Networking is one of the best ways to promote yourself and company. For many, though, it can be a fear-provoking experience. Walking into a room full of strangers can give you a stomach full of butterflies. But perhaps you can take comfort in the knowledge that many other networkers share this fear.
Many times part of the problem is letting your imagination get the best of you. Do you envision yourself standing alone, with everyone else around you laughing and talking? Are you convinced you will say the wrong thing and make a fool of yourself? Anticipating these uncomfortable situations puts you in danger of avoiding networking opportunities altogether.
If you are one of the many who find it difficult to attend a networking meeting without knowing anyone, there is hope. Here are some steps to ease those first scary minutes:
- Get yourself ready. Your attitude is your most important asset. Forget your own anxieties by concentrating on other people.
- Prepare some small talk. Have at least three or four questions in mind that will open up conversations.
- Look for opportunities to meet others. You don’t always have to wait until you are actually in the meeting room to begin networking. If you see a group of people on the way in from the parking lot, you could start a conversation there. Ask them if they are going to the networking meeting. Whether you are in the elevator, restroom, or hallway, just start talking.
- Look for approachable people. Try making eye contact with others. If a person smiles and makes eye contact back, they are approachable.
Networking with strangers can be scary for many. But if you have a good strategy and are prepared, you will be successful. With a positive outlook you can come away with valuable new contacts. And you will gain the ability to comfortably network again and again.