5 Tips to Calm Anxiety and Be the Best Networker in the Room
You understand the importance of networking, but if you’re being honest with yourself, the idea of meeting new people, putting on your best self, and truly connecting with them makes you nervous. In fact, networking seems to bring up more questions than answers: How do you start up a conversation? What should you say? How do you continue the conversation outside of the event?
There’s no need to worry. These five tips can take you from anxious networker to seasoned pro with just a little practice.
Anxiety often comes from being unsure of what will happen next. However, if you prepare for an upcoming networking event by knowing your exact intentions going in and what you’ll do while you’re there, those unknowns disappear.
Now, you may have different intentions based on an event. At a conference, for example, you may find it important to network with some of the speakers. A local business meetup might help you grow your referral pool. A training at a different company may put you in front of someone you were hoping to work with more that you didn’t have access to before.
Before you attend an event, consider who you’d like to meet, why they’re important to your career, and more importantly, what you can offer them. Networking isn’t about accumulating contacts. It’s about building relationships with the right people, and acting as a resource to anyone you meet, even if you don’t think they can immediately help you further your career.
Hone Your Elevator Pitch
Who are you? How do you help your clients? And, what is one recent accomplishment you can mention to the people you connect with at your upcoming event?
These three questions will help you in crafting an elevator pitch for every new event you attend. Still haven’t perfected your pitch? Use this Mad-Libs-style script to prepare.
“Hi, I’m (your name). I help (your type of clients) (achieve XYZ). Recently, (insert accomplishment).”
And remember, honing your elevator pitch is only the first step. You also need to answer any questions they might have about your career, and also ask them questions to get them to open up to you, too.
Embrace the Outskirts
Know where all the other anxious event attendees are hanging out? On the outskirts of the room. People who aren’t super-networkers or those who haven’t arrived with friends tend to congregate near the refreshment table, in seats off to the side, or by the walls.
These people are your allies. Join together and you’ll likely develop deeper relationships. Networking doesn’t include listening in on other people’s interesting conversations in the middle of a crowd. It requires you to start your own and make the conversation worthwhile.
End the Conversation
Not sure how to get out of conversations once you find yourself in them? Here’s a script you can use to professionally and kindly end your chat so that you can move on and meet more people at the event.
“It’s been so great getting to know you. I know our time is precious here tonight, so tell me one way I can support you and your business in the future.”
Then, once your new connection shares what is most helpful for them, reciprocate. If you’re looking for more leads, ask them to send people your way. Need to hire someone at work? Find out if they know anyone who’d fit in your company culture. And don’t forget to exchange business cards or at least email addresses so you can connect down the road.
Check In After the Event
Remember that even if someone doesn’t appear to be the best match now, they could potentially be a great connection in the future. Follow up with everyone with whom you exchanged contact information within two or three days from the event.
If someone would be an immediate help with your current business goals, connect sooner, and in a direct manner, like a phone call or asking them to meet again for a working coffee chat.
A simple email works well for anyone you’d like to stay connected with in the future.
In-person events are a great way to network with new-to-you professionals, so put your anxieties aside and take the opportunity to expand your professional social circle.