It can seem like the most difficult thing in the world to have to network with a room full of complete strangers, especially when you understand that it has to be done if you are to achieve your long term career goals. After all, success in any business is something you need help with, and to get that help you need to build mutually generous and sincere relationships.
But for some individuals, schmoozing your way around a people can be an almost impossible task. Being shy, or lacking in confidence, can bring with it a real fear of rejection. There will always be someone at a networking meeting that you don’t see eye-to-eye with, or a person who doesn’t share your vision, and being rejected by them can leave you with a sense of unworthiness.
If you want to get better at networking, then you need to take some common-sense steps to overcoming your fears.
See these sessions for what they are. You may feel uncomfortable about approaching people, or even think that you are being insincere about your intentions towards them. But if you approach people with honesty, you will see it is more about building intimate and sincere relationships with people who can help you, and who you can help in return.
If you can realise that the other people who are here to network also have their own goals to achieve, and they too have to network their way to success. There may be some individuals here that are just as nervous and shy as yourself!
Take baby steps
To begin with, try to see if you can recognise a familiar face. There may well be someone at the meeting that you already know or have been introduced to previously. Start off by talking to someone familiar where you already have a connection, no matter how small that may be.
If there is no one in the room that is already familiar to you, then survey the room to find someone who may be a kindred spirit. Someone who may also be standing alone, looking and feeling a little awkward about being there. Take a deep breath, walk over and introduce yourself. That’s all it takes to begin with, and the person you speak with may be just as grateful of your company as you are of theirs.
Practice makes perfect, the saying goes, and each small conversation you have will help you to become more confident about making the next.
Shy people are always the first to say ‘I am sorry’, when asking for help. It can feel like a bit of an imposition to ask people for help, and apologising for asking will leave you feeling incapable of doing things for yourself. Instead of looking at this way, try to realise that asking for help is simply an exercise in relationship building, and that it needs no apology. A favour asked will be a favour that you would be happy to return, right? No apology necessary.
The best things in life are free
The above statement is so true, but it is missed by so many people. At networking meetings there is something really simple that you have that you can give out for free, and you can give this to every single person you meet. It will cost you nothing, yet it is incredibly powerful at breaking the ice, and sending out a positive image about yourself. Do you want to know what it is? Of course you do. It is nothing more simple than a smile!
In a room full of strangers, who are you more likely to warm up to – someone walking around looking very serious, or even with a scowl on their face – or someone who smiles at you? An open smile and a friendly ‘hello’ will gain more networking contacts than someone with a sour face.
The tips listed above may seem overly simple at first glance, but it is surprisingly how powerful they can be. For a shy or introverted person attending a networking meeting for the first time, remembering any one of these tips and putting it to good use will be very rewarding.