You hear it time and time again, networking is at the heart of the events business and it’s how you earn new business. Building strong professional relationships can get you a new job, an amazing feature for your brand or a new client. While some people thrive at networking and love any opportunity to meet new faces, others find the idea completely daunting and nerve wracking. If you’re the type who would rather hide away in the corner rather than be bold and introduce yourself to someone new, don’t worry, this is the guide for you. We want to help you overcome your fears or work with your shy nature to become a networking king or queen.
Let’s jump into our seven tips for you on how to network like a pro when you’re shy or nervous.
1. Get there early
If the thought of walking into a crowded room does make you feel uneasy - then get there early. This will calm your nerves and you won’t have to worry about getting there, parking, finding the actual room etc. You can arrive calmly, go to the bathroom to compose yourself and walk confidently into the room. It also means that you can do your research (see below), Chat to the organisers to break yourself in gently and then meet with the first few people who arrive after you.
2. Remember FORE
Some people worry about networking simply because they worry that they will run out of things to say, which might lead to deadly silence. This rarely happens, but a good tip is to always have a few good questions on your mind that you can ask people to break the ice. I like this abbreviation as it’s easy to remember and gives you a few ideas if you begin to dry up:
F - Family - Take an interest in their family, do they have children, boys or girls, how old are they etc.
O - Occupation - What do you do for a living, where do you work, that sounds interesting - tell me more…
R - Recreation - What do you do in your spare time - do you have any unusual hobbies/favourite sports.
E - Education - Which university do you go to, where did you study?
3. Ask for help
Most organisers will be happy to help you if you ask (you’re an event organiser yourself right? You know that people ask for help all the time!) if you need an introduction to an individual or a group, just ask!
4. Look for others who may also be shy
The one thing that you can guarantee if you’re a little bit nervous is that you won’t be the only one. If you see someone on their own, hovering around the tea and coffee station, have the courage to walk up to them and ask them a question - They might be grateful to have someone to talk to too. Once you have safety in numbers, you’ll find it much easier to approach other people. Equally keep an eye out for people who might like to join your new found group - you know how they feel.
5. Start small
Have you heard the saying, ‘how do you eat an elephant - one piece at a time?’ It’s the same with networking. There’s no reason why you should dive into the deep end if it’s really not your style. Start small by just chatting to people on a train or plane, or at the school gates. If you use the FORE acronym above there’s no reason why you can’t practice networking with people who aren’t going to help you achieve your objectives. This will help you build your confidence and work out which questions sit most comfortably with you.
6. Fake it ‘till you make it
If all else fails - you can fake it ‘till you make it. This is basically where you visualise yourself in a situation acting in a way you would like to act if only you had the nerves. By visualising yourself walking confidently into a room, chatting to people with ease and greeting new people into your group. You can ‘pretend’ to be that person. Only you know that you’re faking it, and before you know it you’ll be doing it for real.
7. Study the guest list/do your research
Remember your strategy? Remember why you’re actually in this specific room on this specific day? It’s hopefully because of the objectives that you set for yourself at the beginning of your strategy. So when you arrive, take five or ten minutes either to study the guestlist, or view the exhibitor profiles or remind yourself who you came to meet.
By investing a small amount of time up front, you will save yourself from spending a whole day or evening making friends, without actually achieving any of your objectives - so that’s just NOT-working rather than NET-working.
When you know who you would like to meet, it might be appropriate to walk right up the person and introduce yourself. On other occasions you might ask the organisers to make an introduction for you or one of the other guests. By thinking strategically you will be able to access the room and identify the best approach.
So there you have it! Our top seven tips on how to be a networking rockstar, even if the idea has you shaking in your boots. Ready to put your new tips to the test in a low-pressure environment? You will love our Independent Avenue Roadshow where we connect corporate event planners with independent hotels and venues around the country. The appointments are 1-2-1, organised (so you don’t have to be brave and make the first move), and they save you loads of time. You’ll leave the event with some new unique venues to add to your little black book.