Networking drives today’s workforce, and as the popular saying goes, it’s all about who you know.
Networking with the right people in your field can help pave the way for long lasting professional relationships, career advancement and even successful partnerships.
Extroverts often thrive at conferences and industry events. On the other hand, introverts and shy professionals don’t exactly jump at the chance to be surrounded by a bunch of strangers and thrown into a prearranged social setting.
The good news is that successful and strategic networking can be mastered by the shy.
In this post we’ll cover some key techniques that you can use to work the room like a professional extrovert at your next networking event.
1. Get to Know People Before You Meet in Person
If you have someone in mind that you really admire and would love to partner up with, let them know before you meet in person.
Check out their website to get a feel for their goals and personality, connect on social media, and even feel free to interact with them by sending them a friendly tweet or email. Don’t bust out your sales pitch, but say something like:
Thanks for the follow! I keep up with your digital marketing posts and it would be great to meet up and chat during the Regional Online Marketing Professional’s Brunch next weekend.
Something short, friendly and open-ended will suffice. By leaving an open-ended yet informal invitation to talk more in person in the near future, you are putting the ball back in their court to respond to you, while familiarizing them with an actual person (not just a virtual profile).
If you follow companies or professionals that have a blog, commenting on their posts and sharing their updates on social media will help you get to know them better and make that first in-person interaction less awkward and more manageable.
2. Start by Listening and Finding a Common Ground
When you meet someone new and you’re unsure of how to get the conversation going, start by listening and let them carry the conversation at first.
Networking is not all about selling your services to others and collecting tons of business cards. It is about building trust and real relationships with others. Networking lets you learn more about the other person aside from their job title or business name.
So as you listen attentively, try to find a common ground or something that you can relate to. Once you determine how you can relate to their goals and experiences, give an honest and thoughtful response.
If all else fails or if you get tongue tied, ask a question. Simple questions like “How did you get started?” and “What are your goals this year?” are all great open-ended questions to help push a conversation along.
Once you start talking, everything will progress and before you know it you’ll have earned the right to hand over your business card without feeling awkward or pushy. They may even ask for it.
3. Get Over Your Fear of Rejection
Being shy has a lot to do with feeling insecure and being afraid of rejection. However, fear of rejection should never stop you from being able to strike up a conversation with someone or reach out to one of your peers with a question or opportunity.
Fear of rejection can delay you from expanding your network and reaching your professional goals. Today’s workforce requires you to have thick skin and remain unattached emotionally when a business-related decision is made.
Everyone has experienced rejection in the business world before and that’s perfectly fine. There are some people who are not going to want to work with you and be willing to hear what you have to say, but there are other people who will. You must ultimately undergo some form of rejection in order to find the right people to develop a business relationship with.
With networking, rejection will most likely occur through the internet, if at all. People can easily overlook your emails, comments and messages if you try to reach out to them online. If that happens, just keep moving forward and reach out to your next prospect. No harm, no foul.
It’s less likely that you will encounter rejection at a networking event. If you walk up to someone and strike up a conversation, it would be downright ill-mannered for them to turn their back and walk away.
People attend networking events and conferences with the anticipation of meeting up with other people and expanding their network. Thus, it’s safe to say that most professionals will be looking forward to forging new connections; not rejecting them.
4. Decide What You Want to Convey Beforehand
Before you are thrown into a networking situation, it’s important to determine your overall intentions and the key points you wish to convey. Since your shyness may cause you to freeze up and forget to mention key points about what type of business relationship you are seeking, it’s crucial to organize your thoughts and a summary of the value you can offer ahead of time in order to make a great first impression.
Decide early on what you want to get out of the encounter. Do you want to team up with another professional in your industry to offer a new service? Do you want to establish a group of niche bloggers to help promote your newest product through an affiliate program? Making these decisions will clarify the networking process and allow you to be more confident when speaking with others.
Make sure you highlight key aspects of your business and your goals as well. You don’t need to write out an introduction word-for-word, as that would look staged and unnatural. On the contrary, if a contact expresses a need for a particular product or service, you need to be readily able to respond and offer a viable solution.
5. Make Networking a Well-Practised Habit
Successful networking comes to some people like second nature. They walk into a room and their outgoing personality and engaging personal stories command attention;w people seem to flock toward them. They seem to easily weed through the crowd and connect with all the right people at all the right times, like a networking ninja.
If you’re naturally shy, you too can still become a networking ninja as well. You just need to practice and make networking a regular habit.
You can start by trying to meet or connect with at least a couple of people every day. Allow some connections to be digital (via social media, email marketing or through interaction on your website) and the rest to be in person.
This means getting up from your desk or workspace and introducing yourself to colleagues on the other side of the building, talking to the mailman about his or her day, or complimenting the stranger in front of you in the checkout line to strike up a conversation.
It doesn’t matter whether a business relationship comes out of the experience or not. The key is to practice being social, meeting people and forging some type of a connection. While being social and friendly in order to meet new people is a big part of networking, your ultimate goal will be to establish mutually beneficial professional relationships.
You don’t have to change who you are in order to network successfully – you just need to be able to adapt and prepare properly.
Confidence is the best way to combat shyness in any social situation. At the end of the day, you want to be able to grow your network and have people follow up with you after your initial interaction.
By implementing all of these simple techniques, you will be able to bid farewell to shyness and say hello to confidence during your next networking encounter!
Please share your thoughts about overcoming shyness when networking in the comments below.
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