Networking is intimidating.
Especially if you are not comfortable around strangers and you’d rather stay at home with your own pets and read a book, watch a movie, clean the closets – anything to avoid going to a networking event.
The good thing is though, YOU’RE NOT ALONE!
Seriously. I’ll bet that the majority of people in the room have some level of “I know I just got here but can I leave yet?” You can use this can be your ice breaker:
“Hi, I’m Laura, and I’m really uncomfortable at networking events”. If you say this to anyone in the room you are going to have 1 of 2 reactions
- OMG ME TOO! (fellow introvert)
- I understand and there is nothing to be worried about. Let me introduce you around. (extrovert)
NO ONE is going to tell you to get a grip, no one is going to think less of you or your business.
NO ONE is going to think that you are ridiculous for being uncomfortable because they probably are too!
A secret about extroverts: They do not want anyone in the room to feel uncomfortable. When I am at a networking event, I will keep an eye on the corners. If I see anyone standing alone, that’s who I am going to approach to talk to. Why? Because I’ve been in that corner. And it sucks. You’re already uncomfortable and watching a room of people chatting it up when you’re not is a sure fire way to escape through the nearest exit. Don’t do that.
You can do this!
Here are 2 great tips from Michael Bagley. Yup, for those of you who met him at the PSO 2014 or 2015 conference, would you have guessed he’s a serious introvert? But he was a speaker in 2014 for gosh sake! How can he be an introvert?
Here’s what he does:
Focus on the business versus focusing on yourself.
When I think about networking as Michael Bagley it kills me. Even thinking about dinner with friends can drain me for three days before the dinner in three days afterward.
But when I’m talking about my business, I focus on the business and how meeting people who can help me grow my business is a good marketing tool. And is a lot cheaper then a magazine ad or a car magnet!
So I use that Jedi mind trick to get myself out there. By focusing on the benefits to the business it takes the focus off of the personal challenge that networking is and that makes it palatable enough for me to do it.
The second tip would be around setting goals.
Whereas extroverts get excited about meeting everyone in the room, as introvert I set small attainable goals for myself.
I might challenge myself to have five meaningful conversations in an evening. Or, when appropriate, hand out five or 10 brochures. Or I might set a goal of asking for something I want like hanging my photos in a restaurant, for example.With a clear goal or two I can be focused on accomplishing those things rather than focusing on how miserable I am.
Also, I feel the need to accomplish the goals I’ve set before I give myself permission to leave. Which I want to do before I walk in.
When I follow through on what I said I would do, I feel much better about myself and the event, and it didn’t feel like climbing a big mountain.
Networking is an important skill that is important to building a successful business. You don’t have to be a natural at it, very few people are. You don’t have to picture the crowd in their underwear either as your high school public speaking coach probably talked about.
Is it networking easy? No. But it can be better than a trip to the dentist or getting your picture taken!
Here are some other great tips from Pamela Wilson (2015 Conference Speaker from Copyblogger) on how to survive an in-person conference as an introvert.
We’ll look forward to seeing you at the PSO 2016 Live Conference in October!
A huge thank you to Michael Bagley, of Michael Bagley Photography for putting himself out there at the conference and for this article. Find and follow him on Instagram!