I may be a social butterfly in the social networking world, but when it comes to actual networking events…I would rather have a root canal.
I walk into a cool space, with free food and drink, 150 intelligent, attractive, motivated entrepreneurs and mentors, and I become paralyzed and feel like I might puke.
I’m not alone here, am I? Networking is a necessary evil. It’s how we make valuable connections, meet star mentors, new partners, and amazing people with great ideas who are willing to help us succeed. But with a plan and a little practice, you can learn to survive and maybe even enjoy it.
A room of 10 people is less much intimidating than a room of 100.
Bring a Buddy
Friends can be excellent support at networking events- having an extroverted wingman can take the pressure off starting a conversation with a stranger. But don’t use your friend as a crutch to avoid meeting new people. Instead, talk with them ahead of time so they are prepared to give you that little push.
Practice Your Intro
So that when you walk up to someone you don’t just shake their hand, say hi and then stand there awkwardly. Tell them who you are and what you do. But make it brief, 6-10 seconds max, or else you will lose their attention. Nail your value proposition if you’re a startup.
Check Your Energy Level
No one is going to want to talk to the frowny wallflower with their arms tightly crossed. You want to be approachable: Smile, breathe, and keep your posture open. If you have a tendency to fidget or cross your arms, hold something in your hands like a cup of coffee or your business cards.
Remember: You Are Not Bothering Anyone
People are there to connect. They are not going to turn you down if you initiate a conversation. And, the good news here: Chances are there will be a whole lot of extroverts in that room, so starting a conversation will not be an issue.
It’s Okay to Be the Best Dressed
Yes, it’s nice to be yourself and be comfortable, but if you think people don’t judge based on dress, you’re fooling yourself. Be okay making a statement of confidence by stepping up your normal dress code.
Once you start a conversation with one person, you may feel safe and want to stay there. Don’t. Have small conversations with many people, exchange information and you can follow up later. Gather just enough information so that you would feel comfortable emailing them to arrange a meet up.
Quit While You’re Ahead
You don’t need to stay forever. Meet a handful of people, exchange information and then get the hell out of there. Don’t push your comfort threshold the to the point where you think you might pass out. I’ve done that before and let’s just say it is one way to get people to remember you.