Becoming More Confident at Networking
No matter your industry, networking is crucial. It’s how professionals meet other like-minded individuals, identify new collaborations, enable career advancement, and make important business connections. In fact, 85% of all jobs are filled by some type of networking.
Does the thought of wearing a name tag and schmoozing with others at a networking event make you instantly nervous? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s completely normal to experience some degree of social anxiety from time to time, and networking events are no exception.
Here are some ways to feel more confident, impress potential contacts and land that dream job the next time you find yourself at a business event.
Practice Ahead of Time
You know how the experts recommend rehearsing a presentation or speech in front of the mirror? Networking events are no different. It’s inevitable that someone will ask about your background or current position, so practice your 30-second elevator pitch. The goal isn’t to memorize exactly what you want to say, which is a sure-fire way to sound like a robot. Instead, come up with a few sentences that help you become familiar with the different points you’d like to hit on.
Read the News
Give yourself something to talk about by brushing up on current events and industry news before a networking event. Pick five topics that you can make small talk about. I recommend signing up for newsletters from sources such as TheSkimm, Conservative Daily News and Liberty Nation. These will provide you with a great mix of conversation points that will help you feel prepared and well-informed.
As a tip, avoid political conversations or commenting on sensitive policy issues. This is an easy way for a conversation to become uncomfortable.
Ask Open Questions
People love to talk above themselves. Once you get engaged in a conversation, try to find out more about the other person. Avoid asking questions that can be replied to with a simple “yes” or “no” answer. This is a sure-fire way to end a conversation quickly! Instead, try open-ended questions that start with one of the Five Ws: Who, What, When, Where and Why.
Be curious, ask for advice, and try to learn more about the other person’s interests, position and goals. By asking deeper, probing questions, you’ll establish an easy rapport and feel more confident in your conversational skills.
Twitter is a fantastic way to find out who will be attending an upcoming conference or networking event. If the event organizers created a special hashtag, check to see who is using it. Send them a quick message introducing yourself and invite them to meet up during the event.
Not only will you have some friendly faces to identify right away, but you’ll also have time for one-on-one conversations. For many who dread large group settings, arranging for coffee or lunch makes it easier to get to know someone in a low-pressure situation. This is particularly useful if there is an attendee that has your dream job, or works for a company you’ve had your eye on for a while.
Get There Early
It can be nerve racking to arrive at an event and find that all attendees are already involved in conversations. By arriving early, you’ll have more opportunities to engage individuals in conversation before they become part of a tight-knit group.
Ditch Events Altogether
Who says that mixers are the only way to connect with people in your industry and find your next position? If the idea of attending a networking event makes you cringe, there are other introvert-friendly ways.
Consider volunteering your time for a local organization, whether it’s doing pro bono media relations outreach or helping them with grant applications. You’ll not only feel good helping a nonprofit grow, but will also make valuable connections through other volunteers.
Don’t be afraid to let friends and family know that you’re in the market for a new position! You might be surprised at the existing connections that you already have. Inquire if they know anyone who would be a good person for you to connect with about career opportunities. Ask for an introduction, and make sure to bring your business card and resume along to your meeting.
Even if they’re not hiring at the moment, it will keep you top-of-mind when a business associate or colleague mentions that they’re looking to hire.
Remember, the hardest part is showing up! While some people were born to be in the limelight, take comfort in knowing that for many, confidence isn’t always innate. It’s a skill that can take time and practice to develop, and even the most confident speakers are sometimes unsure of what to say.