Plenty of people have a fear of public speaking, and it’s not too much of a leap to also have anxiety about networking. This is a major problem in business, which is largely about sales and putting yourself in front of consumers you don’t know well.
Perhaps that is why many people shy away from networking events. Sure, it can be awkward to make small talk with random strangers whom you wouldn’t normally talk to. But if you go in with a game plan and a solid goal for making contacts, you might be surprised whom you meet and what you learn.
As with most things in business, preparation is key.
Before You Leave The Office
Be sure you’ve grabbed your name tag and lots of business cards. Your name tag should be worn on the left shoulder for maximum visibility. If you are introverted, establish a goal for how many contacts you’d like to make and challenge yourself to meet or exceed the goal.
Having Some Conversation Starters At The Ready
This alone can boost your chance of success. During the drive to the networking event, consider some questions to ask each new person you meet. You don’t need to get personal, just find out what they do and a little more about their business.
Respond In Kind
Of course, for all the strategies you have, you should be prepared to respond in kind. When you give out a business card, be sure to get one as well. Have your own elevator speech ready for that moment when a stranger asks for details about your profession.
Be A Good Listener
If you are not comfortable carrying a conversation, it’s OK to be more of a listener. Just be sure you are listening carefully to what the person is saying and really taking it in. Many people are so busy formulating their response that they don’t really hear what’s being said. Don’t be like those people. Being a good listener is a top trait of success business professionals.
Mind Your Table Manners
Often at networking events, a meal is part of the equation. It goes without saying that you need to use your best table manners when eating – no talking with your mouth full or elbows on the table. Mealtimes are great opportunities for making a good impression and for observing others.
After The Networking Event
Be sure to follow up with any contacts or leads that seemed to be promising. If you’ve gone through all the trouble to attend the shindig, you might as well make the most of the opportunity. Besides, if you make a new friend by following up, you will have someone familiar to talk to when you attend the next event!