For many of us, hearing the term “networking” is enough to make us cringe inwardly. It is inundating, and for some, it is downright scary. If you’re ever looking for a career opportunity or to simply build your connections, knowing how to work a room is important.
The problem is, networking can be stressful — especially for those who are naturally less outgoing. Small talk is awkward and establishing rapport with new people isn’t as easy as it seems. You’d prefer to stay in a corner sipping on your drink while watching everyone else talk.
Thankfully, there are steps to making networking easier. Keep these in mind so you can nail your next networking event and expand your professional circle.
#1 Plan Ahead
It’s always a good idea to plan ahead before going to any event. Being prepared reduces the anxiety and helps in handling specific instances that you might encounter. Come up with an ice-breaker to start a conversation and an exit strategy when you know it’s time to move to another person.
#2 Set Realistic Goals
Even in networking, quality is better than quantity. It’s better to set a realistic goal about what you would like to discuss with the people you meet instead of expecting to interact with more than 10 people. This way you’ll feel accomplished that you had in-depth conversations that you can follow up on after the event, rather than disappointed at the end of the day if you didn’t get to speak with as many individuals.
#3 Arrive On Time
You’d feel more intimidated when you come in later and conversations have already started. Going to an event early comes with the advantage of having more time to acclimatize yourself to your surroundings and connect with people in advance.
#4 Don’t Pressure Yourself
Sometimes, people overthink and stress themselves into coming up with something clever to say. Small talk might be awkward but at least it’s not overcomplicated. You’re already in a challenging setting, don’t make things harder for yourself.
#5 Find A Buddy
Having someone you know at the event will keep you grounded. A friend will make you less nervous and give you that reassurance that you have someone you can turn to when you get overwhelmed.
#6 Take A Break
Once in awhile, take a couple of minutes to recharge. Interacting with people can get a bit exhausting so take a short walk or use the restroom. Use this time to take a deep breath, reflect, and reassess.
Try to use common, everyday situations to flex your interpersonal skills. Interact with new colleagues or invite a different co-worker for lunch each week. Take baby steps until you get the hang of it.
Making a habit of following these steps at every event you go to will help improve your networking skills. Will these make you look forward to the next social event you need to go to? Probably not. But having these will make the experience less excruciating and more relaxed.