10 top tips for nervous networkers
If you’re a nervous networker you’re not alone. Most people I meet on training courses feel a bit daunted about going to a networking event or meeting lots of strangers. The good news is that there are things you can do which will reduce the nerves and increase the fun.
1/ Don’t treat every encounter like a job interview
Networking is about building relationships over time. It’s not about a quick fix.
2/ Think of it as research
Assume your networking is a research activity. You are researching them as much as they are researching you. In the process you might get a job, but see that as a bonus.
3/ Structure your networking
Don’t just turn up to a networking event without planning it. Why are you going? How many people will you meet before you leave? How long will you stay?
Set a target, for example to meet four people who don’t know you yet within one hour. At the end of the hour you can go home if I want to. Or stay and enjoy the rest of the evening.
4/ Remember it takes two to network
When planning your networking always ask yourself “what’s in it for them”. This reminds you that networking is not a selfish activity. You have skills and someone out there needs them. Your job is to smooth the process of them understanding how you can help them.
5/ Arrive early
This is a really simple way of reducing nerves. Arriving early means you are not faced with countless people who appear to be having a good time without you. People are also more likely to remember you.
6/ Take business cards
They may seem old fashioned, but cards are really useful. If you want to end a conversation with someone and move on, you can ask for their card. If they don’t have one you can rescue the day with yours. If they do have one they’ll ask for yours in return. Either way it looks businesslike to have them.
7/ Practise your listening skills
Asking questions and listening carefully are the top skills for networking. If you’re only talking about yourself you’re doing it wrong.
8/ Don’t worry about remembering everyone’s name
There are techniques which might help you remember someone’s name – like repeating their name back to them when they introduce themselves – but at a busy event you are going to forget people’s names. Get over it. Just apologise and say “I’m sorry I’ve forgotten your name already” or “I’ve got a terrible memory for names”. Alternatively just fall over.
9/ Follow up
Networking is all about helping people remember that you exist. Follow up a positive conversation with a “nice to meet you” either by email, LinkedIn or even Twitter – whichever way they prefer to keep in touch.
10/ Don’t try to be best friends
Networking is about professional respect, not necessarily about being liked or becoming best buddies. You can work with people you don’t socialise with and have a really good professional relationship.
Above all, don’t try to be someone you’re not. I’ve met plenty of shy people who are really good at networking. They understand the importance of being honest about who they are and clear about the professional skills they have.
If you have any more suggestions for reducing networking nerves feel free to share them below.
Posted on 26 October 2017