Most people are nervous about networking and find it difficult to walk into a crowded room of strangers.
The keys to networking are to be yourself, be friendly, engage with the other person and show interest in what they have to say and their role. The other people in the room may look confident and may seem to know everybody else, but I can assure you they are, or have been, in your position.
There are some bad ‘networking personas’ we can all recognise. They provide great insights into what not to do:
- Wallflower – don’t stand on the sidelines; get involved and walk up to someone on their own or in a small group.
- Leech – attach yourself to the first person you meet and stay with them all night; particularly don’t hang around only with other people from your organisation
- Eye- darter – someone who talks to you but is always on the lookout for someone else to meet; eye contact is the way you show someone you are interested in them
- Business card thrower – gathering and giving out as many cards as possible without having a true conversation
- Name-dropper – starting a conversation as to who you know to impress the other person
- One night stand – make a positive connection but never follow-up; until you have had a cup of coffee and exchanged emails you haven’t turned the introduction into a contact
- Buddy – getting to personal too quickly
Confidence in networking is gained over time with practice.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if it is a struggle the first half a dozen times. Congratulate yourself on making the effort and treat it as a learning experience. At the end of the day, even the most senior executive is a person – who has the same needs for connection, information and to be valued as you do