Tuesday, July 25, 2017

You're Shy and You Need to go to a Networking Event. What do you do?

Let's build up a few scenarios you may experience in your professional life.

You were just laid off from your job and you are in the process of updating your resume with your outplacement service and then they suggest the dreaded "You should start networking with professionals"  Ahh!!! And you proceed to hide under the desk at the thought of talking to others.    You never been to a networking event.  What is a networking event?

Or how about this one, you are at the bar at a restaurant and you notice a group of people with those "Hello - I am Gertrude" name tags and you are thinking what is this a support group or something?  Then one of the attendees come up to you and introduce yourself and you freak and frantically try to get the bartenders attention to order that next scotch.

For the shy person that have never been to a networking event, the thought of making that transition to being the CEO of yourself and going to business networking events is a tall task.   Your first thought is why is everyone so friendly?   Why are some people asking me so many questions or worse why is this person giving me their ten minute elevator pitch on solar energy?  Is this person hitting on me?  Ewww...

Business Networking is easy.  Really.   Even the most introverted person can be converted and become a networking superstar.   It is a wonderful feeling and it builds confidence in yourself.

So I like to provide some tips to help the shy professional that like to take the leap and attend a business networking event.

Set a goal to meet five people. Three if you’re really shy.
People go to industry events to meet new people. They are very open to meeting you. One thing that really helps is to set a goal of meeting a certain number of people. That makes me get on with it and get it done. Every time you force yourself to step toward a new person, you’re checking off one of your five. Once you hit five, you can go home. But don’t be surprised if your success with those five makes you stay because you’re having a great time.

Start by reaching out to others standing alone.
My usual strategy is to walk up to another person standing alone and introduce myself.   The majority of the time, your new conversation partner is even more self-conscious than you and will remember you as the person who threw them a lifeline.   You both can laugh at the end regarding how hard it was to break the ice and come to the event and now you have a networking partner for future events.

Leverage your natural human curiosity.
Think of a list of questions that can get you through the first few minutes of the initial introduction. There’s no one on earth who doesn’t enjoy talking about themselves.  Learn what they are working on. This provides an opportunity for stories, which is a great way to find common interests.

Don’t hang with people you know.
Sometimes we know a couple of people at a networking event and glue yourself onto those friends, making no effort to meet new people. Connect with friends, but network with them together.   It makes it more fun!

Don’t let the connections disappear.
Make every hard-won networking connection last. If you’ve enjoyed your time with someone, make sure you try to keep the connection going. Tell them you’d like to stay in touch. That’s a flattering thing to hear. Get a business card. Connect on LinkedIn. Follow up and stay in touch.  Go to a future networking event together!

There are many other tips, so if you like, please contact me for any networking help and join our group Mass Professional Networking.  The next thing you will know, you will become a business networking pro!

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