you will feel more secure and comfortable at the networking event.
Effective networking is about building genuine relationships. You don’t have to do all the talking and it is better to encourage the other party to talk about themselves. This is where having an introverted personality can be at your advantage. Introverts are more likely to listen to others instead of focusing the conversation on themselves for long periods of time.
Your prepared notes come into play now. Use your conversation starters to learn more about the other party, some examples are:
- What is your story?
- What is your favourite thing about what you do?
- (when they mention their industry or role) What got you started in __?
- What are the biggest challenges you or your industry are currently facing?
- How can I help you?
By keeping the focus on them, you’re building rapport and keeping the pressure off yourself. This can help you get the most out of the networking event and help further grow your own network.
So you have your conversation starters and it’s going well, but now it’s time to conclude the interaction. As tough as initiating the exchange can be, ending it gracefully can be another challenge. It’s easy to get stuck in a conversation with someone, unable to end it out of the fear of being rude.
By having a few exit lines, you can end the talk and effortlessly move onto the next person. For instance, you could wait for a natural pause in the conversation and thank them for their time. Another way to exit the conversation is to suggest you’ll connect with them later on. This also serves as a great segue to ask for their business cards. When you follow up with them after the event, make sure to include the topic of the conversation.
Networking events are valuable in building your contacts and discovering opportunities, but they can be stressful - particularly if you’re an introvert. This can be minimized by having strategies in place to navigate the networking event.
After you give it your best shot, think about what you will need to do afterwards. Have a plan ready as to who you will follow up with and how you can further develop the connection. If the networking event didn’t go as planned, not to worry. There are many other ways and tools you can take advantage of to meet your career goals. You can try using referrals to develop professional contacts. Good luck with your next event!