If I had a list of the top 3 activities that make me uncomfortable in my business, attending networking events might hold the #1 spot. As a small business owner I’ve challenged myself to find ways to get over this fear and the benefits have come back to me 100-fold. At every networking event I’ve ever attended, I meet at least ONE person who I work with in some capacity in the future. I’ve helped these new connections build their businesses, coached them through new relationships, been featured in their newsletters, panels and podcasts as a result of getting brave and showing up.
If you happen to live in the Twin Cities, check out my favorite place to meet new people: GirlCreative!
If you’re a fellow introvert and you’re like, NO WAY, STEPH… I HATE NETWORKING WITH A FIREY PASSION! – Never fear!! I have a foolproof strategy for overcoming the pre-event nerves right here:
1.Choose A Goal
My number one tip for navigating networking events as an introvert is to go in with a specific goal. A good goal will help remind you of why you’re putting yourself out there in the first place so when you try to talk yourself out of going, you can simplify your mission. Some of the goals I’ve had the best success with have been really easy:
- Meet one new person tonight
- Give your business card to three people
- Take two photos at the event and share them to IG (tag the event organizer!)
Choose something that you know you can follow through on and give yourself permission to leave after you’ve accomplished it. #sweetsuccess
2. Check Out The Geography
Another way introverts can get more comfy with networking events is to locate the touch-points of the event. This is really about getting the lay of the land and knowing where you can go if you find yourself standing awkwardly in the middle of the room. Locate the front doors, the bathrooms, the snack table and the drinks. When you’re not sure what to do, find your way to one of these touch points, do your thing, then take another sweep of the room.
3. Give Yourself A Timeframe
If your introverted tendencies are making you want to quit before you even start, give yourself a timeframe. This is another way to goal-set for your networking endeavors. If you know you only have to stay for 20 minutes, and your goal from step one is to talk to at least one person, you know you’ve got to do it quickly! Your time will fly by.
4. Invite a friend
Bringing a wing (wo)man who is looking to meet new people too can help take the edge off if you’re nervous about networking. Share your goals with your buddy and go after them like it’s a group project. If your efforts to meet someone new don’t pan out, you can find solace in the fact that you’ll have a friendly face to debrief with afterwards. If you’re someone who shells up and gets pretty nervous about events, inviting a friend might be the accountability that will help you follow-through.
5. Choose an icebreaker
This tip is great if you’re someone who often feels socially awkward or tends to freeze up when you’re meetings someone for the first time. Many of my fellow sensitives & introverts can agree – seeing people in person can get us pretty tongue-tied! Having a few go-to questions can help take the edge off. Some of my favorites include:
- How did you hear about this event?
- How do you know the host?
- What are your passion-projects right now?
- Where is your next adventure?
Realistically, there’s no way to take the awkwardness out of meeting new people, especially if it’s not something you do very often!! Networking and talking to strangers is a skill that will get easier the more you practice, and hopefully, if you’re a fellow introvert, some of these tips will help make your next event a little more comfortable.