Seven steps to networking confidence
Have you ever felt anxious about attending a networking event? Here are seven steps to help you feel more keen, confident and courageous.
As with any aspect of your business, preparation is the key. Take steps to prepare and you’ll feel more confident.
1. Have an answer to the question: What do you do?
If you label yourself according to the industry 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 conversing with them and then progress on to others.
"Good networking is about making connections and building relationships."
If you don’t know anyone, introduce yourself to people who have arrived on their own too. Introducing yourself to one person is usually easier than introducing yourself to an entire group.
Decide how many new people you plan to meet. This helps you to remain focused, and is also a good way to extract yourself from a group in order to meet new people.
3. Take business cards
This may seem obvious, however, I’ve been to networking functions where people haven’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 will need your business card. Being prepared reflects well on you and your business.
4. Wear network-friendly clothes
Being comfortable in your attire helps you to feel more confident when meeting new people. So that you present well, have your business cards in an easily accessible location, and have somewhere to place the cards that you’ll receive.
5. Know the location of the venue
Knowing the venue location 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.
6. Prepare for conversations
Attending a networking event is about having a conversation with a variety of people. Think about the types of questions that people will ask, and how you might answer them.
When asking questions of other people, ask open questions that require more than a yes/no answer.
7. Look at the networking event in real terms
When we’re anxious it’s easy to allow our imaginations 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 the talking and don’t expect to make a ‘sale’. It’s a great opportunity to practise your listening skills.
Remember, the function will take only a few hours of your day. If you decide to leave early, that’s your choice and it’s okay to do that.
Good networking is about making connections and building relationships. By having a positive attitude, being natural and being willing to have a conversation, you’re able to build rapport and form relationships. You may even find it an enjoyable experience!
What are your top networking tips?