One of my biggest weaknesses used to be networking events. I understood the importance of these events. As a young professional it’s important to go out there, shake hands, make allies, and form strategic partnerships. It didn’t matter though, I couldn’t handle the pressure. I’d spend time where ever I could find a seat, nurse a drink, maybe make eye contact with one person, get their business card, and justify leaving early.
This is not an ideal way to network. The fact of the matter is these events can be helpful but aren’t necessary. They’re there for your benefit and treating them as an additional opportunity to grow in your profession and not as a necessity for your business, is one of the first lessons I had to learn before I turned them from a liability to an asset.
Listen to pump up music
If it works in sports it works in business. There’s a reason you listen to music when you’re trying so psyche yourself up. There’s a reason athletes blast music before a big game. If you’re facing a nerve-wracking situation, getting yourself in the right headspace is crucial. Listening to music can help you with that.
Set a deadline at the event
It’s easy to feel intimidated when you operate without a timeline. Wandering into an event with the thought you will stay there until you run out of people to talk to, or just feel like it’s time to go, is setting you up for failure. There’s no way to complete that event successfully. You either run out of time or people. If you give yourself an hour deadline though, you can successfully navigate a networking event with a clear goal and if you end up hitting it off with a group you can extend your deadline.
Get used to the water fast
It’s important to get that first hello out of the way. It’s like jumping in the pool. Dipping your toe in the water and hesitating in crowds will pile on to your discomfort. Personally, it’s made me feel anxious. I start overthinking situations, wondering when the right time to approach someone is, and next thing I know thirty minutes pass and I’ve not so much as made eye contact with a single person. I combat this by saying hello to the first person I see at the bar. Why the bar? That’s usually where you will find someone who just placed an order and is looking for a person to fill the awkward silence from the moment they placed their order to the moment their drink arrives.
Humor (specifically self deprecating)
So you finally speak to someone. They obviously want to know what you do for work. The last thing they probably want to hear is your pitch, or any conversation that means money leaving their hands and going into yours. One thing that almost all people could use is a good laugh. Humor is a pretty universal language, and as long as you keep it tame, and don’t make jokes at another’s expense then chances are the person will appreciate the chuckle. The safest route is self-deprecating humor. As long as you don’t dig yourself into too big of a hole, or make yourself out to be the most incompetent person in the world, then a joke or tease at your own expense is a quick way to make a person at a networking event warm up to you.
So these are four tips I’ve uncovered to make networking events fun. Try them out and leave a comment below if you have any additional tips that have worked well for you.
I hope you enjoyed this read.