My Top 10 Networking Tips for Shy People
For some of us, networking is easy and comes naturally, but for many it is a rather frightening experience. As director of a woman’s networking group, Women as Entrepreneurs, I have attended and organized hundreds of networking functions and basically built a successful business through meeting the right people.
Whether you recognize it or not, all successful businesses and business people regardless of their industry have one thing in common: their owners, top managers know how to build and maintain strong relationships.
Having a powerful online presence, blogging, broadcasting, leveraging social media can all help with growing a business and client base, but I believe that nothing substitutes real life networking.
Today I wanted to share with you my top 10tips and tricks to help you get better and more successful at networking and enjoy your next function more.
1. Know your goal – get clear on what you want out of the networking opportunity you are attending. Is it finding potential new clients? Is it perhaps finding partnership or joint venture opportunities? Meeting the speaker? Or maybe just meeting new people in your industry, having a great time and share some experiences? By getting clarity on the purpose – let’s say connecting with 5 different people during a 2 hours function – and accomplishing it will give you more confidence, and will ensure that you make the most of your time, money and efforts.
2. Look the part – in real life, first impression can determine everything, and therefore being clean, fresh and nicely dressed can make all the difference. It is sort of like a first date. I usually keep some wet wipes, perfume, basic make-up kit and some mint in my bag so I am prepared even if I get a last minute invitation to an event.
3. Stay away from the bar – I know this is a hard one, especially when drinks are included in the ticket price. Drinking has become an essential part of our social life and especially if you are shy, you might think it will help with easing your nervousness. I would recommend choosing a soft drink instead or sticking with only one glass of alcohol during the function. There is nothing more disappointing and unappealing than a “tipsy professional”. Trust me on this one.
4. Prepare – many networking functions have a speaker or a specific topic, so I would recommend you to spend some time prior to the event and research about the topic or speaker. This way, when it comes to asking questions or making discussions, you already have some topics/questions/insights prepared. Participating in the Q&A is a great way to show your expertise/interest and also gives an opportunity to introduce yourself (in only 1 sentence – your name and what you do – before you ask the question) to all the attendees. Someone may just be interested to come and talk to you to find out more about what you do or know.
5. Connect in advance – sometimes, it is possible to find out (either from the organizers or from the event page/social media page) the names of the people attending the event. This provides a great opportunity to make a connection with some people in advance on LinkedIn or Twitter, and find each other in person at the event! You can also post something like “Hi there, I’ll be attending XYZ function, who will be there too?” on FB group walls such as the Entrepreneur Events Sydney group
6. Moving on to talk to a different person – there are people who prefer talking to one person per event, but for most people we go to networking functions to meet more people. Sometimes, you just find yourself in a conversation that is not going anywhere and you want to get away. I have found that the best way to politely move on from a conversation is to say “XYZ, it was really great talking to you but if you’ll excuse me I’d like to mingle a little bit more and meet more interesting people”
7. How to politely join a conversation? – joining an ongoing conversation can be an awkward experience, but something you can’t really avoid doing at a networking event. My best approach is to confidently walk towards the people chatting, stand near them for a while and listen in. If they are talking about something private, just walk on. In case it is a small talk or something you can be included, wait for a pause so you don’t interrupt people, smile, say hi and introduce yourself with a hand shake if appropriate.
8. Wait for them to ask for your business card or details – seeing desperate people giving away business cards to random people, trying to cover everyone at a function really puts me off. Please don’t be one of them. Making connections is not about how many business cards you collect, but it is about how many meaningful connections you make that are worth maintaining. Trust me, if they enjoyed talking with you and want to follow up, they will ask for your details or business card.
9. Have your Pitch ready – it is best to practice at home how you will introduce yourself. You will need to say your name very clearly, and then explain what you do in a manner that is clear, short and interesting. A great example of a good introduction goes like this “Hi everyone, my name is Judy Excellent Networker, I have an accounting business that specializes in assisting small business owners by minimizing their tax payments and ultimately saving money for them”
10. Follow up! – This is a crucial step where many people fail, as it requires some additional work and time. I would say that at a 2-3 hours networking function, a pro meets between 5-10 new people. The most effective next step would be to go home, Google these contacts or do some more research, and connect with the ones you find valuable connections over LinkedIn and/or other social media. If you made a promise to introduce them to someone, or send them a link perhaps, ideally do it immediately after you get home or on the next day. Following up and maintaining the relationships you make at networking functions is the way to form meaningful relationships that you can leverage for business later on.