I am a self-proclaimed introvert. I say self-proclaimed because most people don’t believe me anymore. But, it’s true! I am unsure if it has anything to do with growing up an only child but I’ve always been a pretty quiet person. I am one to observe my surroundings and the behaviors of others before engaging. People watching is one of my favorite activities actually. Not mention, networking events drain my energy. But, three years ago, I moved to a new city where I knew virtually no one. I recognized that being shy and quiet wasn’t going to help me gain new friends quickly so I pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone. As I always say, feel the fear & do it anyway. That’s the pretty much the theme of this post.
I have a few recommendations of things you can do to conquer your shyness and dominate networking. Before we dive into the tips though, you have to shift your mindset. You manifest what you believe. If you think you’re bad at networking, then you will be. Shift your mindset to view networking differently. It doesn’t have to be bad or inauthentic unless you decide it is. Got it? Okay, let’s go.
Find an Event to Attend, Alone – Use Facebook events, Eventbrite or Meetup to find an event of interest to attend. Upon relocating, I looked for happy hours and mixers for young professionals. I was looking to build friendships so this made the most sense for me. You can also look for events hosted by professional organizations. Or, make it fun and attend an event based on a hobby of yours. You now already have common ground with the other attendees. Attending alone forces to you to speak to new people. Us introverts have a tendency of sticking with our friends at events more often than not
Power Posing – Amy Cuddy’s advice in this TedTalk really works! Before you go into a networking event or an interview, spend a minute or so power posing. It truly provides an extra boost of confidence that Amy does a better job of explaining than I do. Additionally, it aids in shifting your body language. If you’re nervous, you may have a tendency of appearing closed off. Remember to avoid folded arms and other body language that says “don’t talk to me”.
Dress the Part – The old phrase of “when you look good, you feel good” is real. There is SOMETHING in your closet or makeup bag that adds a little pep in your step. Wear these items to networking events (if it’s appropriate). Wearing items that you love removes a bit of the self-consciousness we feel in unfamiliar environments.
Have Back Pocket Questions – Back pocket questions are questions that you can ask anyone in any situation. These come in handy when there is a lull in conversation and you can’t figure out what to say next. I have back pocket questions for more formal events and relaxed engagements. Examples of back pocket questions include:
- How are you associated with the organization/person hosting this event
- Are you from this area> (Being new to the city – this conversation typically leads to the other person telling me about awesome things to do or about how they adjusted)
- What are you passionate about (instead of what do you do)?
Set a Goal – Many people are opposed to this, but for me it helped. As I started to put myself out there, I would have a goal to meet at least 3 new people and real conversations with them at each event. That feeling of accomplishment helped me to gain confidence as I continued to attend events. Not to mention, my focus was on having real conversations, which led to follow ups and then friendships. The key here isn’t the number, it’s the conversation. Mastering the art of conversation is what makes you a better networker and after a while, you will no longer have to set a goal. Now, many readers tell me that they despise small talk. I get it. But again, it is the mindset. If you’re not interested in meeting people, then yes, conversation will be annoying. But if you’re looking to build relationships, small talk breaks the ice into more in depth discussions where you will unlock commonalities.
Practice Your Exit – Ending overdrawn conversations is extremely difficult. Have an exit pitch ready in case you find yourself entrapped by Chatty Patty. A good way to wrap is “It was so great speaking with you. I’m actually going to get a drink/plate but I’ll catch up with you later this evening”. If I’m already at the bar I typically “I don’t want to hold you from networking with others. Can I have your card? It was great to connect.” Feel free to borrow those and tweak as needed. P.S. alcohol will not make you a better networker.
Follow Up – If you meet people that you would like to continue to get to know, take ownership by following up. Following up is the best way to build long term relationships. Though it would be great for everyone you gave your card to, to email you, but more than likely they won’t. There is nothing wrong with being the first to reach out. Leverage LinkedIn and Twitter in addition to the traditional email.
One book that I always recommend for networking is Never Eat Alone. In my opinion it is the best book on the market to help you with relationship building. If networking is something you’re looking to conquer, I highly recommend it.
What tips have you used to conquer networking? Tell me below in the comments.
Kyshira S. Moffett, MBA is a brand strategist, career coach and blogger. Kyshira has previous experience as an HR Professional and currently works within higher education. Her blog, thisishermovement.com centers on career, branding and lifestyle topics. Feel free to connect via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!