Stop thinking of networking as a business activity where you need to schmooze your soul away. Imagine it as a post-work after-party, or a wonderful getaway amidst a nine to five job. Except you have your power suit on and a relaxed smile above.
Just remember to keep those drinks to a minimum. No, seriously.
At the heart of this fascinating concept that scares an incredibly high number of people, networking is simple – it’s personal.
You are carving out some of your precious time to meet new people, hear new stories, discover new ideas and build new relationships. What’s the best way to do this? You do you.
Easier said than done? Here are some pointers to allay your anxiety.
- Take your pick
Be selective in your choice of events. If you are nervous about talking to new people, create a cushion environment. Choose gatherings on topics of your interest and expertise or go for ones where the target audience is people with similar backgrounds, experience or interests. This will help you feel more comfortable.
- Listen, smile and ask questions
Take a walk around and don’t hesitate to join little circles or groups of people. You don’t have to initiate a conversation to build a relationship. Listen to the stories being shared and use that beautiful smile of yours. A lot of people enjoy leading the conversation and are at ease around a friendly face.
Curious? Ask questions. Let the ‘5Ws and an H‘ – Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? – be your wise counsel. They can help you initiate or continue a conversation.
- Remember you’re connecting, not selling
Take it easy and share. Show a real interest in getting to know others and truly connect with them. Have an open conversation and share a piece of yourself in exchange. Even if it’s business-related, share what you do and why you do it. Do not focus on how it can benefit them or why they should invest in you. That can always eventuate if they like what you have told them.
What’s the point? Well, it’s a small world. Networking may seem like a lot of small talk and fleeting smiles, but it can be the after-party that sparks long-lasting relationships and fosters innovation.
And guess what? When you walk out of that event, you will still have your dignity intact, with your power suit on and a relaxed smile above.