I wrote a post previously called “Networking for the Nervous” and was humbled by how many people told me that they too feel trepidation about networking events. Face it, it can be tough to walk into a room, unsure whether you’ll know anyone. I will say this: it gets easier over time. Even if you never end up loving these events, I promise that if you go, you’ll meet at least a few more people each time, and you will get more comfortable.
Here are three very simple things you can do to make your next networking event easier:
Do some reconaissance in advance. Know where the event is taking place, how to get there, and where to park. Many events are promoted heavily on social media — look for the “buzz” to give you an idea of who else is attending. Even if you don’t recognize the names, you’ll still have an idea of what to expect, and can even read up on some of the key people with whom you hope to connect.
Seek out the host. Any event host who says they aren’t anxious about whether people will show up is lying. Period. We all feel relief when we see that people have, in fact, chosen to attend our event, and we’re happy to talk to you. When you get to an event, try to speak to the host — he or she should, and usually will, make an effort to welcome you and help you get to know others.
Ask for what you need. I’m a firm believer that most human beings like to help others — whether it’s out of altruism or a desire to seem like an expert is really irrelevant — so you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for an introduction when you need it. There’s nothing wrong with wrapping up a conversation with someone at a networking event with “Hey, do you happen to know any <insert vendor type here>?” The other person will probably be happy to introduce you around.
Like a lot of things, networking events are only as anxiety-producing as you allow them to be. (DC-area readers, I hope you’ll join me for the monthly event I host, Thursday Therapy DC, so that I can help you meet other people! I promise it’ll be as stress-free as these things get!)