Overcoming Your Fear of Business Networking Groups
Business networking for some individuals can be difficult, intimidating, or a love-hate relationship (for me it’s all of the above). Establishing connections with strangers isn’t the easiest task for introverts or overly shy individuals. Believe me, I’m never the life of the party – and you don’t have to be to succeed. People always say that networking events are designed for a particular personality, those individuals that are self assured and collected. In reality all personalities can really shine at business networking events, don’t let the massive crowds of people get to you! Take these tips with you next time you attend business-networking groups/events, and you’ll be surprised with the response you receive.
I recently attended a business-networking group at a local establishment; upon arrival I noticed everyone already had been comfortably established. Now I don’t have a natural liking for sociability, yet I knew I had to overcome my fear of approaching big groups. So, I challenged myself by approaching a group of individuals that were casually exchanging small talk. I allowed my personality to shine by being myself – and it worked. Bring something infrequent to the conversation, something they will remember you by – whether it be charisma or structure. The chances of a group rejecting your arrival are slim to none – although it has happened to me before (those people are simply not worth the effort and/or energy). Don’t just walk up and hand everyone a business card, get to know them first.
In my opinion the primary goal at a business-networking event is to establish connections and build on them. Don’t walk into the room expecting a conversion – a potential lead and/or client. At my most recent networking event a gentleman asked me what kind of referrals I was seeking, I responded, “no referrals, just trying to meet new people in the business community at this time.” Why did I give that response, when he was simply reaching out and trying to help steer people my way? Establishing a relationship is principal before asking for favors, get to know the individual first. If you want to build a network, you have to create a relationship with each individual first. Have the intention of establishing and building relationships each time you attend a business-networking event.
A colleague once told me it’s unreasonable to expect that you’ll establish a relationship with 10-15 new people at a business-networking event – establishing a connection with 3 people is more reasonable.
Don’t Set a Time Limit:
Every time I attend a business-networking event, I always decide ahead of time how long I plan on staying – I always end up staying longer than planned. I decided at the last networking event not to set a time limit – less to think about. I immediately adjusted to the environment without thinking about the time at hand. When you’re not setting a time limit on establishing connections, you’ll feel it is often much less intimidating. Do not set a time frame for conversation, let it flow naturally – and if your open-ended questions run out, move on to the next possible connection.
It’s important to follow-up with all the connections that you’ve made at your networking events. Whether it be via email, LinkedIn, or Facebook, letting them know it was a pleasure meeting them is important to advance the relationship.
Remember – “Networking is not collecting contacts. Networking is about planting relations.”