This is the three simple tricks slide at a recent talk on personal branding that had the most discussion around it, so I figured it would be a good one to share.
Three Simple Tricks to Make Networking Less Intimidating
1. You are there to help someone else.
When you meet someone, think about how you can help them rather than how they can help you. If you go with the intention of trying to help at least 3 people make connections, get a job or solve a business puzzle, it makes you more outwardly focused and flips the power differential. Rather than focusing on your own flaws and insecurities, you are there focusing on someone else.
2. Go early and find someone who is standing alone.
Go early, scout the room and look for someone who is also feeling awkward. Everyone appreciates that type of effort. Everyone feels shy or Trying to enter an established group can break up a conversation. If you are really an introvert, take an extroverted friend with you and let them know ahead of time that how you are feeling and how you are going to need a little help with conversation starters. If I know ahead of time that my networking companion is shy, I make an extra effort to include them in the conversation.
3. Come prepared with questions.
Come prepared with pre-thought out questions. Are you a native Washingtonian? If they aren’t – Tell me how you came to Washington State? Have you been to an event like this before? Anything that isn’t work or politics. Do your research ahead of time if you can – check out their social media for topics if you are looking to speak to a specific person. People like to talk about themselves, especially about topics that are especially near and dear to them.
One final note about networking – it is awkward for almost everyone, but practicing it and reassuring yourself that you aren’t the only one feeling this way makes it manageable.
Now get out there and start connecting.