Networking has to be one of the most challenging parts of my role as an account manager. As a bit of an introvert, finding the confidence to walk to a room of strangers and insert myself into a conversation is not something that comes naturally to me. But over the years, I’ve learnt a few tips and tricks to make the process a lot easier.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
Preparation is everything when it comes to networking. If you’re going to an event, try to get hold of the attendee list so you can see who else will be there. This way you can plan who you would most like to speak to. You might even want to connect with some on LinkedIn prior to the event – send a message introducing yourself so you’re not going in cold on the day.
Get the most out of your host
Something that is often overlooked is how much of a valuable resource your host is. Have a chat to them prior to the event and see if they can make some introductions or even if they can advise on who to talk to. Remember, you both want the event to be a success, so work together to reach this shared goal.
Get ready to break the ice
Similar to preparing for a date, go to the event armed with some questions, jokes and anecdotes. This could be anything from asking how the person you’re talking to ended up in the role that they’re in, something funny that happened on the commute over, or a recent business win. Keep these in your back pocket for if the conversation dries up.
Make it a phone free zone
This is straightforward and so important - put your phone away! It might be tempting to have it out as a safety blanket if you’re nervous but it will make you seem unapproachable and you’ll miss out on opportunities to enter the conversation. Networking is all about being present, emails and social should be taking a back seat.
Listen and learn
This is where the more introverted people have the advantage. Networking isn’t just about talking to people, it’s about listening and getting to know each other. The more you let the other person talk, the more you will get out of it! Show them that you’re interested in what they say by asking questions, you will find that from doing this, the conversation will flow more naturally.
Fake it ‘till you make it
Walking into a room of strangers may feel daunting but remember they are strangers! This means they have no preconceived ideas about you. Remind yourself of this and even if you aren’t the most confident person, you can pretend to be. Try thinking of someone you know who is outgoing and good at networking and think about what they would do in your situation. What have you got to lose?
If you have a go at each of these tips, I can assure you that your networking experience will be so much easier. And the more you practice, the easier it becomes. Everyone has the ability to become great at networking, the key is perseverance. And remember, it’s always scarier in your head than in reality. Everyone is in the same boat and probably just as nervous as you are. Just take a deep breath and bite the bullet – you’ll feel so much better for it afterwards!