Have you ever felt like you needed to put on your “game face” when entering a large event but inside felt like you wanted to run out the door? You can become more comfortable networking — and actually learn to enjoy it! Here are a few tips — put them into practice and soon you’ll exude the confidence you’ll feel inside.
1. Have a role at the event. It is easier to begin a conversation when you have a purpose for introducing yourself (e.g. “Hi, I’m Teresa. I’m helping with check-in today. I noticed your business name and was intrigued. Could you tell me about it?”). It’s also easier to exit a conversation when you have a role (e.g. ” I’ve really enjoyed meeting you. I think I may be needed. Please excuse me.”).
2. Use the Buddy System. Attend with someone you know and feel comfortable with, but don’t stay joined at the hip the entire time. When you see your friend talking with someone new, you’ll feel more comfortable being introduced to the new person. And do the same for your colleague by introducing her to your new connections.
3. Remember that you’re in good company. Other people in the room are nervous about meeting new people, too. If you can help them out, they will be relieved and eager to know more about you. Your assistance can be something as simple as offering to hold their glass of water while they reach for their business cards or introducing them to someone else at the event you think would be a good connection.
Practice, Practice, and Practice. The more you do it, the easier and more comfortable and rewarding it gets.
Teresa Thomas-Carroll is the director of MN Women In Networking (WIN). Through WIN, she facilitates women to lift each other up in business through making meaningful connections, learning new ways to succeed and to recharge their “batteries” for their work.