Working the room
I suppose a networking event is like a blind date: You only have a few minutes to make a compelling impression on someone. Most networking events I’ve attended are stock full of alpha personalities. I mean, there can be enough testosterone in the room to make even Sylvester Stallone a bit envious.
But you know not everyone fits that bill. Some of the individuals present at networking events are perfectly nice introverts. Can You Spell BACKFIRE?
Everyone is nervous
Why the heck extroverts think they’re doing a good deed by cornering an obviously introverted person and talking to them and trying to “coax them out of their shell” is beyond me.
What happens half of the time is that the extrovert gives the introvert more anxiety! The best approach is to keep it really simple and don’t be overenthusiastic. Try toning it down and keeping it chill and like I just said, simple is the best approach. Remember that most people in the room at any given networking event feel the same way you do: scared to death.
No matter your type, you can make it work
Attend any social function and you will find extroverts, introverts and people who are shy. There really is a difference. But no matter what type of person you are you can make a networking event work for you. Jacqueline Whitmore, etiquette expert and author of “Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals.” Make the most of networking opportunities and garner valuable connections by considering some of Jacqueline’s advice:
- Manage your expectations – If you’re attending some kind of networking event, you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to meet a lot of people.
- Plan some ice-breakers ahead of time – Shy people, in particular, have a hard time starting conversations with strangers, but doing a bit of homework before an event can help anyone come up with good questions to ask.
- Set a time limit – Instead of committing to stay for the duration of an event, tell yourself you’ll only hang out for an hour, or some other chunk of time you’re comfortable with. The point is to take the pressure off yourself and just show up.
- Ask for an introduction – This tip is a good one for anyone, regardless of your personality. Find someone who knows everyone and ask that person (maybe the individual hosting the event) to connect you with whoever it is you want to meet.
Be aware and listen
If you’re an extrovert you may be wondering why you even need advice in the first place. But it could be that you are so intent on “mastering the room” that you lose out on potential encounters by sheer virtue of you not keeping your mouth shut and just listening. Hey, crazier things have happened. No matter where you find yourself on the social scale you need to practice.
An article on Inc.com sums it up this way: “The more you network, the easier it gets, but you have to keep doing it!” Even during the course of every work day you can exercise this muscle by getting up, walking around, and starting brief conversations with co-workers.
So get to it! Start talking and at the same time start listening and who knows where it might all lead!