Have you ever felt anxious about attending a networking event? Here are seven steps to help you feel more keen, confident and courageous.
Attending networking events can seem quite daunting – especially if you don't know anyone there. Yet networking is an important part of building business relationships.
As with any aspect of your business, preparation is the key. Take steps to prepare and you'll feel more confident about your next networking function.
#1 Have an answer to the question: What do you do?
If you label yourself according to the industry that you're in, it often directs conversation around the 'industry' as opposed to your value as a professional in that industry. So be creative. Practise your answer and look at it as a work in progress.
#2 Have a plan
Will you know people at the networking event? If so, start with them and then progress from there. If not, you'll probably notice other people who have arrived on their own too. Introducing yourself to one person is usually easier than to a group.
Decide upon how many new people you plan to meet. This helps you to have a focus and is also a good way to extract yourself from a group and move on to meet new people.
#3 Take business cards
This may seem obvious to most people. However, I've been to networking functions where people hadn't thought to bring their business cards.
Networking is not about giving out as many business cards as possible. It is about making connections, so if you want to share your contact details you'll need your business card. Being prepared with one reflects well on you and your business.
#4 Wear network-friendly clothes
Being comfortable with what you're wearing helps you to feel more confident when meeting new people. So that you present well, have your business cards in an easily accessible location – in a pocket or bag – and have somewhere to place the cards that you'll be receiving.
#5 Know the location of the venue
Knowing where the venue is located and parking availability helps to reduce anxiety before meeting new people. You want the networking event to be a positive experience so minimise stress-inducing situations where possible.
Attending a networking event is about having a conversation with a variety of people. Inevitably questions will be asked. Think about the types of questions that may be asked and how you might answer them.
When asking questions, ask open questions that requires more than a yes/no answer to help you to find out more about the people that you're meeting.
#7 Look at the networking event in real terms
When we're anxious it's easy to allow the imagination to turn a small hurdle into a major one. Look at a networking event as an opportunity to meet new and interesting people.
You shouldn't feel obliged to do all of the talking and don't expect to make a 'sale'. It's a great opportunity to practise your listening skills.
Remember that the function will take only a few hours of your day. If you decide that you want to leave early, then that's your choice and it's ok to do that.
Good networking is about making connections and building relationships. By having a positive attitude, being natural and willing to have a conversation, you're able to build rapport and relationships. You may even find it an enjoyable experience.
What are your top networking tips?