5 Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Networking
Whether you’re extroverted, introverted, or somewhere in between, many people think of networking as a necessary evil. In order to make connections in the business world, you need to put yourself out there. The more people you meet, the more exposed you are to new opportunities as they arise.
This is true for those in sales, on the hunt for warm leads wherever and whenever they can find them. And it’s equally as true for small business owners looking to establish partnerships within their community.
But as much as we may tell ourselves that networking is something we need to do more of, it doesn’t always stop the pit of anxiety from taking shape. Walk into a room of strangers and start up a conversation? Anything but that!
If you find yourself struggling to network with the best of them, it’s time to embrace a shift in attitude. Here are five tips worth putting into action for overcoming your fear of networking.
Do Your Research
Knowledge is power. When you can walk into a room with a clear idea of what to expect, it’s much easier to channel your inner approachability.
Leading up to an event, take time to piece through their website or event page. If they offer an online forum or list of attendees, engage in the conversation early by responding to relevant posts. This will give you a better idea of who will be there and allow you to set up meetings ahead of time so you can walk in with a clearer purpose.
Fear of networking and imposter syndrome usually go hand-in-hand. As you gather in a room of your peers, insecurity takes hold. It causes you to doubt your own skills and motives in attending. What do you have to bring to a conversation that others aren’t already bringing?
The thing is, everyone’s in the same boat when networking. Dress professionally and project confidence—even if only a facade—when surveying a room. Keep your thoughts in check and remember that others may be just as nervous as you are.
Think Quality, Not Quantity
While it helps to set goals for yourself when attending networking events (e.g., start at least two conversations or leave with at least three business cards), don’t make them about the numbers alone. Meaningful connections are lasting connections.
Don’t feel pressured to jump into as many conversations as you can. Take time to familiarize yourself with who’s in attendance and approach those you’re most interested in connecting with.
It may sound silly to practice “networking,” but there are ways to lessen the intimidation factor ahead of time. For example, consider walking through different scenarios and ways to introduce yourself. Having a well-practiced pitch for the company you’re representing also helps in the confidence department.
Alternatively, taking an improv class can be an out-of-the-box way to get more comfortable at breaking the ice. At the very least, it puts you in the mindset of thinking on your feet, which is applicable for networking and beyond.
Read the Room
When you arrive ready to network, scan the room. If you can pinpoint the event’s organizer, consider introducing yourself. They may be helpful in steering you towards relevant attendees and influencers.
Getting a feel for the physical layout can also set you up for a better flow of conversation. For example, stand near the refreshment table to interact with people in a way that feels more casual by nature.